Part 55: On the Road of RedemptionPart 55 - On the Road of Redemption
(Definitely one of my personal favorite ambient tracks in the game and recommended listening for these updates for the proper mood.)
Well we're definitely not in urban Berlin anymore. They really run a cult from there? Looks kinda cozy really, maybe the Firewing wouldn't find us in a remote place like this.
Yes, I can feel it. It's almost... pleasant.
It's meant to be. That's how it gets to you. It worms its way inside of you, *changes* you, and you don't even realize what's happening until it's too late.
When you say "the young," how young do you mean? I need to know what we're walking into.
Never have had to make the call of what to do if a first-grader suddenly sprouted raven wings and started spitting acid at us or whatever it is cults like this engage in, and it'd be nice to keep it that way.
Teenagers, mostly. Sixteen through eighteen, though there is the rare exception.
So, not *that* young, then. Not children.
There was a time when Harrow played with luring younger children here, but he found them to be more trouble than they were worth. The younger the child, the more likely that someone might come looking for them.
So I'll ask you again: are you ready for this? I need an honest answer.
Well we're really good at dealing with thugs and assholes, stealing company secrets, setting security guards on fire, that kinda thing. This place though, been a while since we've last felt this out of our element.
Honestly? I'm not sure.
If you have doubts, clear them from your mind. This place will use them to hurt you.
This is beginning to sound like something out of a horror movie.
That's because it's going to be. Feuerstelle is a vile, toxic place. I still have nightmares about some of the things that I saw here... after tonight, you might wind up with a few of your own.
...Starting to understand why it's us doing most of the comforting whenever we have one of our heart-to-heart conversations. Well whatever, we didn't drive across an entire country just to turn tail and run away after getting here, gas ain't free after all. And it's not like a nightmare or two is ever going to cause real trouble for anyone.
I'm a big girl, Glory. I can handle a few bad dreams.
[She studies your face for a moment longer, then looks away.]
You wanna compare notes, make sure that we're both on the same page?
Right, we made the decision to focus on playing the saviors instead of the avengers. You sure we can't have our cake and eat it too though?
We rescue the kids here, yeah. But I think that we should also try to kill Harrow.
Planning on that would be a mistake. This is going to be difficult enough as it is... if we don't focus our efforts on one thing or the other, we're going to fail at both.
If we get an opportunity to take the bastard down along the way, we'll take it - that goes without saying. But barring that, we should stay focused on getting those kids out of here.
So a clear "two distinct paths" -sorta deal then, alright. We haven't started anything yet so we could still ask to change tack, but let's just stay the course and focus on minimizing the teenager bodycount as best we can, horror movie vibes or not.
Fair enough. We stick with the plan and rescue the cultists. Do you know how you want to approach this?
Tell me more about this shrine.
It's a lump of rock about as tall as I am, inscribed with runes and encrusted with bone. Its power comes from an entity that Harrow bound into the stone... something very old, and very dangerous.
A toxic spirit. In many ways, it is the heart of this place.
This is getting too complicated. We should just kick in the door, round up the cultists, and get them out of here.
That won't work, Rosa. The shrine's influence can be very strong, and the cultists here have all been brainwashed on top of it.
If we try to pull them away from Feuerstelle without dealing with the shrine first, they'll mob us, because the spirit that Harrow bound into the rock will tell them to.
So shrine first, then the kids. Should maybe write this down so that we don't get it the wrong way around.
I want to hash out a few more details before we head inside.
That makes sense. If you have any questions, it'd be best if you asked them now.
So how do we purify the spirit? Some sort of ceremony or ritual?
Why didn't we bring Dietrich with us anyway, it's not his totem but he'd probably know a thing or two about this spirit stuff. Stupid personal mission rules...
Something like that. It'll be easier to just show you... I've got everything we'll need right here.
[She pats the satchel that hangs from her shoulder.]
When the time comes, I'll conduct the ritual. But before I can do that, we're going to have to face the spirit on its own terms. And that's going to be dangerous, Rosa.
Why attempt to purify the spirit at all? Why not just kill it?
That spirit has its fingers in the minds and auras of every kid in this compound. If we kill it, those kids will get hurt. They might even be killed.
We can't take that risk. But if we can cleanse the Adversary's corruption from it, it might withdraw from their minds willingly.
...And then we can get them out of here.
So the kids here doing whatever unpleasant cult stuff they're doing are under the influence of some kind of spirit? That probably wouldn't pass in court, but...
If the shrine controls the people here, then how do you have anything to feel guilty about? Nothing that you did under Harrow was really your fault.
Back before I ran away, Feuerstelle was nothing more than a cult of personality that revolved around Harrow. He didn't need magical help to keep us here - we loved him, and we believed in his message. He created the shrine as an insurance policy.
And you think that something has changed, and that he's started abusing the shrine's power.
[She nods.] Yes. And I think that my escape was the cause of that change. I know Harrow. When I ran, I bruised his ego. His charisma and charm had failed him, and my disappearance rubbed his nose in that failure.
Always with these perfectionist types, fail one dialogue check and they bust out the cheats to make sure they'll never get a suboptimal quest resolution again.
He wouldn't be willing to chance something like that happening again. Not when he had the means to prevent it.
So the cultists here... they're like puppets? The shrine controls them?
In essence, all of the street kids here are addicted this place. That makes them a threat, yes... but it also makes them victims.
So kinda like more traditional violent drug or BTL junkies, never feels great when you end up having to take them down in self-defense even though you obviously do what you gotta do. Just have to try and keep things from escalating as best we can.
I've heard enough. Let's get this show on the road.
[She nods, and the razors flick out of her fingertips.]
I'm with you. Let's do it.
Time to get started. "Keep Glory safe" instead of the usual "Glory must survive" though, kind of cute. No romances in these games but the tone always seems to be a bit more personal with Glory than the other crew members.
We'll see who ends up keeping who safe here though.
Alright spooky house, give it your worst.
Gah, this place is definitely bad news already. What kind of internal decorator places potted palm trees and a damn bear rug in the same entrance hall? What kinda tropical hunting lodge look are we going for here exactly? Come on.
Place looked a lot smaller from the outside, you could drive a truck through these hallways. Quiet enough so far at least, not a soul in sight.
A door this fancy has to have something important behind it. Say, a shrine housing a toxic spirit in need of a good scrubbing perhaps?
The hell, is this door actually putting up a fight? A fancy set of planks, thinking it can stop a mind forged in the flames of magic and tempered harder than the toughest steel by years of rigorous mental training? Ridiculous!
Oh yeah? We conjure up hellfire to burn our enemies to crisp every day, and you think we're scared of a bit of heat and some pretty lights? Think again!
It's just a door, Glory! A door! Countless men and beasts have fallen before our arcane might, Rosa the Mage is sure as hell not going to be beaten by a goddamn...
ah fuck shit hot hot ow fuck
ah fucking hell that burns jesus ow
I-I-I'm the b-boss h-h-here.
[She rolls her eyes.] And I'm the one who knew better than to touch a warded door.
Our poor pride is probably never going to make a full recovery though. Unbelieveable.
[Glory stares into the light, frowning.]
The shrine room is through there, but this barrier wasn't here before. Harrow must have warded the doorway after I ran.
Fantastic. Now what?
The ward is like a lock. There must be a key. Back when I helped Harrow run this place, he and I were the only ones allowed in the shrine room. So we look for whoever has taken my place... that's where the key will be.
How will we know who that is?
"Insignia of rank", in other words this Harrow is horny for redheads. One can only hope we can get through this thing remaining blissfully ignorant about any of the guy's worse fetishes.
A girl with red hair. Got it.
We leave the massive jerk of a shrine door behind for now and follow the hallway south, but after a bit of walking we find ourselves back where we started. No less than seven doors line the walls of this looping hallway, all ordinary-looking but unlabeled.
Glory has no insight to offer as to which door leads where, so we'll just start from the first one to the north of our starting point.
Fortunately this particular door was more cooperative than the last one. No one home either, but judging by the fancy decor... could it be that we stumbled into the head honcho's office right off the bat?
If so then this terminal should hold some juicy information for us. Except...
...Harrow is unfortunately not as incompetent with technology as many of our past targets, and we're not going to be able to get access to this thing without Decking 5. Where's Blitz when you need that lazy bastard? Stupid computers.
Good old-fashioned books are more our style, don't need to throw away your dignity and sex life to learn how to get one open.
Harrow's manifesto. The handcrafted line of bullshit that he feeds to his initiates. We all ate it up with a smile, and came away convinced that he was a genius.
[She leafs through the pages with an articulated finger.]
Looks like he's expanded it over the last few years. It's at least twice as thick as it was when I lived here.
Maybe there's something in there that we can use.
Sick experiments as in like "putting raspberry jam on pizza" or like "ah but what if baby but with spider legs"?
...Nevermind, we can probably guess.
I was never allowed in this room without Harrow... nobody was. He said that it was for our safety, and I think that he was telling the truth.
I feel uneasy being in here. I don't want to stay any longer than we have to.
I've been on edge since we came in. But that doesn't change the fact that we should learn what we can.
All right. I'll watch your back. But try to be quick.
That's just your old self talking. Your past, coming back to haunt you.
[After a long pause, she nods.]
Maybe you're right. It could just be nerves. But that doesn't make the feeling any less real.
Go ahead and leaf through the book if you want to. But try to be quick, okay? I don't want to stay in here any longer than we have to.
Harrow's Manifesto posted:
When I first set out on the path to Free Living, I realized that I'd have to rethink all of my earlier assumptions about life. I'd have to question my own values and beliefs, and I'd need the strength to trust in the answers that came to me.
The prospect was daunting, but it was also necessary. The road to true Freedom is paved with unanswered questions.
After all, you can't learn to be free from a book. The answers won't come from a bible, an instruction manual, or a code of conduct. If you don't learn that, you'll never break your chains. The path to true Freedom is one that each of us must walk on his - or her - own.
What makes life worth living? What in life is truly valuable, and what is the dross that can be burned away? I spent weeks dissecting every aspect of my life to find the answers to these questions. Slowly, agonizingly, I pared down the list until only four items remained.
These four items became the cornerstones of my new philosophy, and the basis for everything that Feuerstelle stands for.
LOVE. The first cornerstone, and the most important. Without love, life is bland and meaningless. Without love, we might as well be machines. Love what you do. Love the people around you. But above all, love yourself.
SELF-DETERMINATION. The second cornerstone. Each of us must be his or her own shepherd - no more Gods and no more Kings.
Your life is your own. Lash out against anyone or anything that tries to treat you like property. An assault on your freedom is an assault on your whole being, and it must be met with an equally ferocious response.
CHARITY. The third cornerstone. A miserly life is an empty life. If each of us is his or her own Master, then nobody should live as a serf. By helping others along the path to enlightenment, so do we enrich our own lives.
PASSION. The final cornerstone. Complacency is poison - be wary of it. Ambition is the key to a fulfilling life. Don't settle for what is... if you do, you abandon what could be.
Ah so it's kinda crap, huh. Selling freedom and power to the shackled and the powerless. Pretty classic cult stuff.
That ominous feeling is getting stronger, Rosa. It feels like we're being watched.
There's no one here Glory, chill. Got a bit more to go.
Harrow's Rules of Living posted:
BE FREE. Be free in all things, and experience that freedom with your whole being - body, mind, and spirit. Discard the oppressive traditions of modesty and shame that you've been indoctrinated with since birth - the Free Thinker has no use for them.
Your body is a source of pride, of pleasure, and of succor, for yourself and for others. Enjoy it, and share that joy freely with those who desire it.
BE SELFISH. Don't enslave yourself to others at the expense of your own happiness. Take what you want, and do so unashamedly. Our desires are an important part of what makes us human. Society has trained us to hide that part of ourselves from the world, but the Free Living person doesn't cower in the shadows.
Own your desires, and rejoice in them. Selflessness is ultimately dishonest, and dishonesty has no place in a free society.
SHOW REVERENCE. The Free Living person understands that the only true governance in this world is the Law of Nature, and that in Nature, there is a Hierarchy.
The rabbit doesn't question the wolf. The mouse does not wonder why it must run from the cat. They *do* because they *must.* Their survival depends on it. As it is in Nature, so it is at Feuerstelle. Know your place in the food chain, and understand the mechanisms by which you can better yourself.
Sure feels like there's a lot of "how to fuck impressionable teenagers from a position of authority" between the lines here. Bleh.
(Academic) I'm getting the feeling that this entire thing is written in doublespeak. I doubt if there's a single statement in here that isn't contradicted somewhere else.
[She nods.] A fact that Harrow and I used to our own advantage. We could justify just about anything by pointing to that manifesto. If an act is forbidden in one place, it's permitted somewhere else.
If an initiate ever questioned our behavior, we could claim that he just didn't understand the meaning of the book. The other kids would look at him as the ignorant one. It's all bullshit, like I said. Clever bullshit, but bullshit all the same.
There we go with the horror movie stuff again... We're almost done though, this isn't exactly literary award material but information is power and we don't have a lot of it.
[Continue reading.] You keep an eye out - I have to finish this. There might be something in here that we need.
Glory's right, in the end it all comes down to manipulative bullshit made easy to swallow by a charismatic authority figure and a pliable audience. She's probably also right that we should take our leave right about now.
Done. This philosophy of Harrow's really starts to break dow--
What in the
Rosa! Look out!
Gah, so much pain today and we only just got here! This place is terrible!
Whatever fucked up spirit this monstrosity is, it's not very sturdy.
Traditional methods work on it just fine too, so despite it getting the jump on us it's quickly dispatched afterwards.
Well that was unexpected. Also, gross.
What the hell was that?!
A headless abomination just pissed lighter fluid onto the floor and tried to burn us to death. I think that "things can come through" is underselling it a bit.
[She shrugs.] Semantics. Now can we please get out of here before it happens again?
Yeah, good plan.
Only one room in and it's already pretty apparent that this one's going to be an all around unpleasant house tour. Join us next time as we dig deeper into the secrets of Feuerstelle and pray we don't unearth anything wet and squishy.
Before anything else, I want to mention that this mission is pretty thick with dialogue choices and decisions, many just for flavor but a number of things do actually vary depending on what is chosen and in what order things are done even before taking into consideration the two different approaches.
As always anything especially interesting that won't come up in the main LP is going to be covered here or separately after the run, but I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate how open-ended and intricately crafted this mission is compared to most others in ways that'll become apparent later. We've certainly come a long way from the mostly linear and lifeless missions of the previous game by this point.
Anyway, on the alternate dialogue front, there's changing our order of priorities at the start of the mission:
If we get an opportunity to take the bastard down along the way, we'll take it - that goes without saying. But barring that, we should stay focused on getting those kids out of here.
In that case, I say forget about the cultists. Killing Harrow is more important.
[She pauses.] You know what you're saying, right? If we focus on killing Harrow, a lot of runaways are going to die here tonight. I'm almost certain of it.
Can you live with their deaths on your conscience? Can you justify sacrificing a bunch of brainwashed teenagers to ensure that one monster dies? I'm not sure that I can.
If we let Harrow get away, he'll start all of this over again, somewhere far beyond our reach. We need to end this tonight, no matter the cost.
Having enough Decking to access Harrow's terminal which simply nets some paydata worth 270 nuyen:
Finally, two alternative choices to the Academic etiquette one we took after having read Harrow's Rules of Living:
Clear, simple rules, with a focus on instant gratification. I can see why this would be appealing to a street kid.
[She nods.] That's what Harrow wrote them for. And he mined an entire library's worth of 60s counterculture essays, new age self-help books, and cult manifestos to do it. There isn't a single original idea in this thing.
That only matters to the people who know that it's stolen.
You're an intelligent woman, Glory. I can't believe that you couldn't see through this.
I was a kid. Seventeen years old, and most of them spent living in one hell or another. I had a lot of demons to escape from, and the people here made me feel safe and welcome. I wanted this to be true. I *needed* it to be true. So I convinced myself that it was.
It's easy to pass judgment from where you're standing, Rosa. But in my position, you'd have done the same thing.
You're right. In your place, I'd have wound up here right alongside you. Sorry, Glory.
No. Not me.