Part 34: AlmariaUpdate 30 Almaria
"We're, at long last, going to the Castle?"
"I've never seen it."
"Neither have I."
"Iss it cloze, this Cazle?"
"Don't trust the sign, it's wrong. The tower is much further than 10 mi."
"Speaking of the tower, I can't remember if we finished off that mission yet...
"Hello! Is there something I can do for you?"
"Art thinks we didn't report back after dealing with that Clith Cult nearby."
"Oh, you did! I'm sorry, but I don't have another mission for you."
"Sorry to bother you!"
"So, hold on, none of you guys have been in this next cavern?"
"I have not."
"Oh, you're all going to be in for a treat!"
"Sssshould we be thisss cloze?"
"The heat, the humidity!"
"Man, you could turn this cavern into an amazing farm!"
"My fir is wet and dry at the same time."
"Oh, no appreciation for natural beauty."
"And this is why you don't trust signs."
"I thought we went over this already. The signs are wrong to disrupt planning by Empire attacks."
"If we did, I don't remember it."
"That iz not a town..."
"I remember this. I think one of the last places to check was going to be the former Demon Fort to the south, buried in the lava pool."
"I have to agree. The what now?"
"There's an old Demon Fort to the south, it was quite destroyed when I went there five years ago."
"The logisssticsss of sssuporting a fortrezz inzide a Lava field would be... difficult."
"I know more on that ssubject than you ever will."
"No, nothing worth buying, sorry."
"Something I want to check out first, before we get too much further."
"What are we looking for?"
"Aside from the fact that this looks all artificial?"
"There used to be a small island in the middle. Guess it's gone now."
"Hrm, this place... You think the Empire is hiding here?"
"Ah. There they are."
"Except we've been everywhere in this area, and haven't found their hideout."
'No, let's not for now. We don't need the ingredients for anything."
"Sir, Ma'am. I know you have the firewalk spell. Could we not investigate that fort you mentioned?"
"You want to walk across a field of lava."
"Even I have my concserns."
"I agree. I have no pressing desire to go back there."
"Goodbye Steam Cave!"
"You are treating it like a persson?"
"I don't think she means what you think she means, Sir Ma'am."
"We're almost there."
"For all of you for whom this is your first time, welcome to the Great Cave."
"Can't even see the far end."
"It waz conszidered inhossspitable for the Slithzerikai when we arrived, so we sssettled north."
"Except for Blosk."
"Wissh to go home?"
"That's a wonderful idea!"
"For once, I agree."
"But before that, we need to pass through Almaria."
"Is that why we're headed south?"
"Welcome! Welcome! We get so few visitors."
"Refugees from the Abyss were moved into the nor-east corner of the Cave. Come on, I'll show you."
"I'm going to have to complain to Scab about that."
"Guy I know."
"Hold and identify!"
"They seemed hostile."
"Not to Art though."
"They just respect her, that's all."
"Art. What brings you here?"
"You guys settled on Purgatory?"
"Ain't a lot of options, you know."
"Seriously? You know that Purgaroty is technically above, or better than the Abyss?"
"Not everyone here is as educated as you or I."
"ooh, nice stuff."
"Who are these?"
"Current team of trainees. Kai-Lyss, Aarth-Tss, Chester, Marianna, and Dmurr."
"Nice to meet you. Try not to get them killed."
"Oh, at this point, I'm confident they can handle anything short a Demon or a Dragon."
"Why would we want to fight either?"
"You ain't been around her too long, have you?"
"I do not like what you're implying."
"Oh, shut up you vole."
"BEFORE this gets violent, I have to ask. You got any news on Rook and Duncan?"
"No. Last I heard, they were trying for Bahrga. Not everyone made it out in time, so they were hoping to get at the... facility there."
"That's what I heard too. Thanks."
"No problem. Kill lots for me, why don't you?"
"Will do. Let me know if you find out where that hidden fort they've got to raid the Steam Cavern is."
"Why? What if we don't want to share?"
"Good point. But maybe I want to be there when you burn it down?"
"We'll see. Talk to you later."
"What do you mean?"
"Not enough to sssspeak of yet."
"And this is why we didn't come down here via boat. See that Island? There's an army encampment there which sinks anything that doesn't present the right pass. Which we don't have."
"How would we get one?"
"Improved Clearance comes with it."
"Ah, Almaria. Home to high art, proper civilization, and just plain being better than other places. Like Mertis."
"I don't see this place growing crops."
"You just have no taste for the finer things in life."
"What are the finer thingssss?"
"No boat this time?"
"One before the current one got burned. Current one is over in Silvar."
"That'll be five gold."
"Hey, you're the lady who keeps bragging about her boat."
"Are you ever going to let that go?"
"Not on my life."
"What was that all about?"
"I've never liked paying that toll."
"Doesn't look like some city of high culture to me."
"It's due to the war. The north side of town has been expanded to become large warehouses and the like."
I should check in...
The secretary for city hall snoozes gently behind the desk, almost totally obscured by the huge stacks of papers before him.
He isn't paying attention. The plate on his desk says "Duckworth."
Are you Duckworth?
When you ask, he grumbles and shifts slightly in his chair. "Snore."
Best NPC in the city.
Oh, come on in already.
Hello sir, Art. Unspecified Services.
A huge, bearded, bear of a man sits at the end of a table, staring at a scroll with distaste. The chair he sits on and polished table before him are unusually opulent for Exile. He would seem quite out of place, were it not for his mayor's sash. He looks up. "Ah. Adventurers. Hello. I'm mayor Bevan."
Unspecified Services, sir.
Same thing, more organization. Look, all I'm trying to do is to stay out of the way of the military, mainly."
I would think that the military would not be a conssern.
"Almaria is the safest town in Exile, and the most central. So we're the supply depot for the whole army!" He waves at the ocean of paper before him. "It's a nightmare of paperwork, but at least we aren't under attack."
He looks across the table at you. "Adventurers? Hmm. You're probably looking for a mission."
Actually, we're headed for the Castle, but I suspect our leader would at least want the details of the mission from you before we go.
Mayor Bevan begins to look very somber. "One of our more unstable mages, who went by the name 'Sixus', suddenly started to believe we wanted him dead and disappeared."
I've never heard of Sixus before.
He wasn't a powerful person. But he took lots of records with him. If the Empire caught him, it would be a disaster. Not to mention the harm he could do in his paranoia. We need you to either convince him to return, or, failing that, kill him."
"Do this, and you will be rewarded. If you accept, go ask Abby about Sixus. She knew him. She's somewhere around the supply bins."
I am hoping for a happy ending to that one. I'd rather not kill someone for being overly paranoid.
Same here, Sir Ma'am.
Problems with civilians?
People stealing supplies, and selling them back to people, or us.
Wow. That's just low.
Not going in there.
Maybe this Abby is in the next room?
Oh great. TO ARMS!
Truth be told, I forgot about this.
Kill as many as we can, and burn the storehouses!
I don't believe I did that!
Get used to it!
Oh, the pain.
Ssstep out of the field, fool.
This event is, straight up, a repeat of the attack on Fort Ganrick at the beginning of the game. I do remember to pick up the dropped scroll but I don't check it out. I should have, but I didn't. Sorry.
I think we got everything off them. I'll sort the good from the bad later.
Ugh, a raid.
Thanks for the help, Ma'am. It would have been a lot worse if you weren't there.
You're welcome. How did they get in anyways?
Wall's not damaged, so we think teleportation. They did have that Demon with them, so it's the most likely response. But we have people to look into that. So, thanks again.
You are welcome.
Weird, a few years ago, I would have blamed the lizard for this...
There is a very small woman sitting at the table, blissfully reading. She seems oblivious to your presence.
Um, hello? I'm Marianna. We're just checking on everyone around after that raid.
She looks up at you regretfully. "I'm Abby." She returns to her reading.
She looks up at you, somewhat irritated. "I'm really quite busy. I'm sorry." She looks back at her book.
What iz that in her hand?
I thought they were bigger?
You have ssseen many of them ssso far. Why the queztion now?
ANYWAYS! I heard you were the person to talk to about helping Sixus.
Her head pops up. "Oh! You're going to try to find poor Sixus? Poor fellow. Good mage, but not quite right in the head. Thinks we want him dead, too, not just the Empire. So he packs up and runs and takes lots of secret stuff with!"
"Odd fellow. I hope you don't have to kill him. He's very bright. And secretive."
What do you mean by secretive? I mean, there is a certain standard that Mages keep to.
"Secretive, in that he wanted to build a hidden tower way out in the middle of nowhere, with no help from anyone. Bright, in that he did it. Magically. He's probably in that tower now."
Do you know where this tower is? We'd like to talk to him.
"He never told anyone where it was, not even me and Bevan, his only friends!" She thinks. "Actually, he did tell me something. He said to get there when building it, he had to take a boat north from Almaria, and follow the coast around to the east."
"He also said it was near a chasm, in a really isolated place. Hope this helps."
It does, thank you.
Art, you've been everywhere. North and east of Almaria on the water?
Not really. I mean, I know there's caverns on the south side of that lake, across from Cotra, but I've never been there.
We know of sssuch placces. We may have mapsss.
Then we ssshould head to Blossk.
Well, we can at least report to this person about the attack.
There is a scarred, balding, and richly odored man sitting at the desk. He turns to you, relieved to be able to ignore his papers for a while. "Call me Captain Dirk."
Dmurr. You're in charge around here?
"Uh, I'm quartermaster here. I look at the supplies and boats and stuff."
About those supplies, there was a raid a few minutes ago.
Oh, I know. Thanks for your help. Gonna have to do another inventory once the Army is done their investigation. I keep track of what all we got here, and send it where they need it."
You must do a lot of shipping then. I'm surprised the dock is so small.
"I give boats to them that's needs 'em." He leans close. "We don't got many boats total, but I got one here. And if you pay me a two hundred gold, um..., filing fee, I'll let ya' take it."
He reclines back. "So whaddaya' say? Lemme' know if you ever want to buy the thing."
Not right now.
He wanted to sell us a boat!
But those are all military controlled.
And only 200 gold!
Well, we could certainly afford it.
True, but either he's selling Army supplies for personal profit a crime which I do have the authority to arrest him for, or he's selling a piece of utter junk. Which would you rather deal with?
The one with less paperwork, Sir Ma'am?
Ah, you're learning!
Thiss iz the Priessst place. Why no placce of honour?
Hello Slith. A tall, thin blonde woman sits cross-legged in front of a brazier, from which incense smoke billows. When you approach, she turns a serene gaze up to meet you. "I am Miranda. Welcome."
Aaarth-Tsss. What do you do here, that you are not honoured?
"I seek a way for peace and tranquility, when all that is around is death."
"All people do is try to find ways to kill one another. I see it in them, I see it in you, I saw it on the surface. All I can do is heal them when they fall, in the hope that they gain some wisdom in their recuperation."
She sighs, and a half-smile flits across her face. "Heavens, I sound naive. Oh well."
No, you don't.
You meet a short, round woman clad in rough mage's robes, designed for travelling.
Hello. I'm Art.
"I'm Laura. Well met."
I think I recognize you from somewhere. Have we met?
No, I don't believe so. My familiar and I are heading back to the Tower of Magi - I want to learn more about the Vahnatai, and there seems the best place."
Great. I don't see your familiar...?
"My magical animal companion, Dagger. If you see her, you can say hi, but don't expect politeness. She's not a happy animal."
So, what makes you want to study the Vahnatai?
"Oh, yes! Everyone's talking about them, but especially mages! A whole new people to learn about, to learn skills from. Pity so many of them hate us. Still, they're on everyone's mind."
"A soldier at Fort Emerald, he even claims some of them were nearby!"
I know! But anyways, it's not like you would know much about them. They're very new. See you later! Bye!
What do we have here?
You meet a woman with short curly hair and skin pale even by Exile's standards. You would think she was born here. She puts down the rapier she was sharpening to greet you. "I'm Shannon."
Dmurr. How is business?
She waves at the weaponry surrounding her. "You can buy all of this, if you got the cash. It's tough getting good weapons and armor in these times, but we're clever."
Nothing worth buying.
Clever? I'm surprised you don't have your entire inventory bought out by the Army.
"Well, Jay and I only came down here two years ago, but we were good scroungers on the surface world, and we're better here. Thing about lots of fighting, there's plenty to salvage."
"We search the passages around here for battlegrounds. It's grisly work, but Exile needs weapons more than scruples."
There's a tall, skinny guy sitting behind a counter polishing a shield. He's really pale, like all citizens of Exile, but not as pale as most. He even has a tiny bit of color in his cheeks. "Hi!" He greets you with a wide smile. "I'm Jay! Well, you can buy all sorts of armor here. And then, if you want weapons, you can get them nearby."
More of nothing to buy.
Ah, good. An apothecary.
And more nothing. All the good stuff is being bought up by the army for the war. This makes spending money hard.
Thissss is... humble.
You meet a mighty soldier of Exile. She eyes you up and down. Even her eyelids have big muscles. "Call me Shirley."
Kai-Lyss. What do you do here?
"Beatin' on anyone who causes trouble. Or Empire soldiers. Or anyone who makes lame ass jokes about my name. So watch it!" You decide to watch it.
I do not know any ssuch punz.
You meet a woman with the look of having travelled from one end of Exile to the other. She is perched on top of a stool tuning an amazing rarity - a guitar! She stops tuning the guitar. "Hello, travellers. I'm Gypsy!"
Hello. I am Kai-Lyss. What izz that?
Oh, the guitar? I use it while I'm travelling and playing, same as I always do. I just came over from Dharmon."
I have not.
"Ever been there? Big city, under a hill, well to the west. Probably the busiest place in Exile."
Tell me about it.
"Never seen people move faster in all of Exile than there, now. You see, the big front between us and the Empire is just north of there. Lots of action, lots of fighting. I'm staying away from there for a while. Want to live to keep playing."
With that, she plays a rousing song on her guitar. You stand entranced - it's been a long time since you've heard surface world music.
You meet a heavy-set Moor with a variety of weaponry. He eyes you and your gear, and seems to approve of what he sees. He grants you a broad smile. "Greeting, adventurers! I'm Monty."
Kai-Lyss. I am with Unssspeciifed Ssrvicessz.
That's neat! I'm heading on over to Blosk, you know, about a hundred miles west? They have a need for good fighters there."
What haz gone wrong there in Blosk?
"The Empire's started attacking there a lot since the barriers came down. They're starting to learn their way around the caves. Good place for a merc to be." He thinks. "Just between you and me, though, if you go there keep your eyes open."
"Word is, there's some spying going on."
One of the few points where we see the immediate results of bringing down the Vahnatai barriers. And a clue as what needs to be done in Blosk when we get there.
An immaculately groomed Nephar stands proudly behind an immaculately clean bar. He looks nervous, as if he expects you're going to hate him on sight. He bows. "I am Hmurr. Welcome to my inn." His speaking is unusually clear for a Nephil or Nephar.
What bringsss you here?
"I own this inn - how it happened is an odd tale. But it is mine, and I run it with pride. You may buy my fine rations, or get a room for a mere five gold."
What iz thiss?
... I'll come back later.
None of my concern.
What are you doing here?
You reach down to pet a cat. To your surprise, it jumps away, saying "Knock it off!"
Ah. Your name, little one?
"I'm Dagger. Like you care."
It spits. "So, I'm a familiar, OK? What's it to you?"
Being a familiar is no iszue.
It stares up at you boldly. "It means I got no dignity. I follow Laura around, and protect her, and I don't get any kinda' say in the matter."
Then I shall leave you to your misery.
Well, that wasn't what I was expecting out of Almaria.
No, I don't think anyone was.
Well, the Castle shouldn't be too far away.