Part 31: Red Stone Tablet- Red Stone Tablet
After meeting with Fisk I returned to my hut and slept until morning. Once I awoke, I journeyed out into the swamp to find the portal that would return me to the Water Mages' camp.
From there I took another portal to the canyon where I met up with Greg to report my findings.
Greg was sitting at his usual spot in front of his shack.
"The bandits have found a gold mine." I told him.
"I knew it! That's why they came here. Nobody would volunteer to live in this monster-ridden bog. Good work. Here, I've got something for you." Captain Greg tossed me a modestly sized purse of coin. I put it away and wandered over to the beach.
Since my last visit, I'd discovered who was responsible in the death of Bill's friends.
"I know who murdered Angus and Hank."
"Who? Who did it?" he asked eagerly.
"His name is Juan, he's one of the bandits."
Bill scowled. "You've got to do that bastard in, do you hear me? He must not get away with this."
"Juan is history."
"And? Did he suffer?"
"Come off it, kid!" I loudly replied. I wasn't in the habit of torturing people.
Bill looked slightly disappointed. "Oh well. Just as long as you killed the swine."
From the Pirate encampment it was back to the Water Mages' staging area. Then I went back through the large portal and returned to Khorinis. From there, it was a short jog to the city.
In the city I found Zuris. I'd known he had a trading relationship with the southern islands and would likely have what I needed. As it turned out, he did. I purchased the red tear-peppers and once again made my way back to the ruins.
In the room with the portal, I took the time to brew the memory restoring concoction. It wasn't difficult, but I just hoped I had prepared it correctly. Any deviation from the formula would result in the users' immediate, painful death.
My trip to and from Khorinis had taken many hours. By the time I returned the sun had already set. I
"Teach me that language." I asked
"The high language of the priests is truly difficult to understand. But I will gladly show you: Above all else, the holy scriptures, which explain the history of the creators, are written in the language of the priests. Each of these texts is a real treasure, if one understands their meaning." Myxir spent the next couple hours tutoring me in the High Priest's dialect. "Go and test your new knowledge. You will see that the scriptures of the builders are no longer an unsolvable mystery for you."
Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to do a few things on my last trip to the Pirate camp. I made another quick stop there.
When I'd killed Juan, I'd also found the bottles that Skip had lost.
"Here's your 20 bottles." I told him.
"What? Really? Just like that?"
"Weeell..." I didn't feel like going into the details.
"Okay. I'll pay for them."
"Haven't you got anything more interesting than gold?" I didn't have much use for any more money. My purses were already overflowing as it was.
"Mmh. Let's see, I've got this ring here. Back then, the guy told me it was magic. No idea whether that's true. Maybe you want that instead of money?"
"Give me the ring."
"Here you are." I took the ring and gave it a once over. It contained similar engravings to the one I'd found on the beach a few days ago. It seemed to belong to a set and something told me that there was also a matching amulet.
Next, I went to visit the camp's brewer.
"I've got a recipe for you!" I told Samuel.
He looked excited. "Great, let me see. What kind of recipe?"
"It's from Snaf."
"But that sounds terrible." He said, looking over the recipe. "I must try it at once!"
"Be careful - that's absolutely deadly stuff!"
"You're scaring me. But I'll give it a try anyway." Samuel grinned. He offered to sell me some of his new booze but I needed to get back.
A few short hours later, I was back at the bandit camp.
I found Fortuno at his usual spot.
"I have a potion for you. It will help you to remember."
I handed the potion to Fortuno. "I trust you." He drank it down quickly and stood there, staring at me.
"And..?" I eagerly asked.
"Aah! I remember again. Now I see... Adanos be with me - what have I done?"
"Yes, what have you done? And above all - what has Raven done?" After all this time, I still had little idea what the former Ore Baron was up to.
"I helped him... to make contact. With HIM. He wanted various elixirs... I brewed them for him. He tried to open the portal to get into the temple."
"Why? What does he want in the temple?"
"A powerful artifact. It lies buried together with the one who once bore it. A mighty warrior who fell to HIM."
"We couldn't open the portal but Raven was SURE that he could if he had the tomb of the priest excavated. That's why he brought the slaves here. victim he could force to dig where the powers of time lie at rest."
"Tomb of the priest?"
"The resting place of the priest of Adanos. It lies in the mine. I also remember the stone tablets. He believed that they would show him the way. Once he was able to decipher the characters on them, he no longer needed me. He put a spell of forgetfulness on me and... and you have freed me."
Raven was trying to awaken some great evil. I had to stop him, and fast. I hurried away.
Fisk had mentioned getting me some armor at a discount when I returned his package. It was time to take him up on that.
"I need armor. Fisk said you'd give me a good price?"
"Fisk, you say? Hm, well, I still owe him a favor."
I looked over the armor and liked what I saw. I counted out fourteen hundred coins and gave them to the man.
In return, I received a well crafted set of bandit armor. It wasn't the best investment I'd made but it'd make the upcoming duel with Esteban all that much easier.
I approached Esteban, his two guards standing just behind him.
"About the assignment-"
"Listen," Esteban interrupted, "I have other things I have to take care of."
"I thought you might be interested in knowing who was behind the attack." I stated coyly.
Esteban immediately perked up. "Who is it? Tell me his name so my guards can wring his neck."
"The trader Fisk is behind it. At the moment he's sitting in the bar unsuspecting and drinking."
"Ha! Well done, kid. My guards will take care of him." He turned to the guards and gestured violently at the tavern. "You heard him boys. Go get Fisk."
"And what happens next?" I wondered.
"What happens next? I'll tell you what happens. Fisk will die a painful death. And everyone in the camp will find out about it. That will be a warning to all of them."
"Do I get a red stone now?"
"You did your job well. Someone like you has no business in the mine. I can use you much better out here. You will stay in the camp and continue working for me."
"I'll think about it." That wasn't the deal we'd made. I wasn't pleased.
"You're forgetting who you're talking to. I'm in charge here and you will do exactly what I say. And I say you will work for me and no one else. Is that clear?"
Any desire I had to end this without bloodshed was now gone. Esteban had messed with me one too many times. "Are you trying to play me for a fool? There was never a question of me working for you."
"It isn't everyone who gets an offer like this. But if you don't want it, you're free to leave the camp."
"How about if you keep your word and give me a red stone?"
"Hey - one more word and my guards will have to hurt you, too."
"What guards?" I replied, grinning ear to ear. I unsheathed my sword.
"What...? Ah, I see. You're trying to pull a fast one, just wait..."
Esteban was a more talented fighter than most. It was no surprise he'd gotten where he was.
In the end, though, his combat prowess wasn't enough.
From his body I took what valuables I could find, which were no doubt taken from the diggers, as well as the five red stones that would allow me entrance into the mine.
I went back to Fisk to tell him the good news, passing the two fresh corpses of Esteban's guards on my way.
"Esteban is finished." I said.
Fisk was pleased. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. I think you've got things to do now, and I need to go back to my business. So if you need anything else, you know where to find me."
After meeting with Fisk I returned to my hut to sleep until morning.
As soon as I was awake and ready, I walked up the stairs to the shack that Thorus used as his own.
He stared at me blankly. "Don't you remember me? From the Old Camp..." I said. I wasn't too surprised, though. Despite all that I'd done, no one seemed to remember me.
"You were one of the prisoners? Maybe you were one of my guards? And? Does that make us allies now? No, it doesn't. Maybe you're the guy who brought down the Barrier - maybe you also killed my pals. So what? Those times are over."
I cleared my throat and presented to him the red stone tablet. "I have a red stone tablet here..."
News of my deed last night had already spread. "Okay. You killed Esteban so YOU will do his job now. They have a few problems with mine crawlers in the mine. Three diggers have bought it already. It's your job to provide replacements."
"And when can I finally get into the damned mine?"
"Do your job - afterwards you can do what you want."
I began to leave the hut when I noticed just how ornate and interesting Thorus' armor was.
"Hey, what's with your armor? Where can I get armor like that?"
"You can't. This armor is reserved for Raven's guard. I hardly think there's an entrance exam for new candidates. But the ultimate decision isn't mine, it's Raven's."
I returned to the camp to find myself some diggers.
Lennar, Finn, and Emilio had all helped me a good deal during my stay here and, on top of that, seemed to actually be talented miners. I chose the three of them to accompany inside the mine and then I returned to Thorus.
"I sent out three guys."
"All right. Then as far as I'm concerned, you can go in."
"It's important that I get to Raven." I said to him. I doubted he could help me, but it was worth a shot.
"Oh yeah? Do you really think you can make it through to him? His guards have orders not to let ANYONE in. You'd be dead before you even saw him. So knock it out of your head."
Just inside the inner portion of the camp I was shocked to see another teleporter platform. Against my better judgment, I activated it. I figured that if anyone crossed over they would be taken care of my by the cadre of mages on the other side. Besides, I was almost done here anyway.
On my way to the mine, the on duty guard stopped me.
"So, on your way to the mine?"
"Then watch out for yourself. Watch out better than these guys who are scattered all over the place here did." He grinned and pointed to the dead slaves lying scattered.
"Why are they dead?"
"They worked themselves to pieces." He laughed.
I ignored him and continued on.
Inside the mine was another set of guards, as well as a supply station of sorts. One of the guards greeted me eagerly.
"Hey, do you want to go digging? Then don't forget to stock up with Scatty." He gestured to the man behind the counter.
"What do I need?"
"Well, at the very least a pickax. And some provisions can't hurt. Or how 'bout some healing potions? There are mine crawlers down there." Some more healing potions didn't sound like a bad idea, now that I thought about it. I turned to Scatty, the vendor.
"How's business?" I asked, half interested and browsing through his assortment of goods.
"Since the tomb has been opened, there hasn't been much demand. Raven has no more use for the slaves. That's why they're mining gold now. On Bloodwyn's orders. And the diggers are taking it easy. Diggers who take it easy aren't good for business." The mention of that name got my attention.
"Bloodwyn? Is he in charge here?" I recalled him from the Old Camp. He'd tried to extort protection money from me and, when I refused, he had me beaten up by other diggers.
"He oversees the mine. But he's almost never down here. He spends most of his time with Raven in the temple. "
"What exactly does 'almost never' mean?"
"The last time I saw him was when he came out of the tomb. No, wait! The last time he was here was when he sent the slaves to mine the gold. Unlike Raven, he is VERY interested in gold."
"What sort of tomb?"
"A cursed unlucky tomb! The guardians of the tomb have killed many men!"
"Guardians? Are you talking about creatures of stone? Rather flat with a round head?"
"That's exactly what I mean! They came out of the depths of the stone by the dozen. I knew from the beginning that it wasn't a good to dig out the tomb but Raven was possessed with the idea of digging there and once the tomb was finally uncovered he marched in there with his guards."
"What did Raven want in the tomb?"
"Hmm. You're pretty curious. You remind me of a fellow I once knew. He was just as curious, and eventually it was his undoing."
"Get to the point. What happened in the tomb?"
"Well, ehm, my throat is really dry."
I didn't have time for more of that drink shit. "Hey, Scatty, NOT NOW. This is important, so what did Raven do there?"
"All right." Scatty took a deep breath."He called... summoned something. He kept calling out words in a foreign language. Bright light poured out of the tomb and then I heard a scream that cut right through me - a demonic scream. That's all I know. At that moment Bloodwyn came out of the tomb and said I should beat it. And that's what I did. It also didn't take long before Raven and his boys disappeared back into the temple. Since then Raven hasn't been seen."
I purchased a few small things and went on my way.
I took a moment to check my weapons and jogged into the mine.