Part 14: The Water Mage's Ornament
The next morning I awoke and realized that I had no immediate obligations. Today's schedule was up to me. I decided to take a stroll outside town.
On my way out of the eastern gate, I walked by Rengaru, giving him the special thieves guild nod.
"Hey, you're one of us" he said, somewhat surprised. He beckoned me closer. "Let me tell you something: If you intend to empty some pockets in town, be especially careful with the merchants! They are pretty sharp at watching their stuff. But I can give you a tip. Try to grab the desired object with one hand, and wave about with the other. That distracts them." I thanked him for the advice and ventured onward, counting the money I had just taken from him while he blathered on
Previously I'd encountered a cave on the side of a cliff just below the lighthouse. I'd found an old orcish weapon and saw some vagrants at a makeshift camp. I decided that today I'd show them what we in the militia did to loafers.
Once they saw my uniform they ran straight at me, their clubs high above their heads. They intended to beat me but I had the upper hand. I fired arrow after arrow at them as they approached. Each arrow hit and soon both were dead.
Their camp had nothing of any real value, just some food and bottles of wine. I took what was useful to and left their small camp to go further into the cave.
What I saw next was quite a shock. A large statue of an orcish warrior adorned by spikes. It was difficult to tell the age of the thing but I knew it was old. It reminded me of the statues I'd seen in the valley of the mines. Just how long had these orcs been here?
I examined the area a bit more before returning to town and going down into the harbor district.
I stopped by the money lender to see how things were going. During our small chitchat I noticed a little book poking out of his pocket. While conversing with him curiosity got the best of me and I snatched it..
A few moments later I left, taking note of the gold chalice that decorated his fireplace. I decided then that I may have to pay another visit during the night.
When I was a suitable distance away and felt safe I peeked inside the ledger I'd taken. It seemed to detail the debts of three individuals who he'd lent money to. I wasn't sure what to do with this information just yet. I safely tucked it away in a bag and continued on my way.
I stopped by Halvor's fish stand next. I knew from past experience that Halvor had dealings with the Thieves Guild if he was not a full member himself. I gave him the nod as I approached to browse his wares.
"I see. You haven't come to just buy fish." He said. Halvor nervously rubbed his neck and glanced around to see if anyone else was near. "I'll make you an offer. If you have any silver plates or chalices - I'll take them for a good price."
Next, I took the time to go see Nagur and Kardif and give them both the nod to show that I was now one of them.
Nagur had only some advice for me.
"So you did it. Now you know who my employers are. Stick to what Cassia tells you - we don't care who are you otherwise - you're one of us, and that's all that counts."
Kardif, on the other hand, had a slightly more interesting offer. "Ah, you're involved with the gang. All right. In that case, I've got something for you. If you ever need some lock picks, come to me. I still have a few around. Just ask me for something to drink."
I went back over to the docks to see how Lares was doing. I must have forgotten to tell him that I joined the militia as he seemed a bit surprised to see me in the outfit.
"You're in the militia now", Lares laughed. "I'm gonna laugh myself sick - a former convict in the militia. Only you could pull something like that. You won't blow the whistle on me about working for Lee, will you?"
I chuckled and we chatted for a bit. Lares reminded me that he still needed to return the Ornament to the Water Mages.
"Let us take Vatras' ornament back." I said shrugging. I had nothing better to do at the moment.
"Then let's go. Follow me." Lares replied.
We left town through the eastern gate and took the path toward Akil's farm.
About halfway to the farm, Lares turned to me. "Now that we're no longer in town and cannot be overheard, let me tell you a little more. We are going to take this ornament that you brought me back to Saturas. You remember Saturas, don't you?"
Of course I remembered him. "Certainly. He was the leader of the Water Mages in the New Camp."
Lares nodded. "We lads from the former New Camp still have good relations with the Water Mages. Even Lee will still protect the Water Mages against any danger if it is within his power. To keep up contact with the Water Mages, I'm in town most of the time, working together with Vatras. "
Lares removed his clothing and revealed a set of armor beneath it. "This is the armor that is issued to each of us by the Water Mages. The members of the Ring of Water have been waring such armor since before the orc wars."
"What is Cavalorn's part in this? He wasn't a follower of the New Camp as far as I know. "
"You are right, our community has grown. Even I do not know how many there are by now. But let us move on. I want to get further away from the city. We can talk more about it later."
Lares and I kept on the path, traveling under the bridge and by the ambushed cart. I paused, glancing at Erol. Lares noticed my hesitation and turned to me again. "What's wrong? Are you still holding up?"
"That fellow over there has problems with bandits."
Lares shrugged uncaring. "Too bad for him, but we don't have time for that now. "
I shook my head. "Let's move on."
We arrived at the Dead Harpy and paused for a moment while Lares charted out the rest of the trip. A few minutes later we were back on the road, having taken the path that was located between Onar's farm and the Monastery.
We passed camp on the side of the road. The hunter sat on a bench, cleaning skins. He gave a curt nod to us as we passed.
Old cart ruts were evident in the path, having been partially filled in by lack of use. It was obvious that these trails were not used too much anymore.
While Lares dealt with some wolves, I approached a roadside shrine to give an offering of one hundred gold coins.
A bit further down the road and a few more dead beasts later, Lares turned to me, having noticed my obvious discomfort. I'd been pretty badly out of breath since the last encounter. I wasn't in the same shape I was before my injury.
"Don't you break down on my now." he said.
"Stop blabbing", I snapped, somewhat embarrassed. "Let's move on."
Lares grinned. "Stay close behind me."
We encountered yet another roadside shrine and one of those odd tablets. I took the tablet and continued behind Lares.
An old ambush scene was a short distance ahead. An old skeleton hung from a tree, several arrows still lodged between the ribs. More remains could be found off to the side of the road against the cart. Whatever had happened here it happened a long time ago. The scene was picked clean months or even years ago.
Lares stopped by the water just ahead and I took a moment to find my location on my map.
He then decided that it would be a good time to fill me in some more about the Water Mages and the Ring of Water.
"The water mages are all beside themselves. They've been digging at an excavation site in the north-east for weeks. It's any body's guess what they're trying to find there. It all started when the earth began trembling like it did in the worst times of the Barrier. Horrible stone creatures emerged from the ground, slaying everyone who went within 100 feet of them. The water mages took the matter in hand and destroyed those hostile invaders. And now they're digging down there, searching for an explanation for these strange events. But you will soon see for yourself."
The road ahead curved slightly and we came to a bridge. A single man stood before it and demanded money for entry. Lares ignored him completely and simply continued walking. The highwayman stopped me though I refused to pay. It came to blows and I emerged the victor.
Just over the bridge I came across yet another of those stone tablets. I took it and went to find Lares.
Lares was just ahead, having started a fight with a group of field raiders.
The two of us continued a bit further. The area opened up ahead, revealing a series of ancient ruins. Lares warned that it could get dangerous here.
I immediately saw why he'd said that. A small pack of snapped prowled the area. Lares, quite confident in his skills, charged ahead while I supported him with a hail of arrows.
I stood still for a few minutes, taking in the sights. I could feel a strange energy here but I couldn't quite place what it was.
Lares escorted me another few dozen feet to what he said was the entrance. He handed me the ornament and instructed me on what to do next. "Here, take the ornament. The Water Mages must be in there somewhere. Take it to them. If you should meet any beasts down in that hole in the ground that look like they're too much for you, flee forward to Saturas. He'll take care of the beasts for you. I need to go back. And one more thing: Don't even think about strolling around for too long with this ornament. Go DIRECTLY to Saturas."
Lares was pretty clear In his instructions so I pressed onward into the ruins. A few giant rats had made the tunnels their home, but as usual they were easy to get rid of.
I came across a problem a bit further in, however. What I'd thought were normal goblins turned out to be the reanimated remains of some. After some ineffective attempts at trying to fight them, I was forced to flee in the direction that I hoped would have the Water Mages.
Thankfully it did! Upon hearing my shouts and the sound of skeletal feet hitting the ground, Saturas spun around, a ball of flame held above his hand, and systematically destroyed the undead goblins.
He turned to me, still wary of any more undead incursions, and gave me a stern talking to. "Are you mad? Get out of here. It is too dangerous in these vaults for a would-be adventurer"
Satisfied that no more skeletons lurked around the corner, he looked at me and narrowed his eyes. "But say, don't I know you?" He scowled. "Of course. You bastard... Don't think that I have forgotten how you betrayed us in the New Camp"
Back in the mining colony, the New Camp had amassed a huge quantity of magic ore. During my work for Xardas, it was determined that the Water Mages' plan of detonating the ore would not destroy the barrier. In need of my own source of magical energy, I snuck down into the pit and used the power of the Ore Mound to re-power the legendary sword URIZIEL.
It seemed Saturas hadn't forgotten this betrayal.
"You drained our mound of ore of all magic power and then simply disappeared! What exactly did you think you were doing?"
"It was necessary", I replied. "Without the power of the ore, I could never have defeated the Sleeper."
Saturas grew angry. "What sort of drivel is that? Sleeper? Defeated? Do you have the slightest idea what you have done? You have confused the structure of magic so much that it could be heard back in Khorinis. Count yourself lucky that the Barrier simply collapsed one day."
"What are you complaining about? It worked out all right."
"Mind your tongue!" Saturas warned. "What the blazes do you want here anyway?"
"I brought your ornament."
"What in all the world is that supposed to mean?"
"Come off it now. I brought it to you. You do want it, don't you?"
"Certainly. But it disturbs me that YOU have your hand in the game once again. "
"Why are you making such a big deal about that old business with the ore mound? After all, I already worked for you back then. And you can't say that I was unreliable." Aside from the part where I stole the magic from their ore mound, that is.
"And what did it ultimately get me? Mpfh, just don't think that I trust you..."
I gave the ornament to Saturas. "I want to join the 'Ring of Water'"
"I don't know what I should say. I only trust you where I can keep an eye on you. "
"It was Vatras who told me about the Ring."
Saturas sighed resignedly. "What? Vatras?" His tone shifted from annoyed to sarcastic. "Wonderful! Of all the Water Mages on the island, you run into the one who DOESN'T know you. I'm warning you, don't do anything stupid this time."
"I'll make an effort" I said dryly. "What are you doing down here?"
"These halls conceal ancient secrets. Mysterious secrets. The inscriptions and murals indicate a very ancient culture. Everything you see here is written in a language completely unknown to us. We are only just beginning to learn it and grasp its meaning."
"Why is this ornament so important to you?"
"It is the key to a portal. I shall not tell you more, but since there's no way of stopping you from keeping the other mages from doing their work, you might as well take a message from me to one of them: Tell Riordian that I wish to see him here. He is in the rear part of the vault. You will find him there."
I found Riordian a bit further into the ruins right where Saturas had said he'd be.
"What are you doing?"
"I am studying the culture of the ancient people. Based on the inscriptions, they lived long before our time. I don't know exactly WHEN they erected these halls, but their civilization was highly developed. They built a city on the other side of the mountains. And a temple for Adanos. "
"A lost city on the island of Khorinis?" I said, surprised.
"Yes. Until now, we lived in the belief that we knew the whole island. We assumed that the entire northeast of the island was one enormous mountain range. But we were wrong. Behind these mountains lies a valley. The city of the ancient people was located there. I would only too gladly see the buildings of the city, but they have probably fallen to dust long ago.."
That sounded interesting. "Saturas wants to see you."
"Has he gotten further with his investigation? Then I will go to him immediately. If you want to learn more about this complex, talk to Nefarius. You'll find him further back in these vaults."
The next two room past Riordian were massive. The first room contained a recessed, decorated pit. In the second room, a large stone portal was built into the wall on the far side of the chamber while the left side of the room was covered in strange writing. I passed by two Water Mages and made my way toward the stone portal.
Nefarius was equally surprised to see me, though far less angry.
"What are YOU doing here? This is certainly a surprise. I thought you had been killed"
"Almost." I responded.
"There was quite a fuss about you, you know that? I hardly recognized Saturas, he was so beside himself about that business back then."
I gestured to the portal behind him. "What sort of portal is that?"
"We suspect it leads to the lost valley where the ancient culture must have had their city. But the stone behind the portal is made of massive rock, yards thick. Also, there are no signs of teleportation magic. Very mysterious..."
"Do you know how to activate it?"
"One of the missing ornaments seems to be a sort of magical key. We'll need it to get any further. It has to fit exactly into the ring-shaped hollow next to the portal."
"I brought a part of the ornament" I told him.
Nefarius was quite pleased. "Really? That's terrific."
"Do you have any idea where the other parts are?"
"According to the ancient inscriptions, it was broken into four pieces. And it looks as though the parts are still to be found on the island. With Merdarion's help, I have translated some of the inscriptions. There are hints as to where the remaining pieces are. Here." Nefarius reached into a pouch and handed me a rolled parchment. "I've marked some of the places on this map. Look around there. You should pay attention to old structures. They might be somewhat deteriorated and no longer clearly recognizable. It could be almost anything. A large rock, a stone circle, a mausoleum or something similar. But what am I saying? You'll find it. Good luck."
"Why was the ornament broken?"
"Whoever did it wanted to prevent the portal from ever being opened again. The longer I stare at the inscriptions, the more I realize the priests of the ancient culture really were no fools. There was a good reason that they made the region back there inaccessible. We don't know what awaits us there. But it certainly isn't anything good."
I went over to Merdarion to find out a bit more.
"Busy?" I asked.
"These vaults are one big mystery for me. It's hard to imagine that no one else should have found them before now. We were able to uncover the entrance without difficulty. People are so occupied with their daily routine that no one looked more closely at this structure. I have no other explanation for it." It occurred to me that the pirates may have found the hidden part of the island, but I kept my thoughts silent.
"What is your task here?"
"I am trying to find out where this round portal leads. Besides that, I help Nefarius look for the missing ornament. It is certain that this portal leads to another part of the island that we do not yet know. I can't remember ever having heard or read about that."
"What is the fastest way back to the city?"
"I recommend you go back the same way you came. But you could also--" He stopped himself and shook his head. "No. That would be too dangerous."
"Out with it."
"Well. The builders of these halls had their own method of traveling. As far as we could tell, they could teleport."
I shrugged. I'd done that plenty of times. "That's nothing special."
"The teleporter stones that we have found here in Khorinis are special indeed. It seems as though the teleporter stone here in these halls may lead to the harbor city. However, none of us has had the courage to try it."
"Where is this teleporter stone?"
"There is a door in the basin room. I have locked it up behind there."
"Give me the key. I want to take a look at this thing."
Merdarion looked at me unsure. "Really? But I take no responsibility for it."
I extended my opened hand toward him. "Give it here."
He placed it in my hand. "If you say so. Here it is."
"You really want to go through the portal?"
"Of course. Assuming we find the missing ornament, that is. I admit, it is a somewhat risky business. But we absolutely must find out what it has to do with these constant earthquakes."
"Can you teach me anything about magic?"
"Once we're over there, I'll be at your disposal."
"Where are the other teleporter stones?"
"So far, we have only found one other somewhere in the middle of Khorinis near the dead harpy tavern."
"What do you think you will find over there?"
"I'm not really sure. I suspect that, on the other side, there will be a structure similar to this one. And a counterpart to this portal. Everything we shall see when we get there."
"What do you know about the earthquakes?"
"Something on the other side is causing them. This source is probably also causing the stone sentinels to awaken. But that isn't my job. Saturas and Cronos can tell you more about that."
Merdarion had nothing else to say so I decided to see what Myxir over by the wall writings had to say.
"It's very brave of you to just walk in here." he said.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm studying the language of the builders. The language is the key to understanding the ancient people. Each one of us must learn it, or this expedition will be over before it even begins. The builders used stone tablets to pass on their knowledge. Unfortunately, many of them are broken or were stolen long ago."
"What's on these stone tablets, then?"
"They contain collected knowledge of the ancient people. Some of these increase knowledge of combat and magic by magical means. For someone who can read these tablets, they are a real treasure."
That sounded tremendously useful. "Can you teach me to read the language?"
"Well. Why not? I'll gladly pass on my knowledge to you. We'll start with something easy. To begin with, I can teach you the language of the peasants. As a rule, texts written in the language of the peasants deal with the worldly matters such as work, love, or obtaining food. It was the common language of the city. You will be able to understand most of the texts found here if you know it."
Within about an hour, I felt as though I had a solid grasp on the language.
I wanted to learn as much as I could before I left, though. I asked for another lesson and Myxir was quick to oblige. "You already know the language of the peasants. The language of the warriors is somewhat harder. Texts written in the language of the warriors mostly deal with weapons and war. You will learn some useful things there."
A few hours of tutoring later, I could confidently decipher the writings of the warriors and peasants.
"Go and test your new knowledge. You will see that the scriptures of the builders are no longer an unsolvable mystery to you."
I took this time to read a few of the tablets I'd come across previously. When that was done, I walked into the adjoining room to speak with Cronos.
Cronos was busy studying an engraving on the wall. I tapped him on his shoulder to get his attention. He turned and appeared shocked. "It's you! I never thought I would see your face again. It's very brave of you to show up here. There was a time when we would have skinned you alive. You can be glad that was a few weeks ago and we've all calmed down."
"What are you doing here?"
"My task is to find out more about the guardians of the temple. That is a tough nut, let me tell you. These stone sentinels have a characteristic that is utterly foreign to me. One moment they're standing around completely lifeless and the next they're attacking you like they're possessed. I still haven't been able to determine their driving power, but one thing is sure. It is of magical origin."
From the way the mages talked about them, these Stone Sentinels sounded quite formidable. "Tell me more about these stone sentinels." I said.
"I can't tell you much so far. Unfortunately, we have had to destroy them. Now they aren't dangerous. When we came here, they attacked us. We could only defeat them with our combined power, and I'm afraid there are even more waiting for us behind the portal. There must be a way to banish their driving force, so that they remain nothing more than statues."
I made a note to not be the first into the portal. "Can you sell me some equipment?"
"Why not? If I remember correctly, we've already done business. Tell me what you need."
I purchased some potions and scrolls and then went on my way.
I was ready this leave these ruins. From what Myxir told me, I'd be able to leave through a portal and would probably find myself near the city. First, though, I would get Saturas up to speed on my mission.
On my way out of the room something in the recessed part of the room caught my eye. I climbed down and checked it out. It was a stone tablet not unlike those I'd found before.
Using my new found knowledge of the language I was able to decipher it.
I found Saturas where I'd left him. "I am supposed to find the lost parts of the ornament for Nefarius."
"What? That is unbelievable! You are involved again?"
"Don't worry, I'll bring the things here."
Saturas sighed. "Do you at least know what you are looking for?"
"Nefarius gave me this map..."
I showed the map to Saturas and he looked it over. "Hmmm. It is very dangerous in the big forest. You should not go alone. Look for someone to accompany you in Khorinis. I do not want you eaten by monsters - and the ornament with you. Here is your map back."
"What sort of strange earthquakes are those?"
"That is one of the puzzles I am trying to solve. The structure of magic is being disturbed somewhere behind these mountains. Quite obviously, someone is trying with all his might to break a powerful magic. I fear it will not be long before the entire island is plagued by these tremors."
With what Saturas said I decided that the ornament in the forest would be my first target. I'd get the most dangerous portion out of the way first.
I went back to the previous room and opened the door to the portal.
The portal was a small circular disc with a magic field being projected and supported by four pylons. I muttered a quick prayer to Innos and walked into the portal.
A blue magic field surrounded me and I moments later I found myself in a cave.
A loud, angry roar erupted behind me. I turned my head only to see an Orc warrior barreling toward me. I quickly hightailed it out of there.
It turned out that I'd landed in the cave just outside the eastern gate of town. After I ensured that the Orc was not behind me, I went into town and toward the Barracks. It'd been a long day and I needed some sleep.
Once in town I went to the barracks and slept.
Other Notes: Character sheet as of the end of this update:
If you notice the odd extra 2% on the sword skill you'll see that I accidentally used a stone tablet too early. To those unfamiliar with how LP in NOTR works, there are a few milestones with skills that will increase the LP training cost for that particular skill. To start, every stat or skill starts at 1 LP per point. Once you hit 30 or so this changes to 2 LP per 1 point. So by using that tablet I screwed myself out of some free sword skill later. It's not a huge deal but it's still a bit annoying.
Video Supplement: http://gothic2.sankis.com/video/wm.html The trip from town all the way to the ruins.