Part 47: Making Kaelyn Cry And Getting Kaji All Confused
The Truth, Part Five - The Dead Lie DreamingCast your mind back to Act One...
Okku's barrow was built on top of a set of Imaskari ruins. In the ruins was a magical rod that could Dispel Magic three times a day.
We used the rod to dispel the spirit-barrier trapping us inside the barrow. Unfortunately this took all the power the rod had and it crumbled into dust.
A lich was hidden inside the rod, bizarrely enough. Breaking the rod set him free.
: I am High Artificer Maric of Inupras, loyal servant of the Purple Emperor. And you, it seems, are a thief.
: Explain yourself, thief. How did one such as you come into possession of the rod? How did you defeat the wards in my tower?
: I'm no thief, lich. The rod was lying in the ruins beneath this barrow.
: Ruins? Barrow? Enough of this nonsense. I must return to my tower and resume my work.
: How do you know your tower is still standing?
And just like that he vanishes. Odd.
* * *
All right, flashback over, back to the present day!
The Coveya Kurg'annis lies just across the water there. The hags of the Sunken City are our last lead in discovering more about our curse.
As before, access to the city can be gained through nightfall. We are greeted by the dao genie Fentomy and a veritable horde of petitioners, waiting in line to hear the wisdom of the Slumbering Coven.
But this time we have a new friend! If you freed him from the Imaskari Rod, then Maric of Inupras will appear here to offer us the bony hand of friendship.
: We should not parley with this creature. It does not have our interests, nor anyone else's, at heart.
: You were the catalyst of my freedom from the Barrow. As I absolutely loath being indebted to other beings, I will grant my considerable talents to aid you here.
: Why do you want to see the Coven?
: Mighty as I am, I was trapped in that barrow while ages passed. And in my absence, or perhaps because of it, the Imaskari empire that I served and loved crumbled into ruins.
: I seek to recover relics of the past, if they still exist, and discover how my old Imaskari empire fell.
: There are many petitioners seeking entrance here, and even more waiting within. Together we can... discourage them from being obstacles in our path.
: Yes, I could use you.
: You must not do this. He is an abomination, a thing that should be dead already.
Kaelyn moans a bit but we ignore her complaints. A millenia-old archlich and court wizard to the ancient emperor of a long-lost empire joining your team as a temporary companion is the very definition of Epic.
Even if he does have weird stats. 9 levels of Fighter what the hell?
* * *
It's the same problem as the last playthrough: the Sunken City's on lockdown. Nobody is getting through to the Slumbering Coven.
If you accept Fentomy's request to find and destroy the Primal Earth Elemental, he'll give you a key to a side-door that leads directly to the Skein. Theoretically it's a nice short-cut, but it forces Maric out of the party and I don't want that to happen just yet. Also, why would you skip the quite enjoyable petitioner puzzle sequence for the tedium of the Skein?
Instead we'll help Turlok and Mulv get rid of the petitioners outside, in exchange for letting us into the proper queue inside.
We use Diplomacy and Bluff on the genasi prince and the mindflayer, like last time.
Dealing with the telthor pack is a little trickier without Okku backing us up.
: :: Corrupted fey spirits. Edible, but with a bitter aftertaste. ::
: Did you catch this one's scent? Sweet, but sickly. Like fear-sweat trickling over an open wound.
: You need a bath too. Shall I toss you into the lake?
: The two-legged one expects answers from us. The dirt asks the rain, "Why do you drown me?"
: Yes, I do expect a response.
We can't talk to them, but we can use spirit-eater powers against them.
Provoking them turns them hostile and lets us kill them in combat.
Again, without Okku to carry his coffin into daylight (or a PC with 25 Strength, or 18 Strength and Kaelyn's assistance), Count Crowroost must be destroyed through force. Either Kaji or Calliope can pick the lock...
...or Maric can rouse Crowroost from his rest with a few choice words. As can aspiring Gothic-novelist One of Many:
: :: Hear me, blood drinker. A virgin runs alone... so alone, through an open field on this dark, dark night. ::
: :: A sliver of moonlight reveals porcelain skin... exposed skin. The soft skin pulses with life... ::
: :: And blood... Sweet blood. Pure, warm blood of the innocent. Yours. All yours. ::
The end result is the same, though not as funny as Crowroost bursting into flames and running away screaming.
Last up is the uthraki representative, who is considerably friendlier to Devouring spirit-eaters. The uthraki seek an audience with the Coven in order to find themselves a new hunting ground to feed their tribe.
: I expected my brethren to return to our camp two sun-falls ago, but they still wait within. It is long past their feeding time, so I brought morsels for them.
: But the guards here will neither allow me to join them or deliver the food to them. I worry that hunger will soon drive them from their place in wait.
: I'm planning on going into Coveya Kurg'annis myself. Perhaps I will meet them.
: Oh, they would savor that. But the guards will let none pass.
: I am the spirit-eater. I will find a way to enter.
All right, so this shouldn't have happened. Completing the 'Knowledge for Blood' quest for U'juk's tribe should give us enough cachet with the uthraki for Gruuf to just give us the meat straight up. Obviously that hasn't happened.
Fortunately serendipity comes to our rescue.
: :: I am a shiver across its naked fur, a whisper it can't hear. ::
: :: And it is done, Dark One. The rotting flesh is deposited among your possessions. ::
: Brrr... The wind blows cold in the Plane of Shadow. It makes me eager to return to the warmth and hues of my home. But until I can deliver this meat...
Oh no! Stupid monkey! Now Gruuf will have to go fetch more food!
Calliope is an equal-opportunity jerk.
* * *
We've cleared the outside, but three more petitioners await us inside in the queue proper.
Maric provides some backstory to the Sunken City, explaining both why he returned here after being freed and why the hags chose these ruins to hold court over Rashemen.
: I walked these halls once before, centuries before your birth. It has changed much, but one thing remains the same.
: The conflux of power that is channeled through this building was used by the Imaskari to preserve precious spiritual knowledge.
: Now it is being siphoned by the Slumbering Coven to preserve another type of knowledge, that which is contained in their perpetual dream.
We'll buy Kepob the child-mute from the ogre mage, like we did before - and this time we'll keep him alive too.
We could give Kepob to the uthraki in second place, if we wanted to. Our party is starting to look a bit unwieldy.
We could also offer up our companions, losing Influence with them but gaining it with One of Many. In fact One of Many enjoys it when the uthraki feed on anyone - except the player.
: :: You should feed on them, Dark One, not them on you. If anyone feeds on you, it should be me. ::
Instead we offer up the Mysterious Meat we got from Gruuf. Hey, it keeps our inventory tidy.
Last of all is Ankhriva the tyrant, formerly of Shrimar.
: A foolish accusation from one who still has strips of flesh clinging to his face. I am Maric of Inupras, once High Artificer to the Purple Emperor of Imaskar.
: My only remaining tie to mortality is the dust of this place where I walked untold centuries prior to your mortal birth.
: Very well. I withdraw my remark, and grant you the courtesy of an audience with me.
One of Many scares half of Ankhriva's guard away. He's understandably upset...
: You have only served to anger me. You have made a grave mistake.
: Serve me, you may share in the power I will unearth from the ancient Imaskar. The first to bring me Ankhriva's phylactery will take a place at my right hand.
: :: Yes, bring its phylactery and I will consume the lich's soul. ::
Maric can also scare half of Ankhriva's thralls away, but he'll attack afterwards despite his missing minions. With both undead in the party, though, Ankhriva has no one to back him up, so he bottles it. If you don't decide to execute him, he becomes one of Maric's servants:
: You may go now, Ankhriva. I will come to you later and tell you how you might serve me.
I've got to admit I'm in two minds about this sort of thing. Obsidian put some decent effort into this sequence with Maric the Artificer... effort which perhaps could have been better spent on something else. Maybe only a third of players will ever free Maric from the rod in the barrow, meaning only a third will ever encounter him at the Sunken City - less than that, even, since freeing Maric requires you to give up a powerful magical item. So all this content is available to only a fraction of people playing.
I mean, it's a few extra dialogue options and an extra entity on the Nightshore map but something about it rubs me the wrong way, you know? It's not like Okku/One of Many, because that choice was obvious; this choice has no link between destroying the Imaskari Rod and getting a temporary archlich companion for the Coveya Kurg'annis petitioner quest.
On the other hand Alpha Protocol is basically made up of stuff like this and that turned out pretty well. Plus it is kinda cool.
* * *
Regardless, after much effort on our part, we get to meet with the Slumbering Coven and learn some of the answers to our questions.
Oh wait, that doesn't happen.
At least we now get to see what happens when we bring Kepob and Maric to the Skein.
: [Failure] You lie. I have witnessed your great hunger. However you attempt to command the curse, sooner or later, it dominates you.
: Your conquest over the Bear King was the last vision the Coven showed me before they closed. They fear your hunger, and rightly so.
: You are to be exiled to the Skein. I will waste no more words on you.
Oh no, not again...