Part 41: Update 037 Bargha and the Gremlin CaveUpdate 037 Bargha and the Gremlin Cave
Look, I'm telling you that this is a sign of something more serious than what you're thinking!
We are not exactly in a position to make rational observations here, Duncan.
I'm sorry, but I must agree with Duncan. The preponderance of Empire encounters we have had here in Exile seems to me to be something to worry about.
Three! One of which was a pile of dead bodies in a place no one would ever look!
And two reconnaissance outposts. One of which was destroyed by what may have been a Dragon, and the other just gutted by us.
Where are we going now?
West, back toward the Abyss. I suppose Art will lead us eventually back to our meeting with Erika, but I don't know how long she intends to delay it.
Exactly! And subtlety isn't exactly the Empire's strong suit, so if they were down here, they would be here in force, with armies, not scout troops!
Have you forgotten what we saw in the crystal ball in the Fort killed by the Dragon? You know, a certain Archmage who happens to be the second-in-command of the Empire?
What a pretty lake.
You all just don't get it.
I get it alright. But instead of thinking of them as some form of spies for the Empire, they seem more like jailers than anything else. Watching over the inmates, reporting back if there's the threat of a breakout, or something like that.
Your logic ignores the standard operating procedure of Imperial Army, Art.
Oh, shut up.
Mere gaolers would not report to Garzahd.
You know, I keep pronouncing that as 'Garzahad' for some reason.
It's a legitimate thing given ones accenting on certain shortened syllables.
We should read this from the west to the east, I think.
That almost has proper grammar.
You know what? Let's swing by north first, see if there's anything else up there.
You can't delay forever.
A castle full of Giants.
I have no interest in that.
Not me, either.
Fine, we'll go back south.
There appears to be a town behind that wall, blocking off the entire tunnel.
A moment, please.
This place is a fortress.
Two layers of solid walls like that? Yes, yes it is.
A young priest with ratty robes and dark skin runs around, looking for wounded. He bows quickly. "I am called Cabanero."
I'm Duncan, we're the first EEC. You in charge of the gate?
No, I patrol the walls, and heal those who need it. There's more havoc here than I could ever help with, but I have to keep trying. It is, after all, the fate I chose."
Brave man, to choose this. What was it, if you don't mind me asking?
"I shouted and shouted for the poor and downtrodden on the surface. Then, the Empire tired of hearing the truth and threw me down here. I did the same thing around the voles, but they got sick of me too, so they sent me into the Abyss. And I came here."
"It's miserable and dangerous, but I can fight for good here, and nobody tries to shut me up."
So, who do we talk to to get in?
You don't. You've convinced me you're not spies for the Giants, they're not so concerned with other people. There's a passage in the north wall you can squeeze through. That that to get in.
I spotted this on the map.
And if we weren't distracted by the priest, we would have come over here first, I know.
No need to be sarcastic about it.
Yes there is!
A sally port. How useful.
Welcome to scenic... whatever this town is.
Bargha, vole. And don't you forget it.
Let's just stick together for now. I don't want people to think too badly of us.
I will never cease to be amazed by that fortification. It would take an army to break through it.
Or spies to sneak through that passage.
Which we are not!
Sometimes, I think you do that to deliberately distract people.
Do I look that smart?
That's a trick question and we both know it.
Oh, pardon us.
This damned Archer. Stayed in this hallway forever! Well, at least several hundred turns, blocking me from accessing the stores here. It was frustrating enough that I went to shoot up some Sectoids for a while before coming back.
Food. However, this guy does have something interesting to say when you talk to him about his job:
He sighs. "You may purchase food from my meager, meager wares. I once had much better. The Abyss produced some fine victuals. Then, alas, our enemies came."
Enemies? You mean the Giants?
He looks at you with mild hostility. "Yes. You voles probably have never heard of the giants, but they're here, killing us, and you don't lift a finger to help. You cast us out, and watch us die." He says all this in a strangely flat voice. "The Abyss used to be a good place. Now all that is gone."
There isn't a secret passage here. Let's try from around the south.
A huge, muscular man moves nimbly among the kegs and boiling pots clustered behind the bar. Great purpose and determination shows in his eyes. "Greetings, outsiders. I am Calder!"
What do you do here?
"I cook and brew for this whole god-forsaken outpost! The few travellers we get, and the many fighters we support, they come here for my fresh stew. For you, two gold a bowl. And we have an empty room with clean bed free. Five gold."
Hey wait! I remember! You're the guy who wanted to talk to Art about her scimitar!
You barely get the word out of your mouth before he swings close to you. "Quiet!" he hisses. "There are those all around who will kill you if they hear you say that word. We've been watching you. You have potential to do us all much good. There is a stairway hidden behind this inn. Go down it. The password is 'Phaedrus.'"
Ember, you are either the best spy, or the worst one. I can't tell the difference.
Would not a good spy be able to deflect suspicion like she has?
That first presumes that she's an intelligence operative in the first place. She could just be playing the part.
You know I'm standing right here, right?
And that's why I'm standing back here.
Is it just me, or does this place have too many secret passages in it?
Let us go downstairs. No sense in worrying over such things.
This is quite elaborate.
Huh, the pool on the surface has no corresponding body of water at this depth.
That is what you take from my mapping skill?
Still, this is a lot of supplies.
A pale man sits at this table, calmly picking at a bowl of cold stew. He looks at you disinterestedly.
I'm Duncan. And you are?
So, um, what'cha doing down here?
"Just sitting around."
"Ah, yes. I've been told of you. You are being given a chance to join the Scimitar, secret defender of the people of Exile against the monsters who put us here. All you have to do to join our band of rebels is complete a simple little mission."
What she said. This mission of yours? What can it do to match what we've already done?
"We have found out that, in the southwest corner of the Cave of Spirits, to the south of here, the surface worlders have a secret base, from which the watch us, and report back through a crystal sphere. It should be an easy thing for you guys.
And what does this sphere do?
It is a large orb, which enables then to communicate with those above. Your job is to attack their fort, and destroy the orb. This will severely damage their communications with the surface world. When you have done so, come back, and use the password again."
"Oh! And watch out for the gremlins."
Gremlins? Vile creatures.
"The cave you are looking for will have lots of gremlins in it. Be careful about them - they'll strip you of food in an instant!"
And what if we choose not to? Or lie about it?
"We have our seers and masters of scrying, and we know you have not completed your mission. Don't come back until you have."
Well, that was annoying of them, imposing on us like that.
And yet these people may be able to help us. If they are tracking Empire movements here in Exile, then perhaps they know where they come in.
And thus, where to get out.
You see a shy, eerily pale little girl.
Hey! I'm Art! What's your name?
She says "Molly" in a voice you can barely hear.
Molly. That's a nice name. Hey, what are you doing here?
Oh, honey, of what?
She shies away from you. "Giants thwow fings. Woud. Scares me." It is clear you scare her too.
This game can get really depressing sometimes.
What do we have here?
Why are these bodies not buried properly?
Let's find somewhere else to be.
Searching the bodies reveals two things. The first is 71 gold on one of them, and another gives Major poison to everyone in the party, which Art cures right up.
What do we have here?
Or perhaps they are too busy with important matters to attend to such things.
Hey! A man with puffy brown hair and a harried expression wanders around mumbling. He wears nice clothes and some sort of badge of office.
Duncan, First EEC. And you are?
"I'm Maher. Mayor Maher. Welcome to Bargha. I know you're voles, but we need all the help we can get."
What do you mean by help?
"Well, I mainly organize and provide tactics for the soldiers here. Bargha is the last bastion against the giants."
We've encountered a few of them ourselves, those Giants to the east.
"Yes. Stupid, vile creatures. They attacked us because it was something to do, and now they refuse to stop. We keep looking to you people for help, and you ignore us!"
You asked for help?
"We've sent messengers to King Micah again and again, telling him of the horrors. He hasn't sent a person to help. Not one sword. Not one mage. What I wouldn't give for a group of dedicated adventurers."
Well, in case the news didn't reach you, Micah's had his own problems. The Sliths were pressing in from the North, and they were backed by Demons led by Grah-Hoth. Only after Sss-Thss and Grah-Hoth were killed was Micah able to free up someone to help you.
He grins, not entirely pleasantly. "I'm afraid I don't have any reward to offer you. But I can tell you the giant fort is to the east, and they own great wealth. Oh, and there is a secret passage out in the northeast corner of town. You can use that to get out and get to the giants more quickly."
Thank you sir, and we'll put that on our list of things to do.
An ancient, heavily wrinkled man peers at you through a barred window. His armor hangs off him loosely. I am Bela."
Lugosi, not Swann, thankfully
What's a man like you doing here?
He emits a rattling cough. "Ach." He spits on the floor. "I'm too old to defend the wall, so I watch the gate. If you want to enter the city or the outer world, let me know."
In that case, could you please let us out?
"Yeah, I hear ya." He turns a heavy wheel, and the portcullis at the entrance opens.
Time to leave.
Anyone else get the feeling that town was supposed to be approached from the West, not the East?
You know, for a group whose membership claims that they need to protect their identity, they're pretty open about these sorts of things.
They act like an insurgency.
Is it contractual to live in the Abyss that you must hate every other person out there?
So, where do you guys think this cave of spirits is?
Probably scree cavern where we found Drath's lair? I know we didn't really poke around too much in there.
That's a long walk.
I hate long walks.
Let's see if this is the right cave.
I would say so.
And make that a third empire outpost. This is no coincidence.
Let me check for life signs.
And it's in use. There are also a few Gremlins, but they should be easy enough to exterminate.
A portal. The cinches it.
There's also no obvious way into this cave on the west side. I think we'll have to teleport in somehow.
And that one is placed weirdly.
Ah, there we go.
You know, one day stepping into one of these things will be the wrong thing to do. WHEEE!
What is that other seal doing here? If this was an official Imperial Outpost, then only the seal of the Empire would be here. That other one means that a regional lord is sponsoring this place.
Perhaps the Empire thinks to make a Duchy out of Exile?
That's very forward thinking of them, as they would have to assume that they have already won to design a seal for this place.
I don't know, this one seems familiar.
Hrm, this seems even odder.
Way to go. Now they all know we're coming.
I don't suppose you would just let us through?
How I kill everyone in the Fort. I love being on the right side of choke points.
What is this for?
Probably a way to deactivate the alarm.
Not going to pull it?
Nah, too late.
This is quite a bit of supplies. This place is well-supported, that's for sure.
This should take us to the other side of the cavern, where we couldn't go before.
This looks like the place.
One tiny peek won't kill me.
I wish I had Demonslayer!
No, we're not going back for it!
Hey, Rook, here's a better Bow for you!
Let's do this right, this time.
Right, down the hidden side passage to get out.
Or there could be nothing down there, and there really is only one portal out.
Actually, it isn't. It leads right back to the Empire outpost. What you have to do is throw the lever (which is on a timer), and run for the portal in the outpost to get out.
That's done. So, back to Bargha?