Part 23: The Other Side- The Other Side
Behind Saturas stood Nefarius.
"I'm tremendously relieved to see that you have arrived here unscathed." He said to me as I approached.
"How is that you arrived here before me?" I wondered aloud.
"We traveled through a curious dimension. Who knows what detours you took."
"And now? Can I use the portal again?"
"We came here directly. It obviously works quite well. Of course, I'll let you know if I have the suspicion that it could be otherwise."
That was enough for me. My long trip must have just been a fluke. "What have you done here up to now?"
"I am studying the history of the builders and am trying to understand why they closed the portal. It looks very much as though they wanted to hide the sunken city from the rest of the world. Terrible things happened here many years ago. They were seized by something awful. There was a dreadful civil war shortly before the downfall of the city, if their records can be believed. The streets were in flames, and a flood which devoured everything ultimately sealed the fate of the builders. The few who survived the inferno closed this part of the island in the hope of locking up the chaos."
"What made the builders so agitated?" I asked.
"One of their own devoted himself to Evil. He was a great commander named Quahodron. Returning from a successful battle outside the protecting walls of the city, he brought the Evil with him. All of his followers fell to the madness a short time later and began to battle with the common folk. The civil war that followed reduced everything to rubble."
"Did you say there was a flood?"
"Adanos himself appeared to them to end the madness. He razed the city to the ground."
I shook my head. "And we fools have reopened the portal." I said softly.
"I'm not happy about that either, believe you me. But what choice did we have? If we cannot stop what is happening here, then Khorinis will suffer exactly the same fate that once befell the builders of this ancient city."
It seemed as though the Water Mages had learned a fair amount while I was in limbo. I decided to go speak with each one to see what they could tell me. This was a new, unfamiliar land after all.
Myxir was studying some ruins nearby.
"Any new findings?" I asked.
"The builders of these ruins fascinate me! It is just too bad that their language is as dead as they are." Myxir said, rubbing his chin."Even their mighty rituals and summonings could not save them."
Myxir nodded. "The builders had a strong connection to the spirit world. If I have understood correctly, they believed they were in constant contact with their ancestors. They held regular summonings and rituals to ask the spirits for advice or to gain enlightenment."
"The undead that I know never had much to say." I joked.
"The builders did not create soulless undead such as zombies or other evil creatures. These spirits were the souls of great warriors, priests, and rulers. So far, I have no doubt that they really exist."
"How did these spirit summonings work?"
"The guardians of the dead had their special formulas they used to pacify the spirits. The descriptions I could find here, however, are in part very confusing. Only rarely do I get a clear answer to my questions."
"If I see a spirit, I'll let you know."
Myxir laughed. "Yes, I insist on it."
Cronos paced a ways behind Myxir, tending to some business of his own.
As I approached, he stopped to greet me. "Nice to see you. We feared the worst."
"It wasn't all that bad. How's it going?"
"This is a very dangerous region here. Some of the animals in the area have never been seen by anyone before us. Close by there is a large swamp that managed to grow for several hundred years without anyone noticing. Not a day goes by that we aren't attacked by the beasts from the swamp. I advise you to be careful if you go for a stroll here."
"Is there anything new about the stone sentinels?"
"We have already managed to eliminate some of them. They stand there, paralyzed like pillars of salt, and don't budge. But appearances deceive. If you get too close, they'll attack you! There's no doubt that the source of their power can be found here somewhere."
I recalled the two sentinels I saw in the dilapidated temple. It was clear that they were guarding something. Could it be their source? I made a note to see to it later, but right now they weren't bothering us and I had more pressing concerns.
Before leaving Cronos, I asked to see his goods. Thankfully, he'd managed to drag new supplies through the portal.
Of interest were some new spell scrolls and two Water Mage staffs. The staffs were of little use to me, but I bought a few scrolls and a map of the area.
Merdarion stood in the center of the ancient complex. The mage, having seen me near, put a finger to his mouth to keep me silent.
He stood silent for a moment, his gaze focused on some nearby stone pads. "Listen... Curious. Don't you think?"
"Mmh.." I grunted.
He gestured to the platforms, of a similar design to the ones we'd found near Khorinis and on the other side of the portal. "These teleporter stones don't appear to function and yet you can hear them hum. Although they aren't active, a certain energy rests in them nevertheless. "
"How do these teleporter stones get their power?"
"The builders were a highly developed people. They used properties of magic that we have never seen. A network of teleporter stones was built do that the builders could move quickly from one place in the city to the other. The stone HERE obviously forms a kind of center."
"What do you think needs to be done to activate them?" I said.
"I have an idea about that. I just need proof for my suspicion. I had a feeling days ago that I had seen this sort of construction somewhere before. I suspect that we have to supply them with a damn large amount of magical energy to get them back into service."
"What could provide enough magical energy--"
"I can think of one thing", Merdarion interrupted, " A magical focus."
"I mean one of the five focus stones that were used to create the magical barrier in the Valley of Mines. As far as I know, you had to get them back for us a while ago."
"Yes. I can remember." Back when I was in the penal colony, I was tasked to retrieve four of the five focus stones. It was quite the ordeal involving ancient ruins, deranged cultists, golems, and trolls. "You said you need proof for your suspicion."
"A magical focus should be connected to these stones but I don't know where. "
"Where are the focus stones now?"
"They were entrusted to me. I am supposed to keep them safe until we find another use for them. The way it looks, the time is ripe now."
"I've heard enough. Give me a focus stone and I will try to get the teleporters to work."
Merdarian reached into a pocket and withdrew one of the stones. "All right. But be careful with it, you hear? Saturas will have my head if we lose them."
The Mage Riordian was busy studying some Builder artifacts when I found him.
"Did you expect to find THIS here?" I asked, gesturing at the ruins surrounding us.
"Not at all. I am awestruck at how large the city must have been. Most of the buildings are buried under stone and earth, but the ruins that have survived the ages are spread all over the land. There must have been thousands living here."
"What will I find out there?" I said.
"In the east, there is a large fortress in a gigantic swamp. As far as we can judge from here, the bandits have taken refuge there. If I were you, I wouldn't go down there. They have set up so many outposts and guards. You had better avoid the swamp until you have more experience, or find a way around the bandits. In the west, we have discovered some pirates." I immediately thought of Greg and Skip. Riordian continued. "I'm not sure, but I believe they have also discovered us. They don't seem too perturbed by our presence, though."
Despite Riordian's warnings I wanted to get to this swamp. Saturas had spoke of another recruit he'd sent that way, as well as the body of a dead fisherman. I also wished to simply scout the area and, if I could, assess the strength and organization of the bandits.
Saturas stood amidst some ruins overlooking the swamp to the east.
I'd wanted to speak to him about some of the things I'd learned from the other mages, as well as get more details on some other things.
I walked up next to him and mentioned what Nefarius had told me. "Nefarius told me about a flood..."
Saturas nodded solemnly. "It is written that Adanos himself descended from heaven to punish the unbelievers and banish them to the realm of the dead. Aroused by his holy wrath, he let the sea fall upon the builders of this city and swept them away. The swamp to the east still bears witness to these events of the past."
"What could have made Adanos so angry?" I'd always understood Adanos to be the God of neutrality, the one who ensured balance between Beliar and Innos. To hear tales of him unleashing a massive flood on the land came as a shock.
"The temple of this city was once a great, glorious structure. Everyone honored it and prayed to our god Adanos. Rhademes, the son of the commander Quahodron, desecrated the temple. As a result, one after another fell victim to evil. I suspect that Adanos could not forgive this and his revenge fell upon the land. This makes it even more important that we stop Raven. He is about to do exactly the same thing."
The prospect of more divine retribution was not an appealing one. Of course, to prevent it I still had to figure out a way into their camp.
"Where will I find bandit armor that fits me?"
"There seems to be a camp of pirates to the west. As far as we know, they are in contact with the bandits. I do not think that they will attack you if you approach them. Perhaps you can find some help with them."
That sounded like a plan to me, especially since I already had potential contacts within the camp. First, however, I wanted to know more about the swamplands. "What poor swine did you send into the swamp?"
"His name was Lance. I am afraid he did not get very far."
I departed from the mage encampment and made my way down the old path that led to the swamp.
The hillside ruins were teeming with wildlife. Giant lizards, similar to those I'd seen on the rest of the island, made their homes in some of the crumbling building. I dispatched those that thought to eat me and continued on my way to the swamp.
As soon as I reached the bog, I was set upon by an unfamiliar breed of rat. This new species possessed a thick, scaly hide that made killing it slightly more difficult.
Another interesting creature I encountered was a flying insect that, when killed, exploded and released a poisonous gas. I made a note to eliminate them from a distance in the future.
I explored the outskirts of the swamp a bit more, looking for any sign of Lance that I could find.
I found his corpse a few feet away from a bridge that led to the bandit camp. His armor was in tatters, but he still possessed his aquamarine ring. I carefully removed it and tucked it into one of my pockets. Saturas would be glad to know it hadn't fallen into enemy hands.
With Lance's body discovered, I had no more immediate business in the swamp.
Despite that, I continued exploring the closer parts of the swamp, eliminating blood flies and other beasts along the way.
With the sun beginning to set, I decided to return to the encampment.
On my way back to the encampment, I began to explore some of the ruined buildings that littered the hillside. I found a few old weapons, coins, and even some buried silverware.
My most interesting discovery, however, was in the hut closest to the path.
A body lay just inside the hut. Past experience told me that it couldn't have been there more than a few days.
I walked closer to examine the body. A few animals had nibbled on the legs, but the rest of it was largely intact. I could see that it hands stilled clutched a rolled up scrap of parchment. I gently slid the note out from its stiff hand and looked the letter over.
The note was addressed to William, the fisherman's friend and one of the city's missing people. The next time I was in town I'd need to give him the bad news.
Saturas had moved up to the small hut that they'd turned into a barrack and work area when I returned.
"I found lance's body." I told him.
Saturas looked like he expected that. "May his soul enter the realm of Adanos. Be careful, my son, I do not want to mourn another such loss."
I withdrew the ring and handed it to the Mage. "I have Lance's aquamarine ring here."
"You had better give it to me so that it does not fall into the wrong hands."
My little adventure in the swamp made me realize just how ill prepared I was for this job. Just clearing out a few bloodflys, lizards, and rats made me low on arrows. I needed supplies and I needed them tonight.
I jogged through the ruins back to the portal, careful to once more avoid the stone sentinels. Back through the portal, I made my way to the Khorinis teleporter pad.
I stepped on the pad and quickly found myself in that familiar cave just outside the city. The equally familiar sounds of Orcish curses and swears could.
I ran as fast as I could from the cave. On my way to the city, I got a good look at the Orc who'd made the cave his home.
My first stop in the city was Bosper's shop. He was pleased to see me.
I browsed through his selection of new stock, eventually deciding on a new compound bow. I also bought up his entire supply of arrows.
Next, I went down to the docks to unload some goods I'd acquired in my travels. Halvor, the fish merchant fence, agreed to purchase all of my silverware for the sum of 400 gold coins.
While I was down here, I figured I should give Farim the news about his friend.
Farim, the fisherman, was at his usual spot on the beach.
"There you are again", he said, "Have you heard news of my buddy William, then?"
"He's dead." I said bluntly.
Farim sighed. "Yeah, that's what I'd been expecting. That's for coming back here to tell me. I'll go down to the pub and drink up his share of our last catch - that's what he would have wanted..."
I awkwardly gave him my condolences and walked back to the merchant district. It was now nearly midnight and I was exhausted. I found myself a bed in the barracks and slept until morning.
The first thing I did the next day was visit the militia blacksmith. I wanted to see if he'd gotten any new swords in stock. He hadn't. On my way out, however, I noticed a key hanging from Peck's belt. I made some small talk with him and subtly swiped the keyring while his attention was elsewhere.
The key was of the same make as the other four I'd found on other guardsmen. I immediately knew it would unlock the last tower.
The tower behind Thorben's home was the only one I'd not managed to unlock. The key unlocked the door and I swung it open.
A man was sitting just inside the tower.
"Hey, thanks, man, I mean, thank you, really. There I was thinking I'd never get out of here..." he said upon seeing me.
"What are you doing HERE?"
"I got locked in. The door was open and all I wanted was to have a little looksee - but as soon as I was inside, the watch came and closed the damn door. This is somewhat embarrassing. - I'd be grateful if it could remain just between you and me."
"I understand, that wasn't exactly something to be proud of." I said, examining a nearby war hammer.
Joe pushed himself to his feet. "I need a drink now."
Map of the new land
Stats as of the end of the update.