Part 39: Gnass and Patrick's TowerUpdate 035 Gnass and Patrick's Tower
You need not fear thisss.
I do not.
Look, we can always come back later. Or not at all.
I don't know, I've never been in a proper Slith settlement before.
I expect it's underwater.
Don't be silly. Even they have to breathe!
Pleasse... allow me to lead.
<I didn't want this.>
<Perhaps there is an elder you can speak to about these things?>
<They were the ones who said I should not follow this path in the first place.>
<Speak to them, then. And know that no matter how much you may feel like you are not welcome, I am most assuredly more so.>
<I doubt that will be the case.>
You know, this seems like it would be better for the two of you if you the rest of us weren't hanging out. We'll meet you back at the entrance when you're done.
<Come then, let us wander.>
I've had to throw out most of the dialogue as-is for Gnass because this narrative has Slithzerikai talking to other Slithzerikai, rather than only humans as the PCs. And with Aarth-Tsss' background indicating she was from here, I have to adjust things to account for that. So while I will get to all the points properly, the actual will be far different from those playing at home.
You meet a tall, dignified slith. It bows in greeting.
<Greetings, honoured Priest.>
<Greetings, honoured Priest. I am Kai-Lyss.>
It speaks in a deep, sibilant voice. "<I am Asotho, Mage. Welcome to Gnass.>"
<I am welcomed.>
<What brings you back here, child? Have you come to aid the refugees that now flee here?>
"<The Empire is moving from Slith village to Slith village, killing all of our people they find. A few of them, the lucky ones, make their way here. The rest end up in mass graves.>"
<WHAT?! Why would they do that?>
"<Yes. The Empire is killing all of us, every last one. One day we will be able to prove it to the humans, although we hope it happens before we are all gone.>"
<I can speak to Art. She can act.>
<Your faith in the human hero is still misplaced. One great deed does not a friend make.>
<Then you are ignorant, Priest. What do you intend to do with those who have come to Gnass?>
"<Here, we can arm them, and help them fight. They will at least have the luck of dying fighting for their freedom, rather than ending up in a mass grave. Now, begone, Mage. Your words are an infection in my ears.>"
<Do not leave yet.> There is a grievously wounded slith lying back on this bed. It's tail has been lost, and dirty bandages cover its body. It stares up at you through a haze of pain. It emits a long, drawn out hiss of agony. "<I am Lairgath, Warrior.>"
<Troops of the Human Empire attacked and slew my village. I fled.> He pauses to regain his strength, and continues. "I fled here. I rest, so I can fight."
<To fight? I am no Priest, no Healer, but even I can tell that will be a long time coming.>
His eyes light up with fury. "<They killed my mate and my brood!>" His voice starts to rise, despite the pain speaking is causing him. "<One day I will arise, and I will take up my spear, and I will have revenge!>"
<Then rest now, and strain yourself no further, Warrior. So that you can slay those who have harmed you sooner.>
<Come, we shall speak with the Head Priest, that we may learn more of what has happened.>
<It seems obvious. The Humans shelter Gnass, and those of our people who flee from the Surface Empire come here to have their dreams of revenge. They do not understand the scale of difference between the two forces.>
<Yet the right person in the right place at the right time can make all the difference.>
<Do you hope for Art to be that?>
<Someone has to have faith, lest all come to nought.>
You meet an ancient slith, green scales faded, sitting wearily at this table. He nods solemnly to you. "<Welcome home, errant child. And welcome, Mage. I am Pathas.>"
<I am welcomed, Head Priest.>
<I am Welcomed, Head Priest. I am Kai-lyss.>
<I know your name. You are known to us. That you come in peace is a good sign. As you have been told, I am the Priest for this village. It is a great labour in these times.>
<I can envision such a thing, your labor in keeping the peace with all those who are wounded.>
<Yes. We worship our gods, our kind gods as best we can. We have had no need for the dark gods of War and Blood that our brethren in other caverns. We do not, and must not. It saddens us, for they now possess our holy Charm.>
<I know of no such thing. What charm? For what god?>
<It is an amber charm of a lizard. Ancient and very valuable to us. It is said to have come with our ancestors from Bahssikava. We are sure that those who worship the Dark have it, and we would reward any who returned it. There is a ritual I can teach you that will let you identify it.>
<If you would please. I am certain that Aarth-Tsss would be well willing to find it for you.>
He mutters a brief chant, then repeats it several times. "<When you find a place where the charm may be hidden, mutter this chant and it will hum in response to you. The charm is the only chanting stone in these caves. I believe it was taken to the North East, across the water.>
Actually, we've been there already, but couldn't trigger that event until now.
And I don't think I've ever encountered that debug error before.
<This would be a nice primer for those who are not you, or I.>
<Everyone is taught the importance of Three.>
<Not all Humans.>
Ortho here sells Iron and Steel Slith Spears, nothing worth buying. And he says nothing of interest either.
This mighty slith paces the town, keeping a watchful eye on everything. He's huge, and keeps a mighty steel spear handy at all times. He looks you over. "<Welcome home, Aarth-Tsss. Welcome, Mage. I am called Toth-Thsss.>
<I am welcomed, Chief.>
<I am welcomed, Chief. I am Kai-lyss.>
His nostrils flare at Kai-Lyss' introduction. "I am chief here. I take the responsibility for these people."
<I would never seek to void your responsibilities, Chief. As I am not from Gnass, what can you say of the conflict with the Empire?>
<The Empire wishes to slay us! The Exiles wish to fight with us. And my tribe has their own wishes, Mage.>
<What wishes, Chief? Surely our people know what must be done?>
<Our Priest wishes to recover a holy charm that our people brought with us when we fled our ancestral home, you know the one, Aarth-Tss. Speak to Pathas of it if you wish to serve your people.>
You speak of the Exiles as though they are not yet your allies. Why?
It is not a question of 'why', Mage. Once, we fought them, much as you did. Now we are becoming friends. Those of us with age worry that the people of Exile will craft a way of life that we will be taken into, and to lose ourselves.> The Chief most emphatically does not look at Aarth-Tss while saying that.
<Surely the threat of the Empire is enough to recognize cooperation is necessary? Cultural assimilation is not a factor in that.>
<And yet, they kill us by the hundreds, Mage. Many of our people have come here, to rally for help and to prepare to fight. We do our best, yet the humans are doing so much of the work, it is hard not to feel like we are not capable of helping. That this war is between Humans, and we are simply... casualties. Now go, Priest. And you, young one. I sense you have much left to do.>
<I am not sure.>
<You need not speak that to me.>
<Hush, both of you.> This small, delicately featured slith woman watches you very nervously. "<I am Eth-Ath.>" She is careful to interpose herself between the two visitors and any adventerous hatchlings.
<Greetings, Brood-Keeper. I am Kai-lyss, Mage.>
<Greetings, Mage. Please, take care around the younglings and hatchlings.>
<How goes the teachings of the younglings?>
She looks protectively towards the young playing in the pools, then gives you a look as if to say that if you want to do anything to them, you'll have to kill her first. She says only "<I guide our children. With our people being killed by the Humans, our children are our only hope for a future. Surely you understand that, Mage?>"
<Of course. Forgive me if it seemed otherwise.>
<Home... and no one here.>
This particular Slith, hanging out near the farm pens contains a dialogue set that only makes sense if the entire party is human. I present it here, uncut as I could not make it work with my current setup.
LOOK: This small slith stares at you with fear.
NAME: It quivers, it's small, sharp teeth chattering. "I am Uss."
JOB: "Don't hurt me. I isn't not a mean slith." It speaks the words haltingly.
HURT: "I'm not bad! Don't hit me! I not bad to humansss."
HUMANS: He backs away. "Humans hit slithsss lotsss. Hit me no! Uss not bad!"
Not a happy picture painted there.
<Greetings, Aarth-Tss. Kai-lyss. Your names are have reached me.> A slith with a large, carved staff is keeping an eye on the mushroom fields. She doesn't do very well at it, though. She seems lost in thought. <I am Othoss.>
<This is our Stoneshaper Mage, Kai-Lyss.>
<Well, normally I am a mage and stone shaper, but instead I am forced to watch the fields.>"
<Have you chosen a vocation yet, child? I see you with a Mage, yet I could always use an apprentice myself. To mold stone into statues, to pay homage to our ancestors is something that matches your temperament.>
<No, not yet, Mage. I am still... choosing.>
<Then know that no matter what you choose, I will support you. As I always have.>
<I should pray.>
<Then I will wait here.>
<And to think, such a simple action...>
I wonder if I should start counting the humanocentristic comments? Nah, too late. I would have to go back through the whole of the Vahnatai lands for that.
Eh, not much? Don't worry. I know what that's like.
Just a quick look around, then down south to Patrick's Tower.
She wants to talk to him about something.
She wouldn't say.
Guardssss againszt the Empire.
Not good farmland here. We're close to the wastes.
Hold on, I need to check something out here.
Come on, be here...
This will never get out of my fur!
Or my hair!
Oh, don't worry. If she's here, this will all be worth it.
I sssee. We cannot afford them now.
Brew of Knowledge. 2000GP for 2 Skill Points. I abused the hell out of this back in Exile 1 when they were only worth 200GP each. I'm still going to in this LP, just not as much.
Wow. Those really work?
Actually never tried them myself. I'm just that awesome!
Too many here. And there will be more long before we're done.
Waz your earlier mention of hisss library accurate?
Yep! Largest one outside of the Tower of the Magi!
Well, they don't seem to enthused about that.
You just need silken words, Farm boy.
Greetings, Ma'am. We were told you were coming.
The Lady is waiting for you in the garden.
She is? Well, no sense in keeping her waiting then.
You meet an aging woman. Despite her increasing years, her waist-length black hair doesn't show the slightest sign of gray. As she walks, she embroiders. ART! Oh, you have friends. Forgive me. She curtsies. "I am Hathwisa, lady of this tower. I assist my husband, Patrick."
Oh, poosh to them. How have you been? Are you still showing symptoms from your illness?
No, Arty. I've recovered enough. Just don't expect me to dance anytime soon.
If you value your life, you will never think that again.
YES SIR, SIR MA'AM!
If I may, what illnesss? And how did Art figure into it?
She continues making stitches as she speaks. "A deadly fever afflicted me a few years ago. I would have died, but for a band of adventurers, who brought graymold salve and healed me."
A... band of adventurers.
Oh yes. They had this most pretentious name for themselves at the time. Something about being a committee...
First Exile Escape Committee
Oh, this is going to be fun!
Helping izz fun?
Oh, they argued, but eventually they went out, got the graymold salve, and cured me.
We got information out of Patrick for it, so it wasn't completely out of the goodness of our hearts.
"It is remarkable stuff. I hear that Duncan left a copy of the recipe around here on a shelf somewhere. It can help heal practically any disease, with the proper treatments. She brushes her hair out of her face and looks at you solemnly. "I owe my life to it."
And what of your husband, Patrick? I hope he wasn't ill as well?
She sighs. "No, no. The poor dear, he works himself too hard. My brush with the sickness did give him cause to relax a little bit, so that's one thing I have to be thankful for. She looks at Art. I heard you had something to do with bringing down those Barriers? Well, Patrick has remodelled his office based on their... styles. Could you please convince him to change it back?
The Vahnatai? He... what? Seriously?
If anything, we could convince him to use chairs instead of those sling things they use.
How did he even get that information?
You'll have to talk with him. Won't you please, Art?
Sure! Just need to find it again.
Not the place.
I think this is one of those times where we're just going to wander everywhere, rather than actually doing anything.
It is polite to not point that out.
This room's desk is covered not with papers but with herbs and toadstools, bowls and powders. Sitting behind the desk is a large, affable man, staring at his reagents. "I'm Lithgow. Welcome."
Greetingssss. A man of Sssilvar, doing here?
"I'm the person who coordinates what the mages here do with what the Castle wants them to do. But that's not what I'm worrying about now. I'm worrying about a potion."
What sort of potion? Not the Graymold Salve?
No, not that one. I can't tell you what it is for, but I can tell you I'm short on ingredients. But I see you're adventurers. I can reward you well if you can obtain certain substances for me."
Um, we're Unspecified Services...
It's the same thing, really. One or the other.
What sort of reward are we talking about here?
I won't know until the potion is finished, and if it can live up to my expectations. The first thing I need is a borgia toadstool. They're very rare - they only exist in the lower caves. Perhaps some grow in Vahnatai lands. It's worth a look."
Well, we'll have to go back there eventually.
Well, if you do, great. I'm not trusting in just you though, so you may want to keep that in mind.
Isn't the only way into the Vahnatai lands secured by the Tower?
There are other caves, my man.
There is a bitter looking soldier slouching behind the desk. He has a three-day growth of stubble on his face. He looks at you blankly. "Oh. Hello. I'm Captain Rabin. I run the garrison here. Such as it is."
It's a good job you're doing here, then Sir. With the garrison, I mean.
He chuckles. "Yes. I take good care of my smattering of soldiers.
We have a few troops. Not many, and mostly green. All the seasoned troops are at the front, where I should be."
Surely, there is a good reason for you to be here, and not at the front. Training, perhaps?
"You may think I'm stupid, wanting to be at the front, where I could get chopped, instead of at my nice boring job here. But think on this! We break at the front, and we all die! The Empire will butcher us all! If I'm going to die, I want to be up there, where I can help prevent it. It's that simple." He grimaces in frustration.
Maybe it's his attitude...?
What is that?
You meet a big, beefy man, mixing up some goop in a metal bowl. His cheeks are flushed - a ruddy glow penetrating the paleness that is the mark of all Exiles. Unusually, the food he's mixing smells delicious! "Hello! I'm Marco. I'd shake, but well..." He shows you his hands. They're covered with bits of dough. "I'm the chef here at Patrick's tower, and, let me tell you, it's darned difficult!"
Well, I mean, people have been down here long enough to develop some culinary skills, I would think. But to be a full chef?
"I want to cook good food! It's what I take pride in! But what do I have to cook with? Mushrooms and mold! And bits of stringy lizard meat." He grins. "At least, that's what it was like until recently. Ya' see, it all got better when the Empire came!"
I never thought I would hear that sentence. Ever.
You and me both.
Well, it's true! They brought food with them, and we captured it! They brought dirt too, and we got some! I got actual, genuine garlic cloves! And fruit. And we got some other sorts of animals."
"Want a taste?"
Marco puts some of the dough he's mixing in your mouth. It's cookie dough, made of real flour. "Most of the captured food went to Dharmon, but some came here. If you want a real meal, at last, Dharmon is to the west. That's where to go!" You barely hear what he says; it's just too wonderful tasting real cookie dough again.
I am in bliss....
It's a treat. You can't make a meal of the stuff.
Oh, hush Farmboy. Just because you're born and raised here in the Caves... You have no appreciation for the finer delicacies in life!
And what of I and Aarth-Tss?
You don't count.
A cat has boldly walked up to you, and is staring at you curiously. Hello! You must be new around here. Call me Felix." It talks! How cute! "I'm Jade's familiar."
And who izz thisz Jade?
Iz that not the human word for <sapphire>?
"My mistress. A mighty wizard. But she'd have to be, to have me! She's in the laboratory now."
"Oh, it's around here somewhere. Real secret, and stuff." It stretches, meows, and continues. She doesn't let me in there. Jealous of my intelligence, I guess."
What doesz it mean to be a familiar?
"Magical servant. Friend for life. Someone to feed eternally. That sorta' thing." It pauses to play with and then munch a small lizard.
There are certain metaphyzical advantages to having one. Onesss I do not require.
This must be the place.
Don't yell, Art!
You meet a very old, very famous man - Patrick the archmage, master of this tower. He is currently staring down the length of this long, marble table, lost in thought. When you approach, he turns and nods at you.
Hey! How are things going?
"I am pondering our brothers below."
I... see that. And that you've redecorated.
I think I'll stand.
Azz will I.
I have to say that you seem enamoured with them. Why do you call them brothers?
"They may be alien, but are we not all brothers in magic and life? You yourselves introduced us to - the Vahnatai. I think about our relations with them, and our experiments."
So, what did you find out about the Vahnatai? We didn't have much time for sightseeing and all that.
Oh, Art, you should know this as well as I do! Life in these caves is such a fragile thing - nothing should be able to live down here, but we manage, because of magic. It is their magic that created the glowing fungus that gives us light, and thus life. But I have spoken with this Rentar-Ihrno, and I am worried."
We've heard the name.
For those who don't remember Vhanatai politics, Rentar-Ihrno is the leader of the Kill them all, and don't bother sorting out the corpses faction. Think of that.
"She is the greatest mage of the Vahnatai - I went there myself to meet her. She showed me the deadly magics she would gladly release to protect her people. What, I ask, will happen when we compete with them for limited space and resources? Remember - she knows how to create quickfire!"
What iz Quickfire?
A very potent spell, a living flame, if you will. He thinks. "Come to think of it, the Vahnatai were eager for your help. You might ask her about it - she may be willing to sell you the secret of it's creation! We're trying to discover the secret of quickfire ourselves, in our laboratory."
You mean the laboratory where Jade is currently doing research?
I see little escapes your notice, as usual. It is well hidden. I should tell you how to reach it. Go to my office, and search my desk. There is a button in one of the shelves. Press it, and the way shall become clear to you."
Is there going to be a surprise Basilisk this time?
No, not this time. My wife was quite put out with me about that.
Speaking of, she was... concerned over the renovations here.
Well, I did draw the line at adapting our living quarters into this style. I did this to help me understand how they think by how they act and repose.
How's that coming along for you?
Poorly. Tell her that I am at my limit, and she need not worry about anything else.
You meet a heavy-set Moor with an air of total self-assurance. His hands and garb are covered with the stains of actual dirt! His voice is deep and sure. "My name is Cochran. The Lady has said to give you welcome."
We are welcomed. What do you do here?
He picks a fleck of dirt from his clothes and show it to you. "I'm the gardener here."
"My job of the moment. I'm an alchemist, see, so they thought I was the natural for studying and working with plants."
Ah, alchemy. Why do you use such strange wordss?
"Before this, you see, I did much research of Crypt Shrooms. You see, there's a large patch of them between here and the Tower of Magi, north of the lava fields. I developed two simple recipes for unleashing their magic. If you would like to buy them, let me know."
I prefer Medium Energy Potions, and do not buy anything.
We were told food stuffs were brought down from the surface, but why dirt?
"Yes, actual, honest-to-goodness dirt. The Empire brought some down with them to grow plants, and we captured a lot of it. A rare and wondrous find indeed!" He removes a pouch from his pocket and scrapes dirt from his clothes into it, so that none of it goes to waste.
You meet a young, blonde woman, lost in thought. Her fingers are stained with ink, as if she's just been doing a lot of writing. She has a bow slung over her shoulder. She shakes your hands, getting ink on them "I'm Rita, of the Cskany clan." (Cskany pronounced Chah-kahn-yah.)
I have read some of your worksss.
She smiles wearily. "I'm doing research. It's what I'm best at."
"I study magic items. It's actually a big help in the war. We get lots of weird magic, and I figure out what it does and how we should use it, and then a write a paper and it ends up on our shelves." She takes the bow off her shoulder and shows it to you. "Lately, I've been doing some archery."
Oh! Could you show me?
She shows you the bow. "This is called a Bow of Kag. At least, that's what the Empire had labeled the ones we captured from them. I'm been shooting it a lot, trying to figure out how accurate it is, but it hasn't been working. You see, while I'm shooting it, I keep losing my arrows! I'm so absent minded."
What? You know something?
Yes. Kag is an older Nephil word for 'lost'. These are given to those who fire too often, and not precisely enough. You fire one arrow, and you lose another arrow of the same type from your quiver.
Here, let me show you. See? One arrow knocked, one in the quiver now. I fire this one... She puts the arrow into an empty spot on the table. And now there is none in my quiver.
Oh great. I'm a fool.
Do not berate yourssself for that. Sssometimesz, a foreign viewpoint iz required.
What lay through here...?
There is a woman in mage's robes sitting at the table. She has short black hair and a distracted manner, and has several books on the table in front of her. "My name is Kelli. With an 'i'."
Ah, yes. I am a mage of the tower. At the moment, I'm doing a little research."
"What else? I'm here to dig up dirt on several sorts of monsters. Forewarned is forearmed. You see, The Castle wants me to look into two sorts of monsters: mutant giants and doomguards."
What of the Giants?
"I don't know much about these, but I do know this: normally, the Empire has been killing all the giants they could find. However, some other giants have been fighting with them, larger, stronger, misshapen giants. We don't know where they're from, but they're deadly."
Giants are on the extermination list back on the surface. At least, they still were when I was sent down.
And thisss Doomguard?
"Her expression darkens. Legendary creatures, who we're starting to think exist. They're suits of armor, almost impervious to damage. And, when you actually do manage to damage them, they just split into two! Of course, the rumors may just be that - rumors. I hope so."
Oh, I hope so.
What? Why would you waste a barrel like that?
Let's go check out that lab now.
Same button as last time. For shame Patrick.
And it's a lot bigger as well.
There is a small woman with red hair wandering aimlessly among the tables, alebemics, and barriers of the laboratory. She makes a soft humming noise as she floats around the chamber.
Irritated, she pauses her humming. "I am Jade. I was, before you interrupted me, performing my concentration exercises.
I was trying to improve my mindduelling skills. And I would like to resume my exercises."
Being on the receiving end of one, I can sympathize with the need for exercise.
She sighs, exasperated at your persistence. "Yes. It takes great intelligence and purity of concentration to master the mindduel. It would be easier if I had a Ring of Will, but I don't.
And that isss?
A rare magical artifact that improves one's skill in a mindduel. Only Baktris has one, and he was slain by rakshasi."
Wait. There are Rakshasi down here? Since when?
"Baktris was slain by a band of the foul, illusionist tiger-beasts. There is a colony of them to the west, and they took his Ring of Will. It is a shame, but we don't have the strength to slay them, so that is that." She begins to resume her humming.
I would like to attain that ring.
What are Rakshasi?
Highly magical tiger-men.
So they would want such a thing. Yess, I zee.
Second-to-last bookshelf in the place!
I think opening this is a bad idea.
Alright, west is Fort Remote and that Rakshashi place. I think we should hit up the former, and see what's there before committing to anything in dealing with them.