Part 58: Harston, Pyrog's Cave (2) and the Northern Waters(2)Update 054 Harston, Pyrog's Cave (2), and the Northern Waters (2)
Iz it done?
Is what done?
Come, we musst leave. Our next objective iz the Empire Teleporter.
IS WHAT DONE?
It doezz not concern you, Chesssster. Leave it be.
Hey, I have an idea. How about we leave?
You ssspeak agreeably. Let uz leave thisss place.
Skipping leaving via the roof-on-quickfire, and the long haul back to Exile I could cast Word of Recall, but that would still drop us outside Fort Granston. But I forgot.
Hey! Welcome back! Uh... Art?
Your Duncan waz found, in a torture chamber of the Empire.
His face grows dark. You did what you had to, I trust?
sWe are working on it. Tell her masztersss that we head for the Empire Teleporter.
I eagerly await your good news.
Why does calm and plotting Kai-Lyss scare me more than quiet and raging Art?
Because you have a sense of self-preservation?
As long as his gaze doesn't turn to us, I think I'm comfortable with this.
And here we are, back at our usual dock into the Empire Lands. What's the plan, boss?
We sssurvey the area firzt, to make sssure we leave no sssecretssss behind uz.
Another boring trip back into Empire-held lands. We pick up to the west of where Pyrog's Cave used to be.
Another road ending in construction. How odd.
Can someone tell me the use of a dock when there's a larger one with actual boats to the east?
Closer to what?
Our pleasure. Keep doing a good job.
With pleasure, Ma'am.
Wow, the Empire sure did a number on this place. It must have been big when it was still standing.
I doubt the Giants stood a chance, really.
And following the road leads us too....
Welcome to Harston.
This is Harston, the Empire's first founded town in Exile. It's friendly, and provides basic services that don't involve training. We would have to go back to Exile proper for that.
What? You think the Empire wasn't getting ready to move a civilian population down here to push against the Exiles? To provide a support framework for their armies? The Empire is Evil AND Competent.
You're also going to find a few NPC's from the Abyss in Exile 1 here, having been displaced.
A dark skinned woman sits behind the counter, making notes in a lichen-paper notebook. She wears clothes that have been patched and patched again. She smiles. "I am Renee. Welcome."
Hello, I'm Marianna! How are you doing?
She indicated the crude paper she uses and the rough state of her clothes. "Making my way in hard times. It's rough going for a sage in a war."
How has the war been affecting you?
"I'm out of the Abyss. It got very nasty there, so I came here, The Empire tolerates Exiles here."
The Abyss? What happened there?
A look of horror passes over her face, then fades. "It got very ugly there. Many fled. The ones that didn't ..." She shakes her head sadly.
I'm sorry. I really am. What happened to the other Exiles who made it out?
"To work, make food, run inns, you know. Do things the soldiers can't or don't want to."
Renee can also identify our items for us, in case you don't have the Identify Spell, and can do it yourself, but this is pretty late in the game to not have that, I think.
I also chose to open with this conversation because it also paints the best picture of what has happened in the Abyss. Whatever it was, it was so horrific that those who got out stopped identifying themselves as natives of the Abyss. These were people who were glad to be out from under the thumb of Micah and Exile, even as they were flooded with criminals and other malcontents.
Whatever happened was enough to remove the concept of the Abyss as a separate polity from the minds of the natives. And we will never find out what that was.
A tired-looking woman with the pale skin of an Exile sits behind the counter. As you enter, she moves a pitiful collection of copper coins below the counter. "I am Suzanne."
Marianna. How are you doing?
"I just reopened shop."
That's good to hear! A good shop is a wonder.
"I fled the Abyss. I don't have much stock left, but you can sell me your goods."
That's alright. I trust your trip from the Abyss was safe?
She looks very weary. "Captain Anthony, the Empire adjunct for this town, brought me with to handle supplies for him. I packed up what I could to come with him. He lets me run this shop on the side. The Empire needs all the supplies it can get - it just has me purchase for them."
I hope I'm not reading too much into this....
Not with all the guards around.
Still nothing, and no one.
Oh! Hello! I'm Marianna!
You meet a short, very stocky woman with closely cut black hair. She eyes you carefully. The word abrasive doesn't begin to describe her voice. "I'm Delaria. Jeez, don't feel the need to know or anything!"
Well, I like talking! What are you doing, anyways?
"I sit here and write."
"Just stuff to pass the time. Could you be a little bit more nosy?"
Of course I can!
Her voice quiets down, but only a little bit. "Yeah, yeah! That's right! I'm part of the resistance ... not much of us left out here. Not after what happened to the Abyss. Big, ugly mess, that. I don't have much information for you, but I have a little."
That's good to hear, so what info do you happen to have?
"First, don't go west. The troops will kill you for sport. Second, Pyrog's Cave is northeast. Big Empire fort. Has a big magic lab, doing all sorts of weird things with weird things. Don't know what. Real well guarded, though. Third, I know some things about the northern islands!"
Well, we were planning a... fishing trip up to the islands. What's up that way?
To the north. Real remote. But the Empire has a dock to the northeast, past Pyrog's Cave. Well guarded, but with some boats! I'm not sure what's on the islands, but the Empire thinks it's real important! Lots of stuff being taken up there."
Ah, thank you.
She's not really hiding her affiliation. Look.
Huh. I don't think the ones for Hawthrone or Garzahd have been put in yet.
I'm not certain there is a point to put those statues in. I think she's being honored alone in this town.
You meet a man with the flushed look of a recent arrival from the surface world. He looks at you disdainfully. He holds a rake, and is quite dirty.
Hello there! Name's Marianna.
So, we're new in town. What do you do?
He snorts. "I'm tending a crop of your foul mushrooms, that's what I'm doing."
Well, that's a problem. This soil isn't good for mushrooms at all. It's too dry. You need to move your crop.
So what? They sent me out here to grow crops for the troops. Me, a soldier, tending food fit only for maggots and Exiles."
Hey now! Politeness! We are not maggots!
"Yeah. Hey, listen to this one. What's the difference between a maggot and an Exile?" He laughs. "Wanna' know the answer?"
"The maggots dig their own holes!" He laughs nastily. You refrain from killing him. This is probably the kindest of the abuse the Exiles near the Empire receive. "Pretty funny, huh?"
I need to drink that stupidity away.
I hear you, but we're not gonna get the chance.
A wretched, pockmarked man sits behind the counter, hoisting a mug of strong, foul mushroom ale to his lips again and again. His hands twitch constantly. His voice rasps out of him. "I'm Scab."
He looks up at you, and his bleary eyes focus on you. Then they widen in surprise. Then they fuzz over again. All he says is "Hello, Exiles. Art."
Can't say where we're from, you know.
His voice grows very low. "Exile. You're from there, aren't you? Travelling?" You notice his hands aren't twitching.
We've traveled long and far, yes.
"You're a long way from Vahnatai lands." He lifts the mug to his lips, but you can see, now that you're looking, that he isn't drinking.
That's not something people should be talking about.
He mutters a few slurred words loudly, and then speaks very softly. "You've been there. Your description's gotten around. Find Delaria. Ask her about the Scimitar. Now go." He lifts the mug to his lips, and takes a deep swig. Then he starts twitching again.
Already have. Get ready to leave.
He says nothing.
sorry Useless drunkard! Do us all a favor and jump in the lake to feed the fishes! Assuming you didn't poison them with that foul swill!
I don't normally do 'Guard Chat', but I'll make an exception for Harston.
Look: You see an Empire soldier, looking like he's only recently from the surface. He looks you up and down appraisingly , as if deciding whether to leave you alone or not.
Name: "Move along, Exile scum."
Job: He spits on your boot. "It's not your place to ask, filth!"
There is a thin, middle-aged woman behind the counter, wearing a heavy leather apron and holding a pair of iron tongs. Sweat pours down her face.
Hello there! I'm Marianna!
"I'm Sharon, but people around here call me 'Mother.'"
Nice forge! You busy?
She spits into the forge angrily. Then she smiles in a not entirely sincere way. "Making weapons for the Empire. And sometimes I do repairs."
You repair things?
"About the only thing I can do on my own, for my own money. But they're very special repairs. They make a non-magical weapon even better."
"Just a little spell I learned before the war, but a powerful one. It makes the weapon shoot flames on your command, but only a few times. Let me know if this is something you'd like to buy."
And that's the fifth Augmentation/Upgrade for our weapons, and honestly, I think it's the weakest. It just allows you to 'use' your weapon to cast Flame on a target. The only advantage it has is that it doesn't use SP, and takes only 1AP to do so as it's a 'Use' Action, not a full 6AP Mage Spell action.
A man in the armor of the Empire sits at the desk. He has an almost alien appearance to you - he's not deathly pale. He must have come from the surface recently. He looks you up and down arrogantly. The pallor of your skin betrays you as a native. "I'm Captain Anthony. I'm in charge here. What do you want?"
I'm sorry, captain. We were just...
He laughs. "What do you think? I run this place. And what's your story? You turncoats?"
"We wouldn't be able to do so well down here if it weren't for you Exiles. Everything we don't know, you help us with! All it takes is a little incentive."
He pats his sword meaningfully. "Still, I don't have any work for you now. I already got forty adventurers running errands for me. So you'd better be movin' on. Exiles we don't know, they tend to end up in accidents."
Weird. It's established in later games that the Empire didn't do the whole 'Adventurer' thing, rather trusting the military when the subject was sensitive. They allowed for free enterprise individuals when dealing with matters that were purely civilian, and did not involve the government at all, except as a regulatory body. Oh well.
Well, we don't want any accidents, sir.
He grins. "Well, ya' know, some Exiles who work for us, I show them to the guards and say they can be around safe. But the others, like you, well let's just say if some guard takes a dislike to you, I'm not gonna' sweat about it."
"So move on. I hear they need a few of you folks for scut work at Pyrog's Cave."
"It's to the northeast. Tell 'em Anthony sent you. They'll let you clean or somethin'."
It's about time the Empire realized just how good we are at asymmetric warfare. And that no victory, no matter how minor, comes without a price.
What? Like, seriously. What?
An example, then?
Yes. Scab should be done his work by now. He's good.
Art, dahling! What are you talking about?
Kai-Lyss, if you please? A city for a city, I think is fair.
It iz done.
FIRE! FIRE! EVERYONE!
Quick! Secure the buildings!
Who did this!?!?!
It's not going out!
WHAT WAS THAT FOR?
No, it was for this Duncan fellow.
One and the same.
NO! It is not! There were innocent people there!
So did Cotra.
And what example does this send? Cotra was a military strongpoint! You said so yourself.
That we will not allow them to believe that they can 'move in'.
You were complicit in this! You set the Quickfire!
Thisss iz war.
You're welcome to leave, but I'm not planning on burning down any more cities.
.... you're mad.
Quickfire isn't all that fast. And Art did let her people know that they needed to leave. I think... I think she intended to burn the town, not the people. And she got what she wanted. A warning, not so much an example.
Don't go defending her, the anger I'm feeling is keeping me warm right now.
There used to be an Empire Spy outpost over there. I wonder if there's anything left?
That's a lot of Demons. Thank goodness for Demonslayer.
And Martyr's Shield continues to be the worst buff the enemy can apply to themselves, especially on magic-resistant foes.
This is nice!
Guess what! It's our first Magic Bow! Well, not really. It's a Yew Bow +1, which raises the Bow-bonus on Dmurr's arrows from 2 to 3.
I don't know if we can get into Bargha, based on what we were told.
Or maybe they will accept our pass?
Let uz sssee thisss place.
Let's see what we have here....
What happened here?
It got taken from behind. The city was built to hold off attacks from the Giants on this side, not an Army appearing at their back.
We should get that boat now.
Or we could go back here! We didn't touch the front half at all!
What? Why would you suggest that?
Because Art is going to do it anyways.
Yes, but I'm also not dumb enough to go in the front door. Let's go back around.
There, the lock is picked. Looks like they did some work on it since we were last here.
Who are you?
Fight was boring. The Dungeon has reset, but I'm far stronger than I was last time.
Uh.. the Captain in Harston sent us to help clean the sewage?
Nice try, Exile maggot!
I've mentioned before that the 'Blessing' Bluff improves with the Caster. Well, this is Kai-lyss with two weapons under 1 level of Bless from Art. She's granting +40% to hit, and +8 to damage now that she's Level 40. On someone who is actually good in combat? And you're looking at some staggering bonuses when everything is added together.
Spread out, there's still the forces guarding the front to be wary of.
Or we could just clean out their pantry?
Glue Gauntlets are cursed. You can't take them off, they have high Encumbrance, and reduce your defense. It's almost like they're lined with glue, and you can't use your hands...
Why uze an Iccce Pudding for this?
I don't know.
Nice and quiet. You can almost forget this is a military research fortress.
What Dragon? I killed Pyrog!
Maybe they have hiz body being uzzed for ressearch?
How? It was over a year before they had pushed out enough to secure this place after I killed him.
Killed a dragon.
.... That's insulting.
Mine now, by right of killing Pyrog in the first place.
And who will use them, huh?
I'll put it on my shelf when I get home.
So much good equipment that can be found, so few hands to hold them in. Even if everyone was spec'd for Bladed weapons, and was ambidexterous. Also note that the Dragon Tooth isn't considered 'magical', and can thus get an augment. I'm considering going to Mancusco for the Protection, or to the Efreet for the Flaming...
I think the locals objected to your prizes.
They can have their own.
No, they're pretty set on yours.
Well, they can't have it.
Especially not these guys.
Honestly, I'm getting a little lost here.
We're in the second layer of the fortress from the front, going west.
Nothing in the working bedroom.
But there is behind the poorly hidden passage. I mean, seriously? Trackmarks beside the cabinet?
These tripwires are so boring.
I swear, we will eventually find a proper treasure.
Oh...? Who are you?
I don't think so. You don't have our permission to be here, so we shall slay you, and feast on your flesh!
Nothing of value...
Nothing in here.
Not going to open that door.
Surprisingly not full of undead.
We're done here. Let's go.
Wow. So much space for Pyrog's body, the equipment made from it, and Jekknol-Bok. It seems like there should have been more, but I kinda enjoy the implication that there is more we just don't see it.
I think I'll skip those random encounters. By the time I come back, they should be gone.
This beach would be an amazing fishing spot!
Too sandy for agriculture though.
We know they are limiting accesssss to the weztern side of the watersss. Proof.
Have to take them on land.
Sir, Ma'am? What can we expect out here?
Not much. These waters eventually pass into the Abyss, and the the Empire is knocking in rocks to prevent passage, we can expect something like that further along. There was a dragon over this way, Khoth, but between how Motrax and Sulfras were handled, I'm not holding out much hope. There's also access to the old demon lands. I can only hope that they and the Empire are busy killing each other in creative ways.
But before that, here's the port we were wondering what was for.
Hey! Pull over here!
One of the few times that the game explicitly states that it's having someone with the Cave Lore perk that will trigger this.
The people who used to live here were the people we rescued from the Empire Archives.
I can ssssmell the magicsz that onse protected thisss place.
I am not getting off the boat to see if that's a Basilisk.
You see that?
That's the location of the Empire Teleporter. We have to take the long way around.
But it iz so close!
The long way. They won't clear out this path until they brought in more people to make them comfortable with their logistical chokepoint having free access to the water.
When was the last time we needed the Grey pass?
Approaching that plase to the sssouth of Sulfras' cave.
That was easy.
Probably less easy to talk your way past an automaton.
And here we go. No turning back.