Part 9: War and Peace ProfitUpdate 09: War and
So before we get started, let's see what our Butler has been writing about our adventures so far. This will determine whether we have a use for our new dungeon/torture chamber or no.
And now, back to our irregularly scheduled adventures.
So I'm guessing someone has a plan.
I'd be surprised if Stashley hadn't had a plan for financially exploiting a major war since she was ten years old.
Leora did help me with a few of the details.
Are you sure she's just a banker?
Man, someone's being awfully paranoid. Anyway, we're gonna be talking to royalty today, so let's make sure everyone's dressed nice enough to not get beheaded.
Except for the hat, I think Zina's looking pretty decent, if a bit murder hobo chic. I do desperately need to find her a crown or a nice hat or hood or something, though. She's only still wearing this dumb hat because it gives her an Alchemy bonus.
Owen actually looks like a conquering hero of some sort!
The only point against Zaggut is the sleeveless chainmail. I mean, really, you don't have the biceps to be showing off, Zaggut.
Between the crown and the cape, Stashley is the top of the swanky duds. There's a second-tier crown, and as soon as I find one, it just needs the vaguest enchantment to give me an excuse for slapping it on her, because it's ostentatious as fuck.
We'll hit up Erathia first, see what Catherine has to offer, and scope out her castle along the way.
Please don't make make an entire nation state persecute us, it's bad enough that every wild animal wants to eat our lungs.
Since we'll be running back and forth between Erathia and the Tularean Forest quite a lot, I'll be abridging like 90% of the travel to spare you all having the see the exact same screens over and over. You'll be seeing enough of that even with what I have cut out.
Welcome to Castle Gryphonheart! We could've gone here pretty much since the start of the game, but Catherine's throne room would've been blocked off to us, so all we could've done would be to harass the guards. Also, note the secret door up there. What wonders does it disguise?
What sort of maniac has two secret doors just so they can save themselves a thirty-second walk around a wall?
Royals. Nobles. Monarchists.
Damn, you think once we get settled in we'll start doing insane things, too?
Ha, yes. Start.
So, she wants us to break into the Avlee prisons and break out a spy of hers.
Don't worry, we won't be doing any such thing.
Well, I'm glad you recognize it as a hopelessly danger-
Instead we're going to see what the elves will pay us to betray her.
Well, it ain't as cozy as Castle Gryphonheart, but it sure is roomy.
I guess the elves have had longer to expand the place.
The elf king is hiding downstairs, at the bottom of an elevator and down a corridor.
A lot of ominous sounds are coming from the corridor on the left(obviously monster sounds, the character frames even flash yellow if you get near it), it feels like Castle Navan was designed greatly with the expectation that you, as a player, would rush in there and decide to get violent with some elves. This is odd, as even siding 100% with Erathia at no point forces you to get violent inside Castle Navan, since the elven blacksite where they're holding Catherine's spy is instead in a cave outside of Pierpoint.
Damn! That guy's a bigger dickhead than Catherine!
...I have to admit I'm hoping you've got the same plans for him as you have for her, Stashley.
'course I do, have some faith in me, wouldya?
And so we swoop back to Erathia with our new friend in tow!
So, let's get the obvious option out of the way first, shall we?
Yeah, this one is obviously an incredibly stupid idea and not one you should ever pick. Now that alternate universe is out of the way...
There we go, completing our first backstab(except for collecting the reward) and starting our second.
It's like the royals believe anything you say as long as you end the sentence with "your highness."
Heh! They'll never see it comin', and once they know what's up, it'll be too late.
And so we're back to Castle Navan again... Normally completing King Parsons' quest would require butchering our way through most of Fort Riverstride, but now we don't have to do that. It's kind of a boring dungeon anyway.
Once again, let's start by getting everyone killed!
Not greatly different from being killed by Catherine.
I love how even the narration is disdainful of this absolute dickweed of an elf.
Oddly enough, the rewards from King Parsons and Queen Catherine are the only ones in the entire game, as far as I'm aware, that get deposited at a bank rather than just being dumped in your hands. I'm genuinely clueless as to why, perhaps at some point you weren't supposed to be able to withdraw your reward if you later betrayed the faction you got it from? Either way, the reward isn't great, but considering that it's one you can get pretty early since, as I've just proven, actually getting it requires a literal absence of honest work, I suppose that makes sense.
Now back to get paid by Catherine and we'll soon have this war over with...
Having gotten our second payday, I decide to head back to the Tularean Forest. They've got the best Air guild we can currently access and the game has been refusing to drop Invisibility for me. But we get interrupted on the way...
I checked up on the exact trigger for this third quest of the war. Apparently you have to help Catherine(I'm not sure if her thinking you help her will do it, or whether either recovering the real Loren Steel or betraying King Parsons counts), and then about a month after things start(with months being about ~20 days long and each trip back and forth taking about six days, it roughly matches up), if you enter the Tularean Forest, you get this popup. It's honestly relatively easily missed.
Would you shut up and let us read the letter already?
Zina, get us airborne! We're not missing out on this one!
No objections, but how do you plan to trick them with this one?
Oh, I've got a plan, just follow my lead.
Damn, looks like we're not the first to the party but...
No one's, uh, upset with us?
That is novel, I'll grant you.
So there are a few elves here, vastly outnumbered by Erathian soldiers, and the Erathians are cutting them down like no one's business. We'll just walk on past them, I think...
Just act natural, like we belong here.
What'd I tell you?!
Sorry, she just came up from behind us and-
Sirs! Ma'ams! Queen Catherine said you'd be along!
Uh, yeah, what's the news?
We've secured the area and dealt with the elves! We were just about to start searching for the trumpet-
Yeah, don't worry about the trumpet. We got it.
Excellent work! We'll keep an eye out for more elves while you deliver it to the Queen!
I don't suppose we're going to actually deliver it to Queen Catherine, are we?
Hell no, but giving it to King Parsons would make me break out in hives. The guy's more of a dick than any of us.
My feelings exactly, which is why we're going to give it to ourselves instead.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what's going to prevent the elves or humans from just taking it back from us?
Well, when I say "ourselves," I mean Harmondale.
Huh, I completely forgot this guy was squatting on our land back here. What does he even do?
The Arbiter of the Contested Lands(i.e. Harmondale) is tasked with resolving disagreements between the Elven and Erathian governments related to Harmondale.
Huh, so we don't get money for it?
No, but on rare occasions it's even better to get prestige and to show our enemies how little we care for them.
...are we really gonna leave it at that, though?
Hell no. Who wants to get paid and get revenge on Queen Catherine for threatening us?
Handing it in to Judge Grey is a hidden option that gives us a fat stash of XP even if it doesn't get us paid. Also, you know, the spite, the spite for these two royal fucks is good.
But yes, since we no longer need Catherine's help for anything, we're going to go root through her stuff and take what we want.
Unfortunately, Catherine's guards actually wear armor and have swords, rather than the elves who're shirtless and armed with sticks.
So, superficially these guys might look like Initiates of the Sword, like from Markham's mansion, but they're actually a step up, Champions of the Sword, and a lot more deadly. Everything about them is stepped up and they also still cast Bless and Heroism, but stronger.
But what's the worst that could happen if we rush in and try to fight them?
This is what two of them could do to us. Which is bad.
But they're kind of balanced on that edge of difficulty where they either completely own us, or we completely own them, and "tied" results are greatly unlikely. The door guards, meanwhile, can't figure out "stairs" and "corners" and are busy cowering downstairs.
Further making things a bit weird is that once we're past the Champions of the Sword at the entrances to the non-public parts of the castle, the goons further in are complete chumps. Absolute losers that are negative threat to the party.
Any of these the paintin' we're looking for?
Keep it together, we're looking for paintings of Roland and Archibald Ironfist.
...yeah but are any of these paintings them? I don't know what they look like.
Huh, must be an old painting, they really had a limited palette back then.
Yes, that is just his hero art from like HoMaM 2.
With the north wing plundered, we turn back for the main foyer...
Looks like these guys want to rumble, too!
Hmmm... watch him for a moment before we rush in.
That one Champion promptly zig-zags his way off the edge of the stairs.
...man, it's rare that someone makes me feel smart, but these guys're doin' it.
The south wing of the castle has a few less mundane rooms than the east wing.
Damn, did someone paint this one with their foot?
It's art, you wouldn't get it.
C'mon, just let us leave, you nerds!
We'd really rather not kill you, believe us!
The guards at the exit don't quite manage to kill anyone, but they do manage to KO Owen and Zaggut, mostly because of that damn Champion that walked off the edge of the stairs and got mixed in with all the welcoming party Initiates.
Do you think Visconti will mind the blood?
If he complains about all the guard blood on these, he's gonna get to bitch about his own blood on them, too.
His house being literally the first on the Tatalia side of things makes the visit easy. So, is this guy gonna make our crimes worth it?
It's an absolutely mad fucking payday!
If he was this rich why didn't he just buy the damn paintings.
You know how it is, sometimes when you're sufficiently rich, it's not about what your money can buy, but about how it can motivate the peasants to amuse you.
I don't know how that is, but I hope to one day.
But yeah, 50k is very easily 50% of all the money we've earned in-game so far, if not more. So it's big time. It's also a huge chunk of XP, this buys multiple level-ups for everyone.
Also, funnily enough, all this murdering hasn't pissed off the Erathians any. They still like us. No one outside is hostile and the entire region is still at Friendly.
That does seem a bit weird, frankly, I was expecting... I don't know, some border security?
Maybe they're afraid of us.
Maybe they should be.
...I notice we're not headed for the border any longer.
I figured, maybe if we left them a little something to remember us by, the Erathians wouldn't be anything to worry about in the future.
Oh no, wouldn't wanna do anything hostile.
Fort Riverstride honestly isn't very interesting.
Its main thing, except for being redecorated in colours of "dead Erathian soldiers," is that it has a few traps around the place, which Stashley's recently-acquired Master Perception help us spot easily.
Sure would be a shame if they had a state of organized bandits to worry about just over the border.
Because we got the fake Riverstride plans for King Parsons, we can't interact with that painting despite it flashing. Normally it'd be the extremely secret hidden vault concealing the real plans.
Another oddity is that Riverstride has a prison but there are no prisoners nor any loot in it. If this had been MM5 there'd at least have been some monsters locked up or something or we could've had a choice to release some prisoners or not(and possibly those prisoners would then attempt to kill us or something).
That was kind of disappointing, Zaggut didn't even get killed once!
With no or weak Perception, it would be a more interesting dungeon, probably, since it would make the traps less obvious and hide a few of the doors.
Let's just... go home. I'm sure we don't need to kill anyone else today.
...that's an awfully suspicious way to put it.
Yeah, we didn't even ask if there was any foul play.
Plus he just pissed off two major continental powers by helping us with the trumpet. Totally a state-sponsored assassination.
Our butler has instantly transmitted us some new pages about this.
Oh shush, we'll know more in like eight images.
Please, show the ambassadors in.
That's not even a subtle threat.
Wizards, can't build a town, can't build a threat.
And that's not even subtle bribery.
Exactly, they know what matters to me. I like them already.
So do we want threats or do we want bribes? Hmmmm...
So right on the heels of one foreign policy decision, we get another! This one actually determines literally the remainder of our main storyline quests, so it's not a minor one.
A: Side with the wizards of Celeste. This is obviously the Light Path and will get us access to Light Path promotions and Light Magic. I generally don't like them, they tend to come across as smug dickheads. But if the thread supports them, I'll pick them.
B: Side with the Necromancers of the Pit. Dark Path, Dark Promotions, Dark Magic. They tend to come across as a mixture of decent people and occasionally socially awkward more than outright villainous, and when they do come across as villainous they tend to feel far more like saturday morning cartoon villains than genuinely bad guys.