Part 35: The Castle, and Magi ClearanceUpdate 031 The Castle and Magi Clearance
"Well, here it is. The center of Exile civilization. The Castle."
"I'm not sure."
"I sssusspect there'z a joke in there."
"I am confussed."
"Halt. Name and business."
"Art. This is Chester, Kai-Lyss, Aarth-Tss, Marianna and Dmurr. Unspecified Services.
Ah, sorry. Didn't recognize you, Ma'am. The General is in the Castle. Did you want us to send a message?
No, that's alright. I'm not here for him, and I don't want to take time away from whatever he's doing that's important.
Understood. Have a nice day.
How long has this Army been stationed here?
It's the strategic reserve. Units rotate in and out ro recover from losses, or to respond to large Empire attack.
It will take time to get through them all...
There's only three different events with all those points.
Keep moving. No sightseeing.
To think, five yearsss ago, the only way a Slithzerikai could be here waz by war. Now I ssstand here not invited, but expected.
What about me?
You are from Blosk.
There is a very tall, thin woman pacing about. She carries several large, parchment maps about, and occasionally stops and spreads one out on the floor to look at it.
You know, I don't think you should be doing that where people are walking.
"I'm working on a bit of research. That's what I'm here for."
Still, research isn't something to be done on the floor. Unless you're researching cleaning magic?
"Oh, not on magic. I'm working on something else, to take a break from all of that. I'm trying to figure out where the Sphere of Thralni ended up."
The what now?
It's called the ORB, not the Sphere. And it should be locked up in the Tower for research purposes.
"It's an artifact! It enables its bearer to fly! We had it here, but it was stolen. But I think I know who the thieves were."
She shows you the maps. They are of the caves west of Fort Remote, a ways west of here. "There is a huge nest of Empire mages in there, doing research. After the orb was stolen, troops in Fort Remote thought they saw some people fly over."
"The mage fort southwest of Fort Remote. I would bet that's where the Sphere ended up. Now if only someone would get it."
Um, you know this Orb, Sir Ma'am?
I had better. When did it get moved to the Castle?
It was relocated to aid in deploying rapid reaction forces should the Empire make an incursion in force.
Come on, let's step away before Art hurts herself.
How could they lose it? Stolen!?!?
An artefact like that will be recovered. By uzz or ssomeone elzse.
Hey, you guys here for something? You meet a burly, grizzled old veteran, wearing heavy, pitted chainmail. He only has one arm, but that arm holds a large barrel up on his shoulder. He grins toothily at you, not letting the barrel down from his shoulder. "I'm Ackroyd."
Dmurr. Sorry about that, Art there can get worked up over nothing sometimes. So, um, what do you do around here?
"Well, I'm quartermaster for the Castle, ya' know? I look after storerooms and stuff? Cause, ya' see, I got wounded, and they needed somewheres ta' stick me."
What caused the wound?
"Yeah, the Empire? One of their assassins nailed me? It got infected and poisoned and stuff, and it had to come off. I'm bitter, but hey, I got stuff to keep busy with, ya' know? Oh well." He puts the barrel down, and picks up another. His remaining arm is frighteningly well muscled.
Well.... Have a nice day, we'll get out of your hair.
What about the storerooms?
"Yeah, I look after the storerooms? And did ya' see one of 'em was empty? You could keep your stuff in there, ya' know? I'll look after it. Put it in the room with the webs in it."
Webs? I would think that this place would have as much as possible stored away in the case of seiges.
Yeah, but if the Caste was in deep like that, we'd have bigger problems. So, most of the stuff goes to Almaria for distribution.
What's with all the rubble? Are they expecting a seige to get through the army they have out front?
There are other avenuesss of approach, or more suppliez for the wall at the bassze of the encampment.
Heh. This place hasn't been used in a while. But now's not the time to poke around here.
Are you feeling alright, Sir Ma'am?
Why do you ask?
You jusst dizmized an opportunity to explore.
Indeed. Something is amiss.
... You know what? Don't worry about it. I'm sure we'll get to it in time. Come on, we need to go over here.
I never thought I'd have to come here for this.
Why not uze ssstone?
Too much space needed.
But what muzt be known that ssso much is remembered?
Sssuch iz the apparatuzzs of Government.
A happy woman with brown, frizzy hair sits behind the counter, blissfully shuffling forms back and forth, tabulating numbers, and doing other obscure bureaucratic things.
She stands to shake your hands. "I am Gilda, head record-keeper. Welcome to my domain."
A domain? What iz this?
"Oh, you wouldn't find most of it very interesting. Someone has to keep all the information straight. Of course, I do have to deal with adventurers."
"I'm generally in charge of evaluating and rewarding security clearance. If you ever feel you've earned a new clearance, come see me."
Well, we're here to upgrade our Clearance?
Gilda lurches to the counter and summons up a flurry of paperwork. After a few minutes, she pops up from a cloud of airborne scrolls and hands you a small certificate. "You are now of Magi Clearance. Congratulations!"
This doesn't look like much.
It's magical. And normally there would be some interviews, but you already have a letter of recommendation from both General Karmas and from Minister Anaxiamander. So that part has been skipped!
Hey guys, go on ahead without me. I need to spend some time to myself for a bit. I'll be in the training hall.
What is that about?
The onuzz of leaderssship.
Sometimes a woman needs some alone time, farm boy.
That was insulting, Marianna.
There is a large, torpid, pudgy iguana prowling around the halls. You cannot help but notice it has a big, blue ribbon around its neck. Under the ribbon is a nametag. The lizard's name is "Fred."
The reazzoning matterszz not. Let uz give her the time the <Priest> desssires.
Looking to compare notes?
Yesss, az well as looking for new spells.
If you didn't have the Clearance yet, they would bar your path.
A woman with long, dark hair and severe features sits staring at the sparkling runes before here. When she sees you, she smiles and motions for you to sit with her. A Slithzerikai Mage? It has been a long time since I saw one like you. And no where near the Castle. I am Curtin."
Kai-Lyss. Thank you for the invitation. What is your purpose here?
"Well, this is where I come to rest. The rest of the time, I perform research on teleportation."
Teleportation is a difficult field.
"A difficult, but powerful field. Some of my work is on the shelves in the library nearby. What's more," (and she beams with pride as she says it) "I helped work on the portal."
The Portal to the Vahnatai Landsss?
"The portal in the Tower of Magi. It enables one to flash to anywhere in Exile, if they but know the right coordinates."
Coordinates? Sssurely it cannot be that eazy?
"Three three letter words, which tell the portal where to send you. They are difficult to find, but very useful. I have found two interesting sets of them, for the Castle and Erika's tower!"
"The coordinates for the Castle are Ain Eff Wyx. That was a week of work. Finding the way to Erika's tower was an accident - we were trying to find a route to near Solberg's tower. The coordinates are on a pylon near there. Be careful not to tell people these coordinates. The portal would be dangerous in the wrong hands!"
You trussst me?
If you weren't trustworthy, you wouldn't be here. Besides, to use these things, you'd still need to get into the Tower to access the Portal.
To make things clear, the pass code for Erika's Tower is located near Solberg's tower. We've seen it before, but I'll be getting to it again this update.
Thank you for your time.
No way through.
Nor do I have the power too.
And this door is locked.
My mapping tellszz me there is a summoning circle in there. Let uz avoid it.
I'm in agreement!
I am not yet strong enough to cast this spell.
Where does it go?
To affect all of uzz, it would have to go to the firsst place we all met Fort Ganrick.
Makes sense, I think?
Sorry, Sir. Royal Clearance only.
And back here.
Art was right, the dahling. Nothing here.
Ssshould we not reclaim Art?
If there is sssomething here sshe wantsz, she can get it later. Or already haz.
You meet a small, delicately featured woman with a sweet smile. She wears snowy white robes, and radiates a constant, unmistakable power. A gold ankh hangs from around her neck. "My name is Arbanel. Welcome."
I am Kai-Lyss. Thank you for the greetingss.
You are very kind. In fact, I believe that you are the first Slith that I have properly met.
You do not seem like one to talk much, but yes, I greet you as well.
I am an Exile, the last Exile. I came here on my own after the Empire stopped sending people down, because I realized you were on the side of justice."
"I fought for the Empire once; it shames me to admit it. I even sent those like you down here. But redemption is always possible, and is never as hard as it seems. My mission is to atone."
"I can provide healing for you. You can also purchase spells from me, which the Empire does not want you to have. Alas, I must ask a fee for my help. Worry not - the tithe will go to the needy, and to the good fight."
Politicsss aside, I would see what you know.
Resurrect I skip, but Divine Thud? Art can't cast it yet, but when she does....!
I would think there would be no wasted space back here.
These are so musty, they're positively calcified!
Isn't this the thing Art keeps talking about? That was stolen?
Or rather, was?
If she's sad, maybe we can get it to cheer her up?
Ah, there you are.
Yesss? And you are?
Ah, forgive me. General Karmas, 1st Army of Exile. Pleased to make your acquaintance. He offers a hand in greeting, and Kai-Lyss takes it.
Karmas looked at the group in front of him, not judging. Just looking. Look, I don't have much time, so I'll make this quick. I'm sorry.
Chester replied first, confused. Sir?
I am sorry that you wound up with Art with no preparation. She's a brilliant small-unit commander, but she's driven. I wanted to meet the people who are working with her, and I like what I see. I think you'll go far, as long as she doesn't break you.
Kai-Lyss stood straighter. Ssso what?
The general sighed. I mean, Karams stumbled, looking for the words. I mean, Art is not someone who will give up. She could have just walked away when she arrived in Exile shortly before I. She could have started a farm, had children, become a priest, what have you choose. No, instead, she picked the choice to do the impossible, grabbed a random assortment of people and somehow forged us into a force that did the impossible on a regular basis.
Kai-Lyss considered this. Then what izz the point?
Karmas sagged. The point is that you feel like you are being left out. And in a way, you are. She leads you, and you follow without knowing why. Having buried her reasons for actions so deeply, that even I, as a friend, do not think she knows them all.... He suddenly looks tired, the weight of command on his shoulders. I try to speak plain, but wind up with riddles and obfuscation. He looked up. Let me beg this of you then, a favour with no hope of recompense. Be there for her when her friends cannot, to pull her back from the abyss she would walk into without seeing it. He looked back at the door he had come from. Now if you'll excuse me.
Very much so.
You meet an awkward, vacant young man with ill-fitting, ratty robes. He wears a silver circlet. You've heard of this person: this must be the infamous Prince Chevyn.
"Hi! I'm Chevyn! Prince Chevyn! I'm royal!"
She bows low before speaking. Prince. What brings you here to the battlements?
He stands up proudly. "I'm royalty. I'm the prince. You know what that means."
"That means I'll be king and wise powerful ruler over Exile, me and my lizard Fred. That'll be really neat! But first, I'm supposed to be helping the war."
All help can be appreciated.
"Yeah! I was thinking of a whole new war fighting strategy plan thing when you came along, for wiping out the Empire, and maybe the Vahnatai, and maybe even destroying Silvar too, for good measure!" He thinks. "Or maybe Silvar shouldn't be destroyed. I'm still working on it."
Well, your highness, I'm sure that is all well and good. You mentioned a Fred? Perhaps he could be of help?
"My loyal friend and guardian! If you see him, pet him for me!" He thinks. Hard. "Or her. It's a lizard. You know how it is."
Well, forgive us for intruding, your highness. Work hard for the king, as do we all.
"King Micah is the king guy. I'm preparing to take his place and stuff! That means I'm helping the military."
Of course. We shall take our leave.
You humansss perplex me. Why was such a... damaged ssspawnling wazz allowed to mature, I do not know.
Because of love?
Before this argument explodes on us, I just want to point out that Slithzerikai morality and Human morality are not the same, and trying to impose one on the other is doomed to failure?
If it makes you feel any better, General Karmas is seen as the proper next in line for the throne, not the Prince.
That doesss. Having a good leader iz uzsful.
There you guys are! I was just about to send people looking for you.
We got caught up in a conversation with General Karmas, Sir, Ma'am.
I know. He came to talk to me after he chatted with you. We went a round on the sparring field.
Let's see. Guy who fights with a sword and shield versus a woman with two swords and priestly magic.
He beat you.
Im still recovering!
So, what shall we be doing now?
I thought things over, and I have a good idea. With the Magi Clearance, there's a couple places I want to head back to, to deal with.
There wazz the Cavern of the Dragon.
And I think we should head back to the Tower of the Magi.
Exactly! But Motrax first.
Blosk. Such a droll place. I no not mind passing it by.
Still no boat?
Oh, and still need to find that Empire Fort.
Mention of a Teleporter passscode near Solberg's Tower.
Wait. What teleporter?
I will explain later.
So, is this the code for Solberg's tower, or Erika's?
I think Erika.
I'm sorry, but there's also a code for Formello, written on the outside wall on the south side I keep forgetting to take a picture of it, and I don't have what it is handy.
Seriously, you're not going to tell me?
Well, just be glad I'm now distracted by an impending revenge against those who would abuse Motrax.
Um, should you be having that grin on your face?
What? The one that promises massive retribution? Probably not. But they won't know that!
Ugh. And if we come across someone who isn't in need of your special reciprocation, will you at least let me talk to them?
We'll see. YOU!
A pale, bent spider of a man hunches over the table, spindly claws rearranging pieces of paper. His heads snaps around to see you. He's very old, but he's also very agile, and very alert. "I'm Ostoth," he snaps. "What do you want?"
Art! Unspecified Services! Spot inspection!
"I'm here to question the lizard. What else? I'm very glad to give information we've obtained, if I think you should have it." Desire to help and irritation at interruption are very precariously balanced in this one.
What sort of subjects or information have you been asking the dragon about?
"I ask him about the underworld, trying to find out things about these caves that can help us against the invaders." You notice his papers are covered with maps. "If there's anything interesting, then troops can be teleported there to investigate."
"We've found a few things, but I can't tell you about them."
I understand completely. But I must ask why do you call the Dragon a lizard? It is an offensive term, especially with my current cohorts.
He nods. "Motrax. Dragon. Age - between 800 and 900 years. Estimated remaining lifespan - hundred years. If that. Maybe days. We have to get from him what we can, while we can."
If there's nothing else, continue with your inspection, and please try not to ruin anything with your baseless attitude.
Ostoth is someone we'll have to come back to talk to later. He knows where a plot MacGuffin is, thanks to his interrogations. But will only tell us once we know to ask him.
See? No punching!
I'll find someone to take my frustrations out on. Just you wait.
Don't touch the books.
Who would make a secret cubby hole, then put nothing in it?
Someone who knew we were coming?
In the middle of a cloud of acrid smoke, you see a short, heavy-set woman. She carries and maneuvers several vials with agile, practiced hands.
Art! Say nothing!
Excuse me! I'm Marianna. We're with Unspecified Services, conducting an inspection. Can we take a moment of your time?
She keeps fiddling with the vials, barely seeming to hear your voice. "It hardly matters. Call me Enla."
Hello Enla. What do you do around here?
"I try to heal Motrax. And I question him."
Healing him? How are his wounds?
She adds some moss to a vial. It fizzes. "Motrax was horribly wounded in an Empire attack. He barely held off the invaders. The wounds are weakening him. I'm trying to save him so he can answer our questions."
I think you need to add less Comfrey Root. We were told that Ostoth was in charge of questioning.
"I question him about the Vahnatai. They're probably a horrible menace. He says he doesn't remember anything about them, but I don't believe it. It'll take time, but I'm sure I can get something valuable about them from him. Don't question him too much. We need him to have all the strength he can get."
Asking her about the Vahnatai doesn't produce a response, I'm sorry to say. And yet, the worst part about this is that these people think their cruelty is necessary to save as much of Motrax and his knowledge as they can.
This wasn't well hidden.
Even before I mapped the placces out.
I see someone in the corner...
The woman before you is clearly young. In years, anyway. However, experiences have blasted her in a horrifying way. Her young body is topped by a worn, weary, mottled face and gray, sparse hair. "Hello. I am Linda. Of the Triad." Her voice is flat. Her eyes don't focus on you.
What did you do that for?
Punching people won't help!
You don't know what she did!
What do you do?
"I am of the Triad."
No, she's not. She hasn't been for five years now! Not since I had to kill her pet Haakai!
Her voice is monotone, detached. "We ran the Tower of Magi. I was just sent here. Just sent. For a little while. I will find what went wrong."
What happened at the tower?
"At the Tower, we did a summoning. It didn't work. The demon had to be killed. But it can work again. Against the Empire. I will find out how."
ADZE-HAAKAI! Not a demon, but the second in command to Grah-Hoth!
Aaarht-Tss? Some help restraining Art please!
"Adze-Haakai. I can say the name. And I don't hear him anymore. Saying the name is safe. Safe" Her monotone voice drones on. It's as if she doesn't know you're here. "We lost control though. When we caught him. He had to be killed. They killed him. The next time it will work. If only I had the scepter. If only we had it."
YOU HAD IT, YOU..!
You two, get her out of here!
What about this scepter? Was it powerful?
We didn't know what it did. Now we do. Hold it out and touch a dimensional rift with it, and it closes. The rift does. Very powerful. It heals space. If only I had it. But it's gone."
Back in Exile 1, Linda used the Onyx Scepter as 'bait' for Adze-Haakai. The party had to kill him as part of the chain of events to kill Grah-Hoth, and took the Sceptre themselves. Later, they had to trade it to Sulphras the Dragon to access the passage out of Exile. Back then, no one knew what the Scepter did, only that it was extremely powerful. Well, now we do!
What was that all about?
Linda? That mad witch caused... I have no idea how much damage with her insanity! She deserves every punishment that can be given to her!
That... place... north of the Tower.
Yes. A summoning circle over a mile wide.
So, where is this sceptre now?
Probably in the hoard of Sulphras, west of the Great Cave. We had to trade it for access to the Empire's exit to Exile.
There's an exit?
Used to be. Haven't been there in a while, but I suppose that the Empire has sealed it off by now as they haven't tried to move an army through there. Fort Remote still watches, just in case.
Are you going to assault Linda?
Of course. Just not when you're around.
Oh, I was digging through my stuff, and, well...
Those Empire Orders from Almaria?
Yep! Finally got around to reading them!
I know the place. We can go there next time.
So, what's this about a teleporter?
I need more information firssst.
Dmurr? Chester? Aaarth-Tss?
It goes over my head, Sir Ma'am.
Let uszz invesstigate further.
You meet a short woman with dark skin and a radiant smile. Her raven black hair disappears into a rich, purple velvet robe. She stands to greet you. "I am Mahdavi, of the Triad. It's good to have adventurers here."
Kai-Lyss. You are a leader here?
Yes. My Triad responsibilities, in part. And partially, I'm pondering a great threat to Exile."
We have met Linda. Ssshe claimed to be a member of the Triad, yet Art objected.
Ah, Art! I haven't actually had the pleasure of meeting you. Peregrine speaks highly of you, which is outright impossible for someone of his ego. But yes, Linda is not one of us. The Tower of Magi is run by the Triad, me, X, and Solberg. But Solberg is long absent, and X is, well, strange. So most of the responsibility falls to me."
Maybe if Solberg wasn't locked up in his tower by Formello under a Royal Clearance protection?
"The Empire has him trapped in his tower, southwest of Formello. I wish he was here - we could use his wisdom."
We sssaw no ssign of the Empire near hiz tower.
"Perhaps that is truth. I cannot tell for now. Thankfully the Empire has not destroyed us for one reason: it takes great energy to teleport people down here. But we know now that they are building a mass teleporter, to flood us with troops. If it is completed, we are all doomed, every one of us."
"We need a group of adventurers, who can find out where this portal is and how to destroy it. If you are willing, I can help."
And here is where we start the second end-game quest. Destroy the Empire Teleporter.
Of courssse. We can help.
She looks hopeful. "If you are truly serious about destroying this dangerous teleporter, I will help you as best I can. Return occasionally to ask me for help, and I will tell you what I have learned and what I think you can and should do."
"First, we need to know how to destroy it safely - portals are very unstable and powerful things. Alas, Pyrn was our expert on such things, and he is away and hidden. However, I can help you with his discovery. Ask him about the teleporter!"
And where can we find thissss Pyrn?
"His bedroom is south of here. He told me that he left directions to find him in his dresser. He said to see them, you needed to do this ..." She makes a quick series of hand motions. (You take note of them.) "Using them, you should be able to find him."
Thank you. By your leave, <Mage>.
Like, say, that Onyx Sceptre?
I hope not. One Dragon slaying is enough for me.
Nope! Still don't believe you.
Another Teleporter code. We ssshould locate it now.
You startle an aging magic user, lost in thought. He looks very relieved when he sees you aren't about to kill him.
Forgive the intrussion. I am Kai-Lyss.
What are you doing here?
"Just being jumpy at the moment."
What izz jumpy?
He seems to be only half there. "Being near the portal does that to you, I'm afraid. And then there's the demons."
"After the portal was up for a while, a few demons came through it. They're in there now, and we don't have the strength here at the moment to flush them out. Nothing we can do until we get it."
Izzz the portal undamaged?
"Hmm. I suppose you have the clearance to know. We have a controllable teleporter! It could be a huge weapon against the Empire. We could send attackers anywhere down here, and maybe even on the surface. Unfortunately, it's not happening yet, because using it is tricky."
Well, to set the coordinates for the Portal, you need to input three word commands. They set the destinations along the three axial planes. But! And here's the part that makes everything go weird. The space the portal measures isn't fixed, nor is it completely linear! He speaks more and more technically until about the only thing you can understand is that using the portal requires a lot of trial and error. You could pick words at random, but there is no knowing where you could end up. Or if.
They have a working teleporter.
And you didn't tell me.
I'll get you back for this, you know.
No, you won't.
Stargate the movie was released in 1994, two years before this game came out. You may now play the appropriate music.
Oh, this isn't so bad.
Alright! Minor vote time. I can either at this point:
A: Enter the Portal using one of the codes we've gotten, including possibly visiting Pryn or Erika!
B: Enter the Portal using a special code that you won't know about, but can guess if you like a joke.
C: Leave the portal alone, and go exploring like normal adventurers.