Part 22: Update 020 Almaria and Patrick's TowerUpdate 20 Almaria and Patrick's Tower
"Lovely, more lava."
"It gets more interesting than that. Look!"
"This is amazing. I... I mean, the water flows into the magma, boils, rises to the top of the cavern where it cools and from there, rains down into the soil, flowing back into the lake, and the cycle repeats...!"
An ecosystem in a simple shell.
Such a wonder would never be found on the surface. We are truly blessed to have seen this.
I wonder what sort of life would live here?
Wouldn't it be better to set this region aside for agriculture? Constant water, plus pulling fresh soil from near the magma should make for good crops, in theory.
I think they'd need the crops in the first place, Rook.
This sign is artistic in its paradoxical representations.
He does have a point. Paradoxical abstract art has its niche. It was supposed to represent how we subvert our expectations of art and the world we observe. There was that one famous piece... oh, what was it? With the article of clothing?
You're thinking of the piece commonly known as This is not a Pipe. I had the chance to view the original some time ago in the capital.
Yes! That's where I saw it.
Is this what I sound like when I talk about something intelligent?
And yet, here we are.
Where are we anyways?
I SUGGEST WE LEAVE THE AREA BEFORE WE GO DEAF.
Oh, hey. What's this?
Hello the Camp!
Rather than have a town here, the game just has an event. I considered building up some narrative here, but this update is mostly talking already, so I didn't want to do any more.
They were nice people.
And they let us dry out after getting so close to the interface down there.
At least they know to be wary of the Tower for now, until someone takes care of those issues.
And they were nice too!
I said that already.
You annoy me sometimes.
Well, we've left that place behind. The Castle should still be this way though.
A Colossal Cave....
Is that pronounced ahl-MARIA or ahl-MARRY-ah?
We can ask when we get there.
Still no actual roads. Just piles of rock taken off the path and left as markers along the way.
It is getting late. Perhaps we should talk to that farmhouse over there, for some information?
Or they could have no information at all.
Well, we are close. I think that's the place.
Doesn't look like much. Must be a trade centre on the water.
You know, I now suspect that we could have taken the boat down from the Eastern Gallery to reach here.
And you tell us that now?
In my defence
In my defence, I still don't know if the entire waterway is passable or not.
A Toll Bridge?
Used to offset maintenance costs, I would presume.
And it's not like we're short on funds.
Well, it could be worse.
That particular joke is older than the sky, Duncan. Please do not repeat it here.
I must join Ember in my confusion. What joke?
I refuse to believe that you both led such sheltered lives that you never heard of it.
Let it go, Karmas.
Whew, this is actually a well-built bridge.
Here you go. Which way to the inn?
North-west corner of town.
Give me a moment.
You're seriously going to Magic Map a town?
It's good practice, and I never learned the spell.
We must rectify that.
But that's less energy used for burning things!
There's the inn. We'll do the usual. Split up, talk to people, and meet up there.
Holy. This place is clean.
It doesn't come through properly through my screenshots, but Almaria is a very cleanly designed city. All the floor tiles are uniform, with no random splotches of different things to break it up. I've commented before on how the Tower has an interesting aesthetic because of how it uses a different pallet than what was seen before, but Almaria takes the same pallet used everywhere else, and makes it all look good.
It's actually well presented. You've been conditioned to expect a certain level of 'grime' from the places you've visited so far, yet entering this city and seeing this statue/fountain, you are presented with a design that's foreign to your senses.
And we're not done yet.
There is a very large bearded man in simple, embroidered robes sitting behind the desk. He's juggling figures on sheets of parchment. He turns to address you. "I am mayor Bevan, lord-protector of Almaria."
Ah. My name is Rook, I am with the First Exile
I don't care. I'm responsible for taking care of this city, and the surrounding area. And I can do it just fine without a bunch of adventurers such as yourselves butting in. The last thing we need is adventurers. You won't get a token here, fellow."
He grins nastily. "To see the king, you need a Royal Token. And you can only get one from a Council member. And none of them around here will help you, because we don't want anyone butting in." He laughs. "Beating the sliths is the army's job. You won't have luck to the north either. Go beat up aranea. There, you could be useful."
Our first real ass in the game. But he does have a point. The only way to get the Royal Token is through helping the Mayor of Formello. The other Mayors, Corta, Silvar, and a couple cities we haven't visited yet all have no quest to give us for the Token. It's a nice way to make sure we get to certain areas before being able to advance the plot.
So many books! And I can see shelves behind shelves!
This is weird. For access to the library.
A scroll I forget to identify, and 1 food.
What monstrosity is this?
Bah, nothing worth finding. Hello barkeep!
Hello honey! How's it going? I'm Rhiannon.
Ember. How much for a room?
Oh, not much. But we've just come into a stock of wine.
You can't be serious. How would you get grapes down here?
You'd be surprised. You can make wine from many fruits. This one she produces a bottle from under the counter is a fruit wine.
Wine. I still can't believe it.
"Yes! Wonderful, wonderful wine! And even edible! Made by local farmers, and not much money for a bottle. It's in bottles! Bet you never thought you'd see booze in actual bottles again. And this is the only place you can get it!"
You know what? This is my splurge. How much?
Oh, um. Hey. Sorry, wrong room.
A heavy-set man with a moustache and very dark complexion is working at a bowl of stew and bottle of wine. He's dressed for travel. "Greetings! Come join me!" He waves at an empty seat. "The company of a beautiful woman always brightens my day. I'm Montgomery. Call me Monty."
Ember. Adventurer. What do you do?
"I'm a merchant, ya' see. I'm heading back up to Mertis, back from a run to Patrick's tower."
We came through Mertis lately. Got to tell you that the undead cavern over there had some adventurers go through it and put down as many of them as they could. They couldn't fix it all, but did reduce the numbers in the area quite a bit.
That's quite good to hear! he thinks for a moment. It must have been that two-man team, a priest and a warrior, if I remember correctly. They're pretty good at rooting out the undead.
No, I met them west of Formello. They were going after the vampires in a crypt over there.
Ah. Must be a different group then. Still, that cavern has been a thorn in our side for a long time. I hope someone will be able to perform the ritual to sanctify it sooner, rather than later.
Hey, you mentioned something about Patrick and his tower? How are things going over there?
Gloomy place now. His wife is sick. Not much hope for her. If someone could heal her, they'd pick up a pretty penny, but I'm not betting on it happening."
That's sad. What does she have?
That's part of the problem. It's something new. Poor Patrick may be the wisest man in the whole of these caverns, but even he's at his wits end, and it's eating him alive.
Ember? You in here?
Hey Art! Thanks Monty, but I have to go now. Nice talking to you!
You see a truly rare sight - a child. An actual little girl playing among the fungus and slime as if it was normal. She smiles at you shyly. "I'm Kelly."
She gets down to the little girl's level. Hey Kelly. I'm Art. What'cha doin?
"Oh, just playing."
Oh? What are you playing?
"Yeah! With ... um ... my friends." She flashes you a mischievous smile.
There are other children here? That's nice. So who are your friends?
"Yeah! The statues! They're who I have to play with, so that's who I play with! This is where mommy puts me while she works!"
And who is mommy?
"Rhiannon is my mommy. Julio is my daddy. They do stuff!"
Julio is the town sage, and his only purpose is to identify things for you.
It's also really sad that you can't talk about Kelly to her parents. They don't have anything to say about their daughter, and that's just sad. It's also sad that she is told to play in a memorial for dead people. Don't believe me?
It's a sobering piece of commentary with just this one NPC. I want to write more, but I don't think now is the time. We still don't know enough about the entire situation here in Exile to make those sorts of judgements and observations.
Plays with the statues, huh? Alright, which one of you guys talks?
This is a statue of a bold Exile soldier, slain in action some time ago. It is also alive. You see its eyes move to look at you occasionally. It says, very, very quietly, "I was, in life, Karak."
So, what do you do around here, aside from playing with Kelly?
I hope she's a good kid.
He strides forward to shake your hand. A student comes up behind him and starts to ask a question. He rounds on her and shouts "You are stupid! Shut up!" He then turns back to you. "I'm Starcap. Welcome to my school."
You train people here?
"I train all the substandard lumps of meat that pass through my door. Like you." He wanders off for a moment, to heap abuse on a student. The student survives. Barely.
This was the most fun conversation of everyone in the stores. I like to think of this guy as channelling Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket.
Almaria is the replacement for Silvar/Fort Duvno as you move into this section of the world. It has supplies, training and identification. The armor and weapon stores are nothing worth writing about, as you'll usually have better stuff from Fort Draco or loot by now. In all, aside from the bottle of wine (which will be very important later), this is actually a very bland town.
Which will change in the next game.
Anything of note?
The mayor's a dick.
The shops are full of mediocre stock.
I did nothing.
They haven't cleaned their library in years.
I got a bottle of wine, and a lead.
Oh? Do tell.
No clue. I figured we needed something to celebrate with when we get out of here. And tah-dah!
I'll carry that.
You? No, I will. Less chance of it breaking.
I have to agree to let Ember keep it, but not because it could break.
Yes. She's less likely to drink it prematurely.
Really? Has anyone here even seen a hint of that sort of thing in anyone else?
There was that one guy in Formello....
He's not here, nor with us. Now, about this lead?
Some dude named Patrick lives in a tower south-west-ish of here. Towers equal mages equals someone we can complain about Linda to.
Your logic is so full of holes, I'm certain I can fit a tower through it.
Just because I did two things more productive than you, doesn't mean you get to insult me like that!
Is it me, or was that more sarcastic than usual?
And yet, they have stopped arguing.
Come on, let's see if this Patrick can help. Who knows, maybe he can even tell us who we an talk to in order to deal with Linda and her pet demon.
Poor soil, I wonder?
Maybe there's a contaminant in the water.
Either way, it's not something we're looking into. Although I did talk to a couple of the locals and they informed me that we still have a way to go to the Tower. They suggested we head south and stay along the cavern wall until we get there, as he has set up in his own little grotto.
What an odd piece of vandalism.
It's not. It's a sign.
Don't know. Could be a cache marking, could be anything.
Let's find out!
Do we have to?
Hold your hand out, you can feel the air flow down into the chasm.
I'll keep my hands on this side of the ledge, thank you.
Perhaps this is part of the local ecosystem? The air has to move, lest stagnation kill all the plants and animals. Air goes down this chasm, and comes up somewhere else.
Interesting theory, but we have no means or desire to check it out. However, that bridge over there indicates someone has taken up residence. And we were informed of a 'grotto' in which Patrick resides. We should investigate.
This river is the outflow from the lake around which is poor growing conditions.
I see something ahead.
This isn't ominous at all.
We could always go back.
8th Imperial Rangers.
These men. 8th Rangers. Look at the emblems.
For those less interested in the construction of the Empire's Military?
These guys were part of the 8th Imperial Rangers, the Scout Corps. Recon, Intelligence. And what logically follows from having highly trained operatives hidden from view nearby.
Did they not put down that revolt a couple decades back? Against that robber-baron figure who stole taxes and donated back to the people to gain popular support.
Correct. These guys prided themselves on being the best of the best, with a history to live up to. For a whole platoon to be down here and dead speaks badly of a lot of things.
I for one would like to meet this 'Scimitar' group and express my appreciation.
Hey Art, you know more about this?
No, and stop prying.
But why leave the bodies here? Why not take them somewhere?
You know what? My curiosity is satisfied. We should leave now.
Nothing interesting, really.
Well, this is in the way.
There appears to be something interesting on the island there.
Let us ignore it for now. We have no means of getting there.
Just where is this place anyways?
Hopefully this is better.
Front door it is. I dislike entering through the scullery.
Looks like quarters around the outside of the library, with the books centrally protected. We should start there.
I have died and gone to heaven.
Oh, don't be so dramatic.
Well, if we leave him here, who will we get to cast Major Blessing?
I don't want to! I want to test out my combat spells!
Don't look at me, I don't do that type of spells.
I don't do magic.
I have no talent for it.
Don't look at me!
Too bad Peregrine, you're stuck with s.
Let me be!
Don't worry, a lot of people have the same reaction.
A young blonde woman sits at the table, reading intently. Books are stacked all around her. "I'm Rita." She has a thick accent you don't recognize.
Peregrine the Fourth, Mystic Thaumaturge. Pursuer of knowledge. Are you the librarian here?
She smiles broadly. "I have been honored with the privilege of studying under Patrick in his libraries. My research goes slowly, but I have great hopes for it! It's been difficult, as Patrick hasn't been involved. But to answer your question, no, I am not. Not officially at least. While Patrick is... currently occupied, I'm in charge around here."
What is it that you research?
"Yes, on magical items. There are few of these down here, but several sorts of magical charms have been found, and I am trying to tell what they do. I am working on a certain necklace now. It is slow work, but I keep at it." She starts looking around. "I have written a paper on several other sorts of necklaces. It's here somewhere..."
What sort of necklaces have you been looking at?
"The Necklace of Fangs is a Nephilim artifact, well known in the world above. It makes a user more skilled, and what is more, it seems to occasionally bless the wearer as well! A remarkable item."
You mean, like this one? He fingers the artefact around his neck.
Oh! Exactly! Now I feel stupid talking about that. But yes, necklaces are common magical items due to the low resource cost. They don't even need metal!
What of Patrick himself? We heard that he was in a bad way with his wife.
"His wife, Hathwisa, is gravely ill. She's been so for some time. And when she dies, I don't think Patrick will live long either. And we'll all be on our own."
Such must be their love. I weep at the beauty of it.
You have no idea how many times I think of Hathwisa as Hiawatha. I've been playing too much Civilization lately.
Look what I found!
A tired and bent old man sits in the throne, his rich robes hanging loosely from him. "Greetings, seekers. I am Patrick." He just sounds... tired
Ummm, if we're disturbing you, sir, we can leave...
No, that won't be necessary. I still have duties to attend to, and you are new faces. Those are in short supply lately, and it will help the time pass.
So, you run this library now. What did you do before that?
He sighs. "Once I fought. Then I built. Now I just wait."
My apologies sir, but you do not strike me as one who has fought many foes.
His gaze grows distant. "Oh, that was long ago. I was one of a group of magi who formed this society, who made it possible. To make it possible, we first had to defeat the demon Grah-Hoth. I helped lead the attack. I helped seal him in his prison."
Um, about that, you see...
"Oh, it doesn't matter. Not anymore. He's gone, and his foul fort lies in ruin. And sealed forever.
Art, he's not going to be able to help with his mind on other things.
I agree. But still, we must be polite. Maybe we can still get something out of him, even if it's just a friend..
"I was one of the Triad that ruled the tower of Magi for many years. We, and those under us, wrote most of the books of magic you will find in the libraries down here, pouring forth our memories of magical secrets onto crude, handmade paper. Thanks to that task, our art flourishes down here. I also led some research."
We met your assistant, Rita in the library. She too was doing research. What subject interests you?
His empty gaze suddenly focuses, and he looks at you intently. "On things it can bring great danger to know. Is there a particular thing you seek?"
No sir. Not now. Not with your... wait.
"For my wife."
He shakes his head sadly. "My wife, Hathwisa, is ill. I don't know with what, one of the diseases of the caves, but she will probably die soon. The only thing untried is graymold salve. I would do anything for you if you could find some and cure her!"
He produces the parchments with the formula for the Greymould Salve on it. Sir, a mage from the Tower, Cortath, he developed this formula for you sir, I think. All we need is the mold itself, and someone good enough to mix it up.
For the first time, he stands. Walking over, he takes the parchment from Duncan's hands. This... this is amazing work. You said he is in the Tower?
Not quite. He... went missing south of Fort Draco some time ago, and we were sent to investigate by Zathnia. This is what we found.
But! This is enough to start. He raises his eyes to Duncan. This is enough for me to hope to see her eyes again. Thank you. If you can find the rest... there is nothing I wouldn't do.
I have no wish to take advantage of his time of troubles.
Neither do I, but you heard him. We've already got the formula. All I need is the practice and skill, and once we find the Greymold, we can give it a try.
We have to try. Not only will it give us a valuable ally, but it will give us valuable experience with this place, more information for later use.
And you guys said I sounded vaguely heroic earlier.
Nah, I'm just thinking long term here.
A big, beefy guy with a flushed face bustles around. He's stirring something up in a big bowl. "Hiya' folks. Welcome to my kitchen! I'm Marco."
Art, First EEC. What's cooking?
"I'm makin' dinner." He proffers the bowl. "Want a taste?"
He gives you a spoonful of some sort of pasta sauce. It tastes hideous. Marco notes your reaction. "Hmmph. Not quite there yet. I'm having trouble with the ingredients."
What are you using?
"Well, I was a cook on the surface before my mouth landed me down here. Since then, I've been trying to make a good pasta sauce, but I just can't seem to get the ingredients to make it work. If someone could bring me some decent oil or some garlic..." He sighs. "Well, I'm just dreaming."
Thanks for your time. I think I need something to wash my pallet with now.
Water's over there.
Well, this is all just storage.
To get here, you have to pick a lock. It's a private library of some sort.
A young woman with short, bright yellow hair bounces around the room, looking through scroll after scroll.
Hello, I'm Duncan, alchemist.
So, what are you doing here? Looks like you're looking really hard for things.
She slows down a bit. "I'm looking for accounts of the First Expedition. There are certain items they brought with which I'd like to find. If, of course ..." She coughs. Twice. "... my health permits."
What items are you looking for? He works hard to keep the suspicion out of his voice
"What I'm mainly looking for is information about 'Smite.' That's a giant-slaying hammer! There's a lot of trouble with the giants to the north. Finding it would be really valuable."
Can't tell you much about them, except that Smite is enhanced to be very lethal to them.
Your cough can't be good. How is your health holding up?
She coughs. "It's the cave. All the dampness, you know. It gives me a terrible cough!"
A black man with very short hair and clothes made for easy travelling sits at the table, poring over a tome. "Hi. I'm Kai. I heard you talking to Anji. I'm an alchemist too."
Very good! What are you studying there?
He holds up the scroll for you to see. "I'm from up Formello way, but I came down here to see this."
"It's a recipe for a special potion, that almost, but didn't quite work. I hope to improve it. Then I'm going to go to the Mage's Tower and try to learn how to make graymold salve." He looks you over. "I've also been doing some teaching. I know a recipe for a nice glowing nettle healing potion which you could buy."
Uh Oh, competition.
Shut up. Teach me.
I've seen some of these before, in my family's library.
Checking in on my future patient couldn't hurt.
No Greymold Salve, so we'll talk to her.
Now for the maps:
This is the path we took from the Tower of the Magi to Patrick's Tower. There's still a lot left to explore, but we'll get to it in due time. I think I'll make a circuit of the Great Cave first before finally finishing with the Castle proper.
Here's Almaria. Kelly wanders near the statues.
Patrick's Tower. Bring good Lockpicks to get into the private library and Patrick's Room.