Part 53: The Vahnatai Fortress and Cleaning UpUpdate 049 The Vahnatai Fortress, and Cleaning Up
"Alright, I really want information about these two blades now. I think we've earned enough clout with these people that I might be able to get some answers."
"I agree, for understanding the past makes it easier to accept the future."
"Have I mentioned how much easier it is on me to listen to you speak Vahnatai, rather than Slith?"
"Oh, you didn't."
"Oh, foolish little Nephilim, you ignore so much...."
"Enough! Let's head back to Olgai, and see what we can get."
I missed this guy and the next one on my initial pass through Olgia. This guy, because he's in the barracks, and I glazed over it thinking that everyone there was a generic guard. The next, because he's tied to this guy.
The male sitting at the end of the table has three wave blades and a dozens razordisks spread out before him, and is polishing and sharpening one after another. They look like they could cut solid rock.
"Hello, I am Art."
"I am Ortala-Te." His voice is grim, and he doesn't seem happy to be talking with you. "I greet you, Art-Iktah."
"Curious. That honorific did not translate."
"It is old, I am not surprised that the spell's creator did not account for it." He seems pleased at observing the failings of another.
"Actually, I wanted to ask you about the swords themselves," Art put them down on the table in front of her.
"I don't understand them. They are old beyond my reckoning, clearly of your craft, yet, I don't see them.
Then I will speak to you as though you were an initiate.
All who train to fight in our way hold a weapon in both hands. Our Masters wield a blade in one hand, he points to one of them on the table, while the other holds disks. This time he points to the pile of Razordisks. For those who wield magic, they cast with one hand, and hold a disk in the other. Can you tel l me why this is so?
The disks allow a person to fight at range, allowing both caster and fighter to harm their foes without the use of magic at range. Once the enemy reaches the range of the sword, the casters can use their spellcraft while those with swords can use that.
An acceptable answer for an ignorant human. I would have punished a proper initiate for such a response.
Humans tend to use a three-layer battle organization instead. Art spoke to ignore Ortala-Te's remark. Melee with weapon and shield, behind them archers or the like, then behind them the casters.
A wall, then. You fight like a fortification. Good, that will make the next easier to understand.
The term is 'Meat Shield' actually.
As I was saying, to the Vahnatai, we hold a weapon in each hand that we may be always prepared. However, he pointed at the two blades, these are not weapons of an attacker. They are the weapons of a defender. One strike, and your foe is sickened, allowing you to move on to the next. They were given to those who stayed behind, at gates, at barriers, at doors, to hold them against all who would pass, for there they would face numbers beyond them.
To wield two blades, rather than a disk and blade or spell is to announce to all who see you that you do not attack. That you will wait for the enemy to come to you. You understand this, human, who fights like a wall? You are the gate keeper in that formation, these blades to hold the weak point in your line. As they break upon the bulwark of those who cannot be broken. That you have by accident! - taken up that which none of us can because we are too few. It clouds the judgment of your betters, for they see the blades first, and the human never.
I do not defend.
I do not defend. I attack. I take my grievances to my foes, with spell and swords. I wield two of them because in that moment, I had to. I could have held that line, like you said, but defense was not going to win us the battle, would not save the people behind me, who would never know what had come of us. I do not defend. I attack.
I see.... Perhaps you should speak to one who is more interested in the place of the Humans. Speak to Gnee. He is hiding in a corner somewhere. He goes back to sharpening his blades.
Thank you for your time.
You were enlightening, Art-Iktah.
So, um, that was a thing.
I have no idea what was said.
It was an interesting view into their culture. Or at least, the biases of one.
Still doesn't explain where this 'Gnee' is supposed to be.
Or a secret passage or two?
Interesting. It appears to be a scrying tool.
That's not good. That's the fortress we saw on the way to the Lava Dome.
I'm going to play at simple solutions here, and maybe they're learning those weapons on a 'know thy enemy' approach?
But why in such a remote location? Why attack us when we approached?
Another problem for the list.
An unusually bulky Vahnatai skulks back in this corner. "Hello. I'm Gnee." He watches you carefully.
What are you doing back here?
"I'm interested in humans." He speaks quietly, and is clearly nervous about something.
We are not all humans. I and Aaarth-Tss are Slithzerikai, while Dmurr is Nephil.
He leans close to you. "You're humans. There are lots of interesting sorts of humans. I love hearing about the different tribes of humans. What tribes they are from, and such..."
He watches you carefully, seemingly waiting for something.
Ah, well, representatives from the Empire would certainly be interesting...
He grins. "Good." He whispers very quietly, and looks very nervous. "I thought you would never get here. I left the key for you in Avit. It's in a tree behind the barracks." He looks around. "Now go. I'll be suspected if I'm seen talking too much to humans."
We take our leave, with our thanks.
It was logic and intuition. We know that the Empire has assets within the Olgai-Vanhatai, traitors to their homeland. With the Council being swayed to support Exile and their allies, it stands to reason that the Empire supporters would be moved to hiding.
Then we should tell the Council!
We have no confession, no proof. Just supposition and a case of hear-say, our word against Gnee's.
Ah, politics, the great restraining device on the will of the people to act.
That makes no sense.
Yes, it does.
Right, back to the Fortress then?
I think so.
Actually, time to spend some money. First stop the Tower of the Magi!
Random Shop has nothing, though the Mace would be neat if I wanted to get rid of the Great Mace on Chester and have him wield a shield at the same time.
Yessss, the hidden library of the Tower.
There is a highly deranged and disconnected man sitting at the end of the table. Fortunately, he doesn't seem very dangerous at the moment. He's clearly a tower mage, and his robes are a rich, deep purple.
Hey, X. Whatcha doing?
He looks around, as if looking for spies. Then he turns to you. "I'm looking for a spell that will drop an anvil on someone far away. I'd have it by now, if the triad didn't keep pulling me away."
You've been working on that spell for five years now!
"I'm still working on it. I may be able to get it someday. But I keep having to teach people too! It's frustrating!"
Hey, about that. Kai-Lyss here want's to have you teach him some spells. You available?
He looks at you angrily. "Yes! People want to buy spells all the time! I teach them, for the good of Exile, but damn! It gets to where I have to hide back here to get any work done. You don't want to purchase spells, do you?"He has a neurotic gleam in his eye.
X, I get into pissing matches with Erika. You don't scare me. Now, help Kai-Lyss, and I'll fork over the money, alright?
Finally! Level 6 spells. I was stupid for keeping away from here for so long. I pick up Group Fear, Kill, Ravage Enemy and Antimagic Cloud for Kai-Lyss. Major Poison is redundant with Art, and Ravage Enemy isn't as good as the enemy version of the same spell. Also, not bothering with Summons.
Oh! Art! Didn't see you there. Message for you. Here.
Actually, I was going to buy Skill Potions first, and on my way there, I came across this in the Great Cave.
Huh, this place is old. And cold.
Nice workmanship, but useless to us.
I then buy 11 Potions of Skill 3 each for Marianna and Dmurr, with 5 for Kai-Lyss. I then see off excess stuff to get the money to spend on the training. At this point, I start wondering about where everyone is actually at, so I took shots of everyone in the party, before the skill potions.
Huh, Chester is at a higher level than Art, while Kai-Lyss has almost as much XP as her, just far lower in level. This is due to all his perks stacking up, making things harder on him and everyone else.
When I train everyone up, Chester gets a point in Luck, Kai-Lyss gets 10 more Spell Points. Marianna improves her combat specs, and Dmurr invests in Alchemy for reasons you'll see later. I also take the opportunity to put Marianna and Dmurr into the #2 and 3 slots in the party to get them into battle faster to get them more XP.
Aren't we going to find those toadstools?
Later. This seems more important.
And there's a lot of people behind barricades up that way. I think we should go around the back side of the fort.
Here's hoping the key Gnee gave us works.
It does! Now, hopefully this has all been one big misunderstanding.
So far, so good...
Waiting for the other hand to fall...
Hey! What are you guys doing back here?
New arrivals, you know.
I didn't hear anything about that. What outfit are you with anyways?
First Exile Escape Committee.
So much for a mistake...
Yep! Another location where the Empire is working with Vanahtai. Time to clean house.
How neat, they even have their own furnishings.
You said we would be safe!
We will be once they're dead!
And that should be everyone on this side of the fort.
Look what I found!
Nice. We'll keep it.
Damn. But we still have more places to rummage through.
Even if there is no evidence here, getting rid of this place will be useful.
I would presume so.
And nothing of note in these boxes. No hidden passages out the back either.
That's because it's over here.
Did we forget about the other half of the local defenses?
Let us be done with this.
This would be a nice room if it wasn't for the gaping pit in it being used as a trash pit.
I fear that some of our way of life is a memory of these people.
Creating statues to honour those who came before it not something that is unique to the Slithzerikai. Other cultures, including human ones, have done the same.
Hello! Is this seat taken?
What makes you think you will leave here alive? Our allies are mighty!
I'm having trouble remembering the last time I fought a 'Named' Enemy. I recall nothing in the LP so far to indicate that this particular person exists, except that here-and-now, they serve as a Boss for the dungeon.
If people want to help, we've got casters back here.
Uh... what? I have no idea who this person is, and why they are important. It almost feels like someone dropped a plot thread at some point, and this is all that remains.
And that takes care of the rest of them. Anything of use in there?
Wow, a Resurrection Balm!
Not that we've ever used one of those before.
Hrm, this should lead back to the rear of the fort.
Or a treasure room, what with these traps.
No one here.
Search the cabinets anyways. You don't go through all that trouble without having something worth hiding.
... We need to go back to the Council with this.
After we remove the last of the people here.
Odd, I heard the 'click', but nothing changed.
And this appears to be a location for a dock. Fresh water would keep this fortress supplied for a long time.
I suppose this means we have more exploration to do?
And here is the other end of that spring. Wonder where it empties out to?
All they need is a small farm back here, and this place could sustain itself for a long time.
Or stored food?
More like this.
There are generic Vahnatai back here, which means that I am killing civilians who attack me first!
And the boat.
Checking out back rooms for more good stuff?
Of course. First, back to the right, where the pit is, then work our way forward.
CUT THE LIGHTS!
Random Basilisk Count posted:
This section is very annoying. You have multiple Cryohydras as well as the Basilisk out there. And because you're on the boat, you can't fight. So your options are to either turn out the lights and rush past, possibly using a Stealth Spell (one of the few uses for it), or go hopping from one nook to another, killing as you go along.
Aaand... we're clear.
None have been here in years, not even the local defenders.
There's a Crystal in the back there...
Huh, that might be useful.
Wall of Blades is the most damaging 'field' spell in the game. It forms a 2x12 field that deals physical damage to anyone in it. It's at its best when holding a corridor as you can fill the entire thing with a single spell, but can can also be used in the open to act as a 'wall', as the AI is programmed to go around such things.
Another thing to let the Olgai Council know about. They might want this back.
Now, to sneak past the defenders again.
I'll go ahead.
Random Basilisk Count posted:
This looks like the back door to the defender's room on this side.
This will be a moment.
And the gate is locked down. Has to be a way to open it up somewhere.
That button in the room to the south?
That should do it!
Random Basilisk Count posted:
Yep, nothing back here. Time to report back?
Evidence at the ready?
We will deal with him.
That is one of the most frightening statements I have ever heard.
As well it should be. It will take some time for the Fort to awaken. If there are other objectives you wish to complete, do so now.
Right. Let's see here... first is Borgia Toadstools?
We have samples of such things at Elgi.
Ah! You were the one who was in charge of sample organization?
Borgia Toadstools? Do you know them?
He rummages through the scrolls. "Yes, we do have Borgia toadstools, not too fresh, but still usable. They're in the northeast storeroom, second shelf, in the back."
And back to Patrick's Tower.
Oh! Hello! How are you?
Running back and forth across the whole of Exile and beyond. You?
Oh, this and that.
You hand over a borgia toadstool. He accepts it gratefully. "That is the first ingredient I need. Now I need another."
"I need some graymold salve. It's difficult stuff to find, but if you could get the toadstool, you could get the salve. Good luck!"
It's a legitimate requirement!
I'll get around to this. Eventually.
Next should be Fort Dranlon.
No excuse for missing this spot when I came through here all the times before.
A neat-looking, ferret-faced man hunches behind a desk. He looks you up and down. "I'm O'Rourke."
Art, Unspecified Services.
Glad to see Anaxiamander got someone out here. I'm the field Agent, out here on the front.
Surely things along the front have settled down?
You're still a pup! With Cotra destroyed, we're less a front and more an island."
What are your duties, agent?
"Well, I'm supposed to be doing covert work and such, but stepping outside this fort is a sure way to invite quick death. Unfortunate - there is a serious matter that needs taking up with the giants."
Yessss... We were told to help you there.
"Well, the Empire is no more fond of the giants than us, and has driven them into the caverns to the north. I have a quest regarding them, with rich reward if you can complete it."
What is the nature of this Quest?
I want to demoralize them a bit. They managed to extract certain religious icons of theirs while fleeing the the Empire. It would be a shame if something happened to them. And by that, I mean you.
You mean these icons?
He examines an icon you recovered. "Yes, this is one of the icons. We want all three, though - they may be a set."
Where haven't we been yet? I'm pretty sure we've hit up all the Giant locations to the north.
Temple in Castle.
She's right. There was that altar in the back of the Giant Castle that we didn't touch because I thought it was trapped.
Well, when you get that sorted out, I'll be right here.
This looks like it!
And to think, the last time we were here, we had trouble with all these Giants.
We still have to return. And to locate that last cache.
Weren't these mines before the Empire attacked?
Good place to hide something then, with all the abandoned tunnels.
And here's the last one.
Allow me to use Quickfire here.
Be my guest!
Ah, that warms my heart. Hrm, I'm just going to organize our stuff for a moment while that burns....
Let's see.... Royal Clearance, three levels of Empire Passes. Bronze, Ivory, Vahnatai and Runed Keys. Orders for Fort Haledon to attack the Ziggurat as a distraction for us, WHY DO WE STILL HAVE THAT HEAD?!?! Three statues in a set, proof of five destroyed Empire Caches, and Kai-Lyss? Are you ever going to do anything with that Soul Crystal?
Perhaps capture a Basilisk?
I'm not a mage, and even I can tell you that sounds like a bad idea.
I agree. We should find an Ur-Basilisk!
Let's just report back that we're done?
O'Rourke collects the statues from you. "Excellent!" He examines them. "Yes, this is a very strange material - it may have valuable properties. and, in fair trade..." He removes a shiny helmet from his desk. "Here you are!"
That goes straight onto Art.
Right, while I get this adjusted, let's head over to those other guys.
Why don't we talk to Caitlin over in the shrine?
Separation of identities. We want to keep her cover as intact as possible.
And that should be that. What next?
Fort Haledon, and Caffren-Bok.
I think that's a good idea. Then I can pester Micah again about Demonslayer!
Now taking bets on how much of the fungus here is self-mobile.