Part 37: Proof
The trip through the mine cost me the rest of the day. When I emerged on the other side it was night.
I made my way back through the pass to the entrance. Strangely, I spotted a robed fellow just outside the gate.
When I neared, the robed humanoid raised his arms and called down some sort of curse upon me. Who was this?
"Now you shall feel the power of the Master" the robed man hissed. "You cannot elude it."
Whatever this thing was, it wasn't friendly. I drew my blade and attacked.
He hit me with a fire spell, but otherwise I was fine.
On the other side of the gate, the knights were dead, no doubt killed by the same thing that had attacked me.
On the corpse of one of the knights I found a rune to this very pass. I took it and carefully wandered down the road. I needed to get to town and deliver my report.
Across the stream I could see another figure in the distance. As I got closer I could see that it was Lester! He must have been feeling better.
"Hey, you're finally back! You have to go see Xardas, there's a problem."
"That I certainly believe."
"All hell's broken loose since you left. Talk to Xardas, he's waiting for you! Xardas gave me this rune for you. It'll help you get to him faster. We'll meet again there."
I took the rune lester offered and called upon its magic. Within moments I found myself before Xardas' new tower.
I climbed to the top and found Xardas poring through some magic tomes.
"I'm back from the Valley of Mines." I said, as if it wasn't obvious enough.
"High time, too. What did you see?"
"You were right. The land has been overrun by an entire army of the enemy. Orcs are besieging the castle and dragons have laid whole areas to waste. It won't be long before they attack Khorinis if I'm not mistaken. Lester said you wanted to see me at once. What the hell happened here in the meantime?"
"The enemy has learned who you really are and that you are planning to get hold of the Eye of Innos. He has recognized the threat. It has forced him to leave his cover and openly attack. The game of hide-and-seek is over. Yesterday nobody knew what the enemy's attack would look like. Now it has become only too obvious."
"I was attacked by magicians in black robes."
"The enemy has many faces. The Seekers are one of them. They're really the ones who prepare the ground for the enemy. They have taken up their positions in strategic places and are now waiting for an opportunity to spring the trap. Stay out of their way! They are very powerful, magical beings and they shall try to deter you at any cost."
So I'd gathered. "I've finally got the proof that Lord Hagen demanded of me."
"What proof is that?"
"I received a letter from Garond, the commander of the paladins in the Valley of Mines. In it, he asks for reinforcements."
"That should be enough to convince that militant warhorse. Well done."
"What will be the next step now."
"Go and bring Lord Hagen the letter from Garond so that he may grant you access to the Eye of Innos. Then go to the monastery and talk to Pyrokar. He must give you the eye. Nothing is more important than getting this artifact away to safety. Go now before it is too late. The enemy will also try to lay his hands on it."
On my way back to the city from Xardas' tower, I ran across Cavalorn's old campsite. It seemed a couple of Wargs had taken up residence here. I was able to get rid of them, but the fact that these Orcish pets had made it this far inland was troubling.
I made it to Lobart's farm. He had a shrine to Innos on his property so I thought to seek a blessing.
Unfortunately, it was useless. Whatever Darkness the Seeker had afflicted me with was clouding my mind and preventing any kind of divine connection to be made.
I cut through the farmer's land and found myself in front of the city. Two seekers were nearby, I could feel their presence.
The nearer of the two threw a fireball at me, though I easily sidestepped it and pressed the attack. In melee these evil beings were nearly useless, it was only at range did they pose a threat.
When I got inside the city I first retired to the inn for a night's rest. It didn't prove to be very relaxing, though. Throughout the night I was tormented by terrible nightmares.
After waking the following morning I set out to meet with Lord Hagen. I stopped by Abuyin, the fortune teller, to see what he could see in my future.
His reading was as cryptic as always:
"You shall force... what is nobody's destiny but yours. Through fire and snow... through ice and flames...Men in foreign armor... a swamp... lizards.. they await you."
I also stopped by my mentor, Bosper, to sell him the skins I'd collected since I last saw him. In total, I sold 16 wolf skins, 3 warg skins, and a troll skin for about 500 coins.
On my way into the upper quarter, I passed a man who seemed reasonably familiar. It was only on second glance that I'd realized it was: Diego!
"Good thing you're here. You need to help me." he said.
"What kind of clothes are these?" I asked, barely holding back my laughter.
"I bought them from a trader outside of town. The guards wouldn't let me in at first. Also, there's no need to let the whole world know where I come from."
"You've got a point there." Despite the impending orcish threat, the residents didn't look too kindly on convicts.
"That' the way I see it. But even though I have doffed my Shadow garb, I'm still who I always was. I have big plans for this city."
"What is this about?"
"A lot of things have changed since I left here. I have to get back on my feet somehow."
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"I have to get into the upper quarter but I'm not a citizen of the town, and I don't have enough money to bribe the guards. That's where you come in."
"So you want me to lend you some gold?"
"Nonsense. I've got some gold - a whole lot of gold, even! Unfortunately, I don't have it with me. You need to go fetch my gold for me."
"Okay, I'll help you."
"Well. Listen. Back when the barrier was still in place, I hid a small treasure. It's been quite awhile. That's why I forgot to take it with me and I can't leave here at all at the moment. To cut a long story short, you must go to the Valley of Mines for me and fetch my gold."
"Where's the gold hidden?"
"Directly at the trading square, above the abandoned mine. It's in a leather satchel. Don't forget to check that it's the right one so you don't walk all that way for nothing!"
"How can I recognize it?"
"It's full of gold. A whole lot of gold!"
"Where'd you get all that gold?"
"Am I the only one, then, who put some gold aside for himself in the Valley of Mines? Filching a few nuggets was a piece of cake. Just in case we ever got out of there. Everybody was so keen on that ore that no one even cared for gold at the time."
"I'll find your gold."
"Just do it. That's enough for me."
Next, I entered the upper quarter. It was the same as it usually was.
I marched inside the governor's mansion to present my evidence to Lord Hagen.
I withdrew the letter and handed it to the Paladin. "I bring you news from Garond. Here, he gave me this letter for you."
"Our situation is worse than I had feared, but report to me on the situation in the Valley of Mines."
I nodded. "The paladins are holed up in the castle in the Valley of Mines, surrounded by orcs. There were many causalities in the prospecting operations, and there's barely any ore left. Well, I should say that, without any help, the lads are lost. That's how it looks."
"I shall find a way to rescue this expedition. You have done much for us. Innos will thank you."
"I'm not at all interested in his gratitude. I want his eye."
"Yes, of course. I stand by my word." An assistant handed a letter to Lord Hagen, who then handed it to me. "Take this letter. It will open the monastery gates to you. Speak with Pyrokar, the highest Fire Magician, and show him this authorization. He will grant you access to the Eye of Innos. One more thing, before you go. Take this rune as a token of my gratitude. It will take you safely back to the city whenever you want."
On my way to the city gate, I stopped by the marketplace to see what new was in stock.
Unfortunately, it seemed I'd gained something of a reputation.
"Beat it, convict!" the Merchant Hakon said "Canthar told me what a nasty bastard you are!"
Canthar had been released? I walked over to his stall.
Sure enough, there he was.
"Oh, here you are again." he said, grinning.
"Why aren't you in jail?" I asked.
"I have been released. As I already told you - I am an influential man in the city. Now word is out among the merchants that you are a convict. A regrettable affair - now you won't be bale to get even a piece of bread here in the marketplace. I could, of course, sort things out for you for, shall we say 500 gold pieces?
Without ability to stock up on supplies here I'd be constantly on the verge of running low on supplies. I had no choice but to grin and bear it. I dug out my coin purse and handed the money to the crooked merchant.
"Good. Then I shall see to it that your reputation with the merchants rises once again."
Over in the center of town, I found Cavalorn. I'd found his pouch when I was in the valley so I walked on up to him.
"I was at your hut in the Valley of Mines." I said.
"So it's still standing. Did you find it?"
"If you mean your pouch with the lumps of ore... yes, I have it."
"You're a fox, you know that? Do you have it with you? I'll give you 100 gold coins for it."
"Why did you leave it there in the first place?"
"I had no idea that ore was so valuable here in Khorinis. For one measly piece of ore, you couldn't get so much as a place to sleep back in the penal colony. In the harbor city, they'll practically bash your skull in if they find out you have ore on you."
"Give me 100 gold coins and I'll give you your ore back."
We made the exchange. "You're a real friend. Thanks a lot." Cavalorn said.
Next, I wanted to find out why Canthar had been released. I went to see Andre in the Militia headquarters. He had no information about it, but I took a moment to tell him about the missing people.
"I've been able to rescue some of the missing people."
Andre was angry. "And here I was wondering where the HELL you've been all this time! You're a member of the militia! You were not given orders for such an action! How many people did you find?"
"All of those who were still alive."
"All? I.. er.. I am so proud of you! And I'm glad that I let you join us. Here is your pay. That was a grand deed."
Since I was already here, I wanted to see if any other criminals I'd had arrested had been let go. When I entered, the jailer stopped me.
"Hey, you're the guy who filed a complaint against Canthar. Lots of people came here to vouch for him. Well-respected people. The matter must have been a misunderstanding. These things happen. In the future, you should be more careful about who you send to jail."
Fernando was still in the cell I'd left him in, but I noticed that two others had also been placed in a cell: Borka and Bennet, the mercenary smith.
Borka was unresponsive, so I asked Bennet. "How come you're in the slammer?"
"Those swine have thrown me in a hole. I'm supposed to have murdered a paladin. I didn't do it. They're only trying to frame me."
"Why would they do that?"
"How would I know? You've got to get me out of here. Talk to Lord Hagen, tear down the wall, who cares - just do something!"
"I went downtown with Hodges to buy some supplies for our boys. Suddenly we heard a loud scream and the south of running feet."
"Get to the point." I told him.
"We knew at once that something had happened and that they would grab us at once if they saw us there. We ran like hell. Then, just before we got to the city gate, I tripped and sprained my ankle. The rest is soon told. The militia was on me at once, and they threw me straight into this hole."
"Who was murdered?"
"I have no idea - one of the paladins, I don't know them."
"Have you got a name?"
"Some Lothar, I think. Well, I don't know. I'm not really sure. You had better ask Lord Hagen. He knows all the details."
"Do they have any evidence against you?"
"They say they have a witness who recognized me."
"Do you know who the witness is?"
"No. All I know is that he's lying."
"Who leads the investigation."
"Lord Hagen himself. Since the victim was one of the paladins, this falls under martial law."
"What does that mean?"
"That's easy to guess. If I don't get out of here, they're going to let me swing without further ado. You've got to help me out or there'll be a war. Lee's not going to take this lying down. You can figure out what that means." He was right. The last thing we needed was a full blown civil war amidst this orc invasion. When I was back in town I'd need to talk to Lord Hagen about this.
I left the town through the gate and entered the nearby cave. I stepped onto the teleporter.
I found myself near the Dead Harpy. The path I needed to take was nearby, but I made a quick stop at the inn to buy some supplies. Interestingly, Orlan was selling a rune that'd return me to the tavern. I purchased it.
I left the inn and started walking down the path to the monastery.
I half expected to encounter some seekers on my way there, but I saw nothing but some scavengers.
A strange man stood by the bridge to the monastery. I approached him.
"Hey, you!" he shouted. "Ever been to the monastery?"
"Are they still taking on people? I wouldn't know where else to turn."
"Where do you come from?"
"I used to be captain of a big whaler, my boy. The sea is my home. My ship, the good old Magdalena, was sunk by pirates a few months ago, and now I'm stuck here. All I ever wanted was to go back to sea, but since I've come here, not one schooner has called at this accursed port. The only ship which is anchored in Khorinis is that blasted war galley of the King, and they don't take on anyone. So what else can I do? There's no work for me in town. I've tried everything."
"You'd better get off the road." I warned.
"Don't worry. I've already noticed that the wilderness out here has become damned dangerous in the last couple of days."
I passed him and walked across the bridge to the monastery.
My buddy Milten seemed to be guarding the gate.
"How did you get to the monastery so fast?" I asked.
"What kind of question is that? I crept through the pass and made my way straight to the monastery. Admittedly, it was never easy avoiding all the monsters making themselves at home on this side of the valley, but ultimately I encountered fewer problems than I'd expected."
"Do you know where the others are?"
"Gorn seems to have coped with his stay in Garond's dungeon very well. In any case, he wanted to go to Lee and see what was happening on the farm. After the grub they serve in the dungeon, he's probably stuffing his face right now and putting the mercenaries' provisions to a real test."
"Do you know anything about the hooded figures?"
"No, but I have a bad feeling about those guys. Be careful if you run into them."
"I need to get into the monastery, it's urgent!"
"I can't let you into the monastery. I'll get in trouble with the High Council. Without the permission of my superiors, I can't let anyone into the monastery."
"I've got a letter from Lord Hagen." I handed the rolled up letter to Milten.
"All right. Here's the key to the monastery. Pyrokar is in the church."
One of the higher ranking mages greeted me when I came in.
"I do not know why you were allowed to enter the monastery. I am Parlan, and I am responsible for our novices. I do not want you to keep them from their work with stupid questions. Is that clear?"
I nodded. "Sure."
"I certainly hope so."
"Have you got anything else for me?"
"Yes. As a member of the library, you are given the key to the library. There you will find Brothers Karas and Hyglas. If you like, you can speak with them there but leave my novices alone!"
I didn't have any reason to bother his novices. I walked into the chapel ahead.
The three mages of the High Council, Serpentes, Ulthar, and Pyrokar, were seated below a statue of Innos.
The head mage, Pyrokar, beckoned me closer.
"I've come from the old Valley of Mines." I told the council.
"What do you have to report?" Pyrokar asked.
"The enemy has formed up there with an army of orcs and dragons."
"We have already learned that from Milten - but what about the king's shipment of ore?"
"The mine they are digging for Garond in the valley cannot satisfy the demands of the king."
"The days are becoming grayer, and the light of the sun is even weaker.
"I was attacked by men in black robes."
"I know. Those are the Seekers. Henchmen from the nether realms of Beliar. Beware of them, they will try to take possession of you." That must have been what happened to me. "Once possessed, you will no longer be yourself. Only here in the monastery could you find help then. So be careful." Pyrokar removed a rune from one of his many pockets. "Here - this rune will bring you directly back to the monastery if you need our help.
I informed Pyrokar that I believed myself to be possessed. For 300 coins, he offered me a potion that would rid me of my affliction. I agreed.
"I've come to take the Eye of Innos."
"I see that you have received an authorization from Lord Hagen himself to bear the Eye of Innos. I am afraid I have to disappoint you. We have fallen victim to a treacherous plot of the enemy. The Eye of Innos has been violently taken from these sacred walls."
"Who did this?!"
"Evil is cunning and usually works in secret. Only rarely do you see it emerge to pursue its evil machinations in broad daylight. But these days, it's a different matter. The enemy now shows himself openly in the street, in every home, and every public square. That can only mean that he no longer fears from any adversary, and is not going to shrink back from anything. One of our most faithful followers, a candidate for the high robe of the Magicians of Fire, has changed his allegiance unexpectedly, and in an alarmingly evil manner: Pedro. The enemy has taken possession of him, thus inflicting a terrible defeat upon us. Pedro has forced his way into our most sacred halls, and stolen the Eye."
Pyrokar continued. "I fear that he has simply spent too much time by himself, outside of the gates and thus beyond the protective walls of the monastery, exposed to all lurking dangers."
"Where did the thief flee to?"
"Pedro knocked down some of the other novices who tried to stop him and disappeared into the morning mist. Many novices have gone after him to bring the Eye to its place unharmed. If you want to catch up to them, you need to hurry before Pedro disappears out of your reach."
Pyrokar was right. Time was of the essence. I left the monastery and set off to find this thief.