Part 36: Shari(a)mikUpdate 031 Shari(a)mik
I feel like I missed something important back east.
You probably did.
But those undead hordes were something of a nuisance.
Yeah, they're not fun to fight.
And they will naturally decay over time now that the Vampire is dead.
I concur. Besides, we should advance our actual objectives every now and again, rather than how we keep getting sidetracked as we have been.
Your turn, I see.
Regardless, let's see what this town is like.
Where are the guards?
Had we not taken care of the Slimes or the Roaches, we would not be allowed into town. It's roadblocking, but roadblocking that makes sense. You're Exiles. Why would the major cities let you in?
This is very, very quiet.
Look at the people, they're afraid of us, but they're afraid of the Troglodytes even more.
Good idea to stick together then.
Should we really be going though the town's walls like this?
No, but it's still something we should check, to know just how far our hospitality goes.
That was rude!
I think we're done here. Let's get into the town proper.
Well, this is convenient. Right by the gate we came in.
The metalwork is very well done.
Yeah, but I wonder what the alloy is like? Pure gold in that volume would be heavy.
Could be gilded.
Could we not talk about that? The door's open.
You must be the mayor.
A harsh looking man watches you dryly from behind his desk. His clothes are very ostentatious, and his mayor's sash is made of remarkably rich fabric. He wears a gold circlet. I am Mayor Knight of Sharimik. Welcome to my office.
Hello Mayor. My name is Art, out of the Krizsan Province.
Dispense with the facade. I know where you're really from. I've received the missives from Krizsan and Shayder. They're the only reason you were allowed in my city at all.
Fine. Why were we allowed in?
He looks sombre. Well, it's complicated, but at the heart of it, I am trying to maintain control.
How complicated could it be? Are you not the legal and legitimate authority in this city?
And yet, attacks come at us from all sides. The Empire has abandoned us. I guide my people upon the only safe path left to us.
We noticed the damage to your walls. You have weathered the attacks well.
We have foes, both outside and inside. The Troglos come at us from without, and subversives cause rot from within.
I want to state categorically that we are not involved with anything like that. We don't deal in subversives like that.
That's ... weird. That is the Mayor's generic non answer. That is, when you ask about something that doesn't have a specific response, he defaults to that. Yet, given the hyper-link nature of the conversation, why is it that clicking on 'subversives' results in this? Could there be a missing dialogue box? The master text dump doesn't indicate that there is something missing, so I can't tell.
So, what can you tell us about the Troglodyte menace? Surely that's not a state secret.
Word has spread of the pale travellers who helped end the plagues to the south and west. I, therefore, let you come here in the hope that you could be convinced to undertake a quest for us.
Oh joy. A quest.
Don't be so flippant, Exile. I have power here, and despite your works, if I decide you go to jail, you will end up there. I have more than enough people, and you don't have the home ground advantage here.
"Recently, a Troglo envoy came to our walls, bearing a scroll. The envoy shouted that the King of the Troglodytes wished for us to send diplomats to him. It left the scroll and fled. Since then, we have been unable to find anyone both skilled and smart enough to deserve the mission, and suicidal enough to take it. I will reward you. Alas, there is a problem.
We fix problems!
Not this kind, I assure you, Slith.
... Sass. No, you see, Sharimik is ruled by a triad right now. Empire rules bind us still. Before you can go on a mission for us, you need to get approval from Commander Corie and Internal Affairs Supervisor Levin. Go ask them about this mission. Convince them to allow you to undertake it, and I will assist you.
Tell me about Coire and Levin
Commander Coire has her office in the barracks on the north side of town. If you can't find here there, someone will know where she went.
"As for Levin? A superb gentleman. My right hand man. He's just next door."
So, what's the status with the Empire? We're further north, so we're hoping to meet someone official, sooner rather than later.
The Empire has not sent us guidance, supplies or reinforcements for months and months. We have to look after ourselves. They have shut us off since the Disaster at Tinraya.
What happened at Tinraya?
I'm not authorized to tell you that.
So, what sort of path are you taking? You're across the straight from the Anama, pretty much everything south and east is empty. There's a lot for you to do.
CONTROL! Control is how the Empire rules, and through it we can keep Karnold Province safe! Our discipline will help us defeat the Troglos. He doesn't grin. That is why you were allowed to enter.
Not going to try this one.
Ah, there you are, Sandra. Show these people to Levin's office. Make sure they don't get lost on the way.
Of course, mayor. Follow me please.
This woman has a light dusting of makeup on her face, put there to make her skin darker. You, however, immediately recognize her as an Exile. She pulls you aside to speak in private.
I swear, I did nothing to put her in the Mayor's office. It just worked out like that.
I'm Sandra. Unspecified Services. Pleased to meet you.
I've heard about your accomplishments. Excellent.
What are you doing here? And how long have the Services been here?
We're the only branch of the Exile Government doing anything up here right now. And I've been moving between Sharimik and Lorelei, looking things over.
Glad we caught you here then. And the mayor knows you?
I'm one of his couriers. If he knows my origins, he's not letting on. It's not like we have him, she gestures at Sass, to attract attention.
So, aside from that, what's have you been looking at?
Right now? Troglodytes here, and Giants up north. There's the ridge of mountains in the way, keeping the monsters apart. Gale is being attacked by utterly lethal golems, and the Keep of Tinraya was utterly destroyed.
Matches what I learned down in Silvar, though what destroyed Tinraya?
Strongest fort in Valorim. Made the Ziggurat look pathetic. Some sort of bizzare monster, unlike anything ever seen wiped it out. Can't find anything else about it, but I'm working on it.
Thanks. Anything else?
You guys are really going places. Been to the Bunker yet?
It's back down in New Cotra. A few mages, trying to figure out outlandish solutions to our problems. They might be able to help you. Talk to Captain Johnson. He'll tell you how to enter.
Johnson isn't exactly the talkative type.
Yeah, he's a bitter old guy. You may have to press him about it. When you talk to him, mention my name if he gives you trouble.
So, yeah. Door in the corner leads to the Library. Then the other one there is Levin. I think he'll be easy to convince.
Thanks. Have a nice day, and stay safe.
There's something in the back corner here.
Behind this door is something vital to the completion of the game, and it can only be gotten by resolving the Troglo quest. What is it? Find out in a couple updates.
Well, let's see what this Levin has to say for himself.
The man sitting behind this desk looks as close to a spider as any human can get. He sizes you up with beady eyes. I am Internal Affairs Supervisor Levin.
I presume you know who we are?
Yes. Yes I do. He grins and twitches slightly. Many tasks fall to me. I maintain loyalty. I and the chief Jobs dispatcher. I am mapmaking coordinator. And I assist Mayor Knight whenever possible.
I would suspect that loyalty is not a problem, when there are external threats.
His mouth twitches in disapproval. I'm sorry. You're not allowed to know about that.
whut. The same, generic 'no answer'? Something's weird here, and I intend to get to the bottom of it.
What jobs can we do for you?
See? That's the kind of loyalty I like. Honest and given freely. I wish I had more strong backs like yours, lizard.
You have to find people to take a boat ride? Fenris Port and Sharimik are connected by a ferry!
You would be surprised.
And the maps that you offer?
I tell official, Empire-sanctioned mapmakers in the area what areas need mapmaking, and compile the fruits of the their labors. Would you like to purchase a map of Karnold Province? Only 300 Gold.
Six times the cost of the man in Porter's Rest. I pass.
So, tell us about Mayor Knight. He recommended us to talk to you.
Mayor Knight is a wise and strong willed man, and I am proud to be his right hand. By the way, I understand he has been looking for someone to undertake a mission. And has found you.
And he sent us to you for permission for the mission.
So, you want permission, eh? Well, it's no problem. However, there's a lot of paperwork to fill out. Especially when dealing with independent contractors. I'll need to fill those out first. And then there's the filing fee for those papers.
Give me 1000 gold, and I'll give you permission.
I'm sorry, are you soliciting a bribe?
No. Fees. Taxes.
You're having problems paying people to take a boat ride, and you expect us to pay?
There's no negotiating with him. Let's just pay, and get on with the mission.
Right. Now to talk to the Commander.
Wow, paper must be really expensive if we need to spend that much money on paper!
No one tell him. I want to enjoy basking in the innocence for as long as I can.
You're no fun.
EEEEEeeeee! We have to visit!
A serene looking woman stands before her altar, thinking happy thoughts. You interrupt them. I am Mother Ellyn.
Delilah! I like your sign!
Thank you! I am the priestess of the Shrine of Happy Thoughts. May I provide assistance?
Tell me more about your Happy Thoughts!
She looks slightly embarrassed. Well, I wanted to start a faith to guide people and make their lives better. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a good guiding principle. So I improvised.
I made the Shrine of Happy Thoughts based on the principle that, well, things would be a lot better if people were kind and just tried to be nice to each other for a change. Of course, it hasn't been popular at all. But you can't blame me for trying.
No, I can't. Ever heard of the Church of Joy?
You should! The Tenants are very similar.
Before you two get stuck discussing the finer points of positivist theology, you said you offered services?
Ah yes! I can teach a variety of spells, and I can heal your wounds.
Let's see what you have for spells please.
Fifth level Priest Spells! Art skips Summon Host, but grabs the rest. Delilah has the first five thanks to her Anama membership, while everyone else is currently capped at level 3 spells.
And it's true. There are worms here.
Delilah? You talk shop. We'll talk with this guy.
You meet one of the Empire's archers. Empire Archers then to be the most skilled and lethal known, and this one looks to be no exception. However, he also looks somewhat depressed.
You have a problem?
I wish you were the biggest of my problems. I'm Sloan. He doesn't look pleased that you're talking to him.
What's bothering you?
I ... I ... Wait a minute! I don't have to talk to you! I have enough problems.
Unless they involve monster, I doubt your problems are that serious.
Hey! Even if I wanted to talk to you, which I don't, these days it's not too smart being seen talking to Exiles. So buzz off!
Oh no. Exiles are here.
I love the occasional recognition that under normal circumstances, we'd be locked in a dungeon somewhere waiting for powerful people from the Empire to show up and do nasty things until they know everything we know.
And away we go.
Yeah, he's not polite at all!
At least he was just in front of where we need to go next.
The garrison commander of Sharimik watches you with skepticism. She seems unwilling but resigned to give you some of her valuable time. The name is Commander Corie, she says.
I run the Sharamik garrison. Quite a job. I also help Mayor Knight as best I can. Which is probably why you're here.
Sharamik has been for some time, the main military depot for southern Valorim. I'm in charge of looking after it. Quite the responsibility.
Mayor Knight sent us to talk to you.
I know. I know. He's in charge of anything in Sharamik that isn't military. A competent administrator, although I am concerned about his inability to get anyone to go on this mission he's been talking about.
Can't even get people to go to Fenris Port, despite going on and on about control.
And now he's trying to foist this mission off on us.
She frowns. I can't believe Mayor Knight wants to give you this mission. You want permission? Prove your worth. The Troglos have a giant altar in the hills east of Angel's rest. Find it. Destroy it, and permission is yours. Problems is ... my scouts have reported its magical. You may need the Ritual of Sanctification.
The Ritual? You know it, Art?
I used to. Found a copy of it in Formello. Except it was an older version of the Ritual, and once the needs of the War was over, I let it slip my mind. It's really easy, when you think about it or don't as the case may be.
I forgot. Thus explaining why I didn't cheat the spell into Art's spell list at the start of the LP like I may have planned once.
All this holy mumbo jumbo is beyond me. I haven't the foggiest idea how to destroy an altar like that conventionally, else I would have done so already. Tell you who might though. Talk to Nydia. She's in Softport, to the north. Tell her my name ... she served with me once. If she knows anything about this Ritual, or how to destroy this altar, she'll tell you. And that's the last help you'll get from me.
Understood. And thank you.
Don't thank me. The Altar is still out there.
I am deliberately ignoring the damage to that wall.
You meet a very pretty young woman, busy chopping garlic. The counter is covered with delicious looking food. She doesn't look up as you come in. I'm Ginny! Welcome to my shop.
I'm Sass! Your food smells good! You cook lizard?
Lizard...? She only blinks once as she looks up at the towering Slith. She indicates the counter in front of her. Doesn't this all look good? It can all be yours! I have all sorts of food for sale. She smiles. It's nice to have customers. It's been lonely lately.
Why would you be lonely? You make food!
With all the monsters about, the merchants I always talked to don't come through much any more. I talk to the townspeople, but some of the are, well, ungrateful. She looks irked as she says it.
Who would dare be ungrateful of the one who makes food?
I was really interested in Sloan, one of the Archers in town. I gave him a ring for luck while fighting the troglos. It was a family heirloom. He lost it! Can you believe it! If someone could get the ring Sloan lost, I'd be very grateful.
Are rings important?
I mean, he came in, apologized, said the ring was gone, and left! And I haven't seen him since! What sort of way is that for a gentleman to act?
It's not. We just saw him out on the road. We'll get to the bottom of this, one way or the other.
Now, to look next door.
I panicked at this moment. I thought I was too late, and that the Troglodytes have done some permanent damage to the town. Turns out, it's this way even if you're absurdly early.
Swords by the door? I think I know what's here.
The man behind the counter is not at all your ordinary, muscle-bound blacksmith. In fact, he's a rather bland looking mage. He's holding a steel broadsword, and looking at it with a practiced eye. He mumbles a few words of a spell and runs his fingers over the blade of the weapon he's holding. The metal glows red hot for a moment. The man looks up at you. Welcome. I am known as Grove.
Niarl. So, you're in charge here?
Well, I have a variety of high-quality weapons available. You can see me your excess goods if you wish. But my customers most value me for my magical skills.
We saw your little demonstration earlier. You use magic on your weapons a lot?
If I could afford it, I would, without hesitation, put Flaming on Bronwyn's weapon. The chance for bonus damage to anyone not immune to Fire? Heck yes!
Let's see if they'll let us in.
Definitely not here.
Lots of nice stuff.
Wait... Troglodyte Khazi? That's new. One scry coming right up! After it's taken some damage from the friendly defenders.
Mage 6 and Priest 6?!? At least the Khazi is squishy.
What made you think you would get anything done?
Actually, this reminds me of the Empire attack on Almaria back in E2 more than anything else.
We'll report this. We suggest you leave.
Nice harbor. Don't want to go swimming though.
Hold on, I think I saw someone duck into the trees back that way...
Oh, it's just you.
You stumble over a small, middle-aged man, who is sitting concealed behind a clump of trees. He looks panicked at first, but relaxes after looking you over for a moment. Yeah, at least with Exiles, I know where I stand. I'm Grassi. Move in quick! Don't let anyone see you!
So, what brings you back here?
I'm an alchemist by trade. He motions for you to get closer. You can't be too careful!
Careful about what?
He looks sombre, and shrinks further back into the bushes. Well, there's the troglodytes, of course. What's worse, there's Mayor Knight.
Let's start with the non-obvious point. Troglos?
Troglodyte patrols hit town all the time. Their mages hit us with Shockwaves, and cast spells so their fighters can fly in and cause all sorts of havoc! That's why I hide. Wouldn't you?
Well, aside from the fact that Shockwave is a Level 7 spell, and the highest I've seen so far is a 6 from the Khazi just now...
Come to think of it, Shockwave must be a real pain to try and counter. It's got the widest area of any offensive spell, and grows stronger with range. A besieging wizard could stand at maximum range and do maximum damage over maximum area to the defender's walls. And casting Flight to go over? Yeah, I can see that.
And the more obvious problem? The Mayor?
We've not heard anything from the Empire for months! Knight is using the opportunity to take total control of the town. He and his flunkies punish anyone who questions them! Can you blame me for just thinking back here, out of the way?
No. Not really.
What he sells.
Thanks for your time.
A scruffy looking sailor type is selling tickets by the dock.
Kurt. I got tickets to Farport. Fifteen Gold. And that's all I have to talk about.
... I could have sworn Sharimik was connected to Fenris Port! Or is it Softport and Fenris Port?
You don't want to talk?
How nice. Maybe this man will be more chatty.
This mage is practically ready to stumble into you. It's obvious that it's been quite some time since he's slept.
Good sir! You really should rest yourself. A sound mind, and all that. If I may your name?
Why is he talking like that?
I have no idea.
Sean, he mumbles.
What are you busy with that keeps you occupied so?
He stares off into space for a minute or so while trying to formulate an answer. Finally he says Maintain the barriers.
Troglos keep knocking down walls. We make magic barriers to plug holes. They dispel barriers. Big pain, those dispel spells.
It is too bad you cannot return the favor and dispel some of theirs as well.
He teeters a bit. Dispelling Barriers rare and powerful spell. Anyone knowing it can mess up our defenses. You want to learn?
Yes, I would like to learn.
And there's our reward for completing the Troglodyte Quest. DISPEL BARRIER!
...!!! That's where I remember you now!
You used to work at Fort Emerald!
I did. I used the Emerald there to help offset my condition. What of it?
Nothing. Just remembered that was one of the places that was authorized to teach Dispel Barrier back during the invasion, and I think you tended to be along the north wall.
I go where my nation needs me. No more, no less.
This is fine and all, but I really want to find out where those Trogs came from. If we're allowed back into the warehouse, that is.
This is weird, but I'm not going to complain.
Turns out, there are a lot of Empire Archers around. Finding Sloan is annoying, especially as they'll all move around. But find him I did! Somewhere. Where I forgot to screenshot.
You lost a woman's ring?!?!
You. Don't do anything stupid. I'm fixing this.
The man behind the counter is busy polishing some lockpicks. I'm Ballard. You must be the ... foreigners people are talking about.
I'm not 'foreign'! I'm Sass!
That's nice. I make tools. You can purchase them. And it makes me very happy. He grins, in order to show how happy he is.
Are you from those islands to the south? Because those people are happy too, and it's not a good thing.
Incredibly happy. I could not be happier with the rulership of our town.
But your ruler is the Empire, right? I'm confused!
He continues to smile, but his eyes watch you carefully. He speaks clearly and deliberately. Yes, I could not be more happy with the leadership of our mighty city. I am very content and feel safe. All right?
Yes, we understand. We shall be leaving.
That is not good.
This place is a powder keg, ready to ignite. The cause of their problems is also the only thing keeping it from happening.
So, what happens when not if we deal with the Troglodyte menace?
There are no stupid questions.
Just stupid answers.
You have no idea how many times I had to explain why I wrote that into the training manual. It's a warning for the people who know more to not to make assumptions about their students.
A man, small, wiry, muscular and leather-clad, it looking you over. His opinion of you seems to be worsening by the moment. Too old. No idea. Passable. No idea how to hold that. Same. Too old again.
Now that you've finished stating the obvious, you are...?
I'm Starcap. I spend my life educating cavenewts like you. Fulfilling? I think not.
You know where we're from right? I mean, it's not exactly a secret.
Yeah. What of it?
Then why did you call us cavenewts? When even we don't use that phrase.
Actually, Sliths do.
And I was part of the army then. Learned it from some prisoners. I don't hold a grudge.
So what about your work then, do you not find fulfilling?
How could any job that involves constant work with smelly, unkempt, manners-impaired adventurers be fulfilling?
I like you!
Just not in that way, you know.
I think we'll be back.
You meet Sharimik's missile maker. He is putting the final polish on an intensely sharp throwing knife. I'm Issac. Welcome.
Thanks for the invitation.
You can purchase missiles from me. Quality goods, I assure you. Distracts me from my worries.
What are you worried about?
He looks around to make sure nobody is listening in. I can tell you about this, but nobody else. We've all heard how brave you are, and it's best not to let our leaders hear us express our skepticism. I am concerned about my child.
Worry for a child is only natural.
We are attacked by Troglos all the time. I'm planning to send my daughter, Kelly, to Softport. A much safer place to be. I will miss her so, though. He sighs. Thank you for letting me unburden my soul.
Well, there is a church about thinking happy thoughts in town. Perhaps you should visit? I'm sure your leaders would approve.
He looks grim. In the absence of the Empire's influence, Mayor Knight grows more controlling every day. Nobody has been punished for saying the wrong thing yet, but some of us fear it is only a matter of time.
We understand. But if you must send your child away, send her to Krizsan, or Shayder. The Plagues there are defeated.
I bet this person does magical identification.
You meet a wizened old man with a carefully trimmed white beard. He sets down a thick, leather bound book to speak with you. He's pale enough to have come from Exile. And I can hear you through the door. I am known to people in general as Spragins.
He takes a deep breath to put his thoughts in order. Well, I do do magic, I suppose. That seems to be a good overall description of my activities.
Surely 'Magic' is such a general descriptor?
Yes, magic does seem to be a good catch-all sort of term for it. For example, I can magically identify your items for a small fee. Or I teach spells to passing mages, for a price. And, of course, I do research. That would seem to be an excellent summary of the current activities I am referring to when using the generic term 'magic'.
If I may, what are you researching?
Never happens, to the best of my knowledge. Also, have to get Magic Map. I know where it is, and it's near by.
I also load up Matthias and Ni'aurrl with the level 5 spells.
The Inn! Finally!
A man sits at one of the inn's tables. The Table has several shields on it, and the man is polishing one of them. I'm Ehrenfeld.
Ah... this is a weird place to put a shop.
Well, my shop was destroyed in a troglo raid, so I have to run my business here for now. Care to see my wares?
What about the Troglos?
Those vermin! I hope we wipe them out again. He thinks Oh well, I almost have enough money to rebuild my shop, and at least I have my health!
Not if you keep drinking away your profits! The owner of the inn looks like someone who is young, but has been rapidly aged by circumstances. She looks glad to see a customer. I'm Quinn, she says.
I run this inn, and let me tell you, it's one trial or tribulation after another, if you care, which you don't. But look, we have a reasonably safe room for 10 gold. We have rounds of beer for 2 gold, and fine bourbon for 12. I recommend the bourbon.
Hit me for the good stuff.
She pours you several shots of strong liquor. The stuff hurts even your toughened throats. She leans close to you. By the way, I've been hearing intriguing rumors about a certain artifact. My knowledge will only cost 100 gold.
Oh fine. It's not like I'll make it back in an hour or so. What is your knowledge?
She gladly takes the money. Thanks! There was this trooper named Masok, out of Angel's Rest, in here the other day. When drunk, I heard him mention something about a halberd, the best ever made and how he could find it. Can't hurt to ask him about it!
And thus, we begin the quest for the most powerful weapon in the game. Which we won't get to for quite a while.
So, what troubles you?
Well, the troglos use spells to move their ambushers into town, and guess what building tends to be the first they hit! That's right ... my inn. She shakes her head. It's one continuous bother, let me tell you.
But that's not what's really bothering you, is it?
I tell you, it's the people running this dump! They ... she stops herself, and suddenly looks around to see who's listening. Worried, she says Sorry. Forgot myself for a moment there? Care for some bourbon?
Already had, thanks. But I think it's time for us to move on.