The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 16: Cleopatra Jones and the Chatty Party Members

Cleopatra Jones and the Chatty Party Members

First things first. We need to go to the Spire to get some cool stuff.

Hah! The joke's on them, I've got a large spell bar and -

: Have been stalking human's scent-trail. Have ranged many more-than-five nights through tribe, and human territories of Tiers-lands, hunting for human called Fatebinder. For human who woke horizon-rock called Mountain Spire.

Oh, just what we needed, the classic hyphenated sci-fi bad-prose. Stop fucking doing this, nerds!

: [Lore 43] Your markings - must be from the Shadowhunter tribe.

The beastwomen are running off the old theory of alpha and beta wolves that has since been discredited but lives on in popular culture.

: Hey, I'm not looking for conflict. I merely want to continue on my way.

You can gain a lot of loyalty from Killsy here by smacking her in the face. We're a diplomat, even if we're also the feared war mage who kicked the Iron Marshal off the Spire and broke the Vendrien Guard.

: Beastwoman did not range so far, chasing scent and tracks of Fatebinder only to step aside and watch human leave Beastwoman behind.

: She snarls.

I kind of hate that all our responses are to be rude here.

: Explain yourself, Beastwoman. What is it you want?

Killsy always meets you early in the game if you go east from the Spire. Here she's confirming that word of Cleopatra's deeds as a powerful individual have spread far and wide, even to the Beastman tribes. Who are the Beastmen? We'll be seeing more of them later.

: I merely read Kyros' Edicts - I am but a vessel for the Overlord's great magic.

Killsy is not stupid. She is uneducated, but she is not stupid (and can actually train Cleo in lore, which rules). Here she's pointing out the paradox of the tyrannical ruler with capable subordinates - people associate the deeds with the person who performed them, not the person who ordered them. We invoked the Edict of Fire against the Vellum Citadel, despite Kyros giving the orders. It's a paradox of power that resounds throughout history and fiction, from Augustus Caesar banning triumphs honoring generals (because the generals had gotten ambitious during the civil wars) to Bel Riose of Asimov's Foundation (himself based on the generals of the declining Roman empire).

As Kills-in-Shadow points out, these are not the actions of a mere vessel.

: Okay, so maybe you've heard of me.

: Kyros hunts human realms to extinction. Rules tribe of blood and ruin, starvation and death. Seeks to slaughter Beastwomen like prey. But Beastwomen are not prey. Are not flighty, feeble-minded humans.

: Kills-in-Shadow spits a gob of tawny mucus on the ground.

Kills-in-Shadow provides a perspective we haven't seen yet - someone outside of Kyros' empire looking in, and she confirms once again that all Tunon's rhetoric about free food and the right to life is in fact a lie. There's one other scene on the rebel path which really drives this home too, but that will have to wait for another day.

: Beastwomen are savage hunters. Bred to fight-kill-rut. Like Fatebinder who smells of Alpha.

Despite the annoying-hyphen-speech Kills in Shadow is actually really good and can be kitted out to deal stupid amounts of damage to the many people we dislike.

: If you want to join me, it'll have to be as my Beta.

: Kills-in-Shadow is not Beta. But even Alphas submit to stronger-willed Primas. Many packs make a tribe. Is this not a thought humans also understand? Beastwoman will follow Fatebinder. Will not dominate.

Dialog doesn't change here based on gender, by the way. Bellum omnium contra omnes. The irony is that, despite the Kyrosian forces and even supposedly unbiased Tunon looking down on the Beastmen as primitive savages, the entire Kyrosian empire is run on these exact principles, just with better tools.

: Fine. But keep your nose to yourself.

Killsy is not too hard to keep in line - after all, you do tear fire from the sky.

: The Beastwoman huffs and turns to address her pack.

No wait, what are you doing, we need troops - oh, screw it.

: Will not like if Kills-in-Shadow catches sight of stone mongrels again.

Killsy, that is literally the language the Disfavored would use to describe your people. Rude.

Sorry Killsy, chill at the Spire with Verse for a bit. I think as you two enjoy killing people you'll get along juuuuust fine.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Yes! The Fatebinder, who is really strong! I've been looking for you for weeks through all kinds of bullshit, and here you are!

: Huh, you're from the Shadowhunter tribe.

: You know about Beastwomen? Well, they're the best tribe, but also the lost tribe.

: Can I go now?

: Nope nope! I'm not going anywhere until I join your party.

: Wut.

: You called down fire and death! That fucking ruled!

: I am but a humble servant of the mighty Kyr-

: Really? Was Kyros there when you destroyed the Vellum Citadel? Did you not piss in Kyros' eye, defy the Archons, steal the Spire, and live to tell the tale? No, you are far more powerful than you claim. Anyway, Kyros is basically running you guys like North Korea, so I want to join you so I can not starve to death. Don't worry, it's a social Darwinism thing, so you can be pack leader until you look like a punk.

: You're gonna have to be the bitch in this relationship.

: Oh hell no! You're my boss, but I'm nobody's bitch!

: Sure, why not.

: All you other beastmen, get the fuck out! There's only one more party member left to recruit and you idiots aren't it!

There weren't any Beastmen in Act I because Beastmen don't live in that valley. We're going to be seeing a lot of Beastmen, because the game is going to use them both as kind of a Hobbesian analog while also portraying them as the victims of human colonization.

Kyros' Peace!

Back to the Spire. I hired this merchant guy Revos because he sells sigils and sigils are awesome.

He tries to pickpocket you and you tell him to knock it off. We tolerate it because he has good stuff.

We could buy this expensive Fatebinder of Tunon gear, or we could just find good equipment in our travels that we can equip instead.

We want this. Badly. It unlocks confusion and silence spells, which are very useful in protracted fights.

We learn this sigil as well. It kind of sucks and I pretty much never use it, but every sigil we learn gives us Lore xp.

We grab the sigil of Material Force, which lets us create sweet spells that let us enchant people's weapons with life drain attacks and other nuttiness.

Here's the confuse spell I mentioned. We can later upgrade it to do unresistable damage over time and whatnot. The magic system in this game is a gift that keeps on giving.

I grabbed this as well. Notice that Lantry has all the buffs, but also the highest lore skill. Later I will remove all the buffs from Lantry's spell slots on the ground that he's currently the best nuker in the party.

We teach this to Barik so he can lifesteal while also keeping the scrubs paralyzed.

Unfortunately we're hitting the limits of our lore...for now.

The thread voted to talk to Lantry and see what his deal was.

At least someone likes us in this mad world.

: Let us discuss current matters.

: Know anything about the region we're in?

: The Spires predate us all. As far as I know, we're the only ones who have been up here since... ever? I think this might be a first? Perhaps the real trailblazer had trouble getting down and was lost to history.

The game has given us few hints about this, but I suggest you look at the game over screen we got when the Edict went off.

: You're taking lots of notes... what about?

: Is it safe to be writing on your arms that much?

: Oh, certainly not, but it depends on the ink I'm using. Too much cerulean and I can't sleep... but just the right amount and I can write all night. The red ink will give you swamp bottom if you drink it, but absorbed through the skin, it'll make you taste colors and smell music... speaking of which, I should change out my tip.

If you never played this game, I bet you weren't expecting Cleopatra to get high as balls.

: Your inks sound like fun. Can I try them?

Lantry is a good friend to have.

: Consider it a lesson. Cautionary tale about wishing for things. Fatherly moment. Any of those work for you?

: What's the cerulean ink like?

: He holds out a small vial, you put a small dab on your finger in and taste the blue, viscous fluid. Aside from a chalky sensation on your lips, it seems to do nothing.

Look at these replies! It's always interesting to see just what the limits of the "blank slate" characters are in RPGs - the evil run of Baldur's Gate 3 won't let you enslave the gnome despite him gloomily proclaiming you will, for instance - and it's quite revealing that our uninhibited thoughts are about how absent Kyros is.

: Did you know that, legally speaking, my word is the same as Tunon's word unless the Archon contradicts my word as a Fatebinder? Rhogalus says the legal term for that is Proxy Decisis. Calio says the legal term is "fuck you, I'm the law."

The double-edged sword is an interesting bit of foreshadowing.

This ends the conversation. Let's chat him up a bit more. Tell him we have some questions, and...

: I'd like to know more about you.

: What's your story? Tell me the origins of Lantry.

: Someday, someone half your age will ask you to sum up your life and you'll realize what an odious request that is! Hmph... well, where to start?

Stalwart's military force is called "the Unbroken" because they have never been defeated...except by Sunder but they all agree that it wasn't a loss, much how there is only one China today whenever Xi Jinping is in earshot.

: Any other family?

: Irrelevant. If they exist, they are as strangers. Family ties are severed when joining with the Sages... at least in principle, the School has had its share of favoritism for blood relatives.

It's always amusing to see that the Tiers get stuck in the same inept fuckup patterns as the Kyrosians do, which is the main reason the Chorus and the Disfavored were able to conquer the place in three years.

: As a novice, I was assigned to the dovecotes, where I learned how to raise and groom birds to carry messages - and most of my early tomes are on that subject. Ten years and several tomes later, someone decided I was ready to be welcome[sic] into the inner circle and shown the ways of magic.

: Were you born Lantry or did you take that name on joining the School of Ink and Quill?

: Is this your true skein? Did you always want to be a Sage?

: So really... what's your story?

: [Subterfuge 43] I know you're smarter than you act - extend me the same courtesy.

You might be thinking "Wow, Lantry's an asshole for selling out the Sages like that". Don't. The Sages and the Kyrosian armies have an...interesting relationship.

: So advocating surrender to Kyros was the end of your long plan?

: Yes and no? When I first left, I was just happy to be getting educated by the Sages on someone else's rings and my orders were simply to listen and report. As the time drew near, my commands were to win them over, a little at a time, to the notion of surrender.

Of course, the sad truth is that the Sages, while skilled at magic, did not have the might to stand against Kyros indefinitely. They certainly did a number on the armies during the Conquest, but ultimately the Vellum Citadel burned under the Edict of Fire.

The other irony is that when we met Lantry he was rewarded for his loyalty by being crucified in the Scarlet Chorus camp. We'll talk about Lantry and trauma in a bit, but I'd guess Lantry takes his failure very personally.

: Thank you for telling me. Now, no more secrets, understand?

Back a bit through the dialogue tree.

: What can you tell me of the School of Ink and Quill?

: You mean what's left of them?

Oh yeah, we did kind of...hit them without warning.

: What's the core philosophy of the School of Ink and Quill?

I could have sworn there were less spelling errors when I first played the game.

: Each Sage benefited from the scrolls of learning that came before him and so each Sage must repay this boon by gathering, authoring, or translating new texts to the stacks.

: Why did the Sages resist Kyros?

: Why indeed! As historians it is our place to document, not direct... let others rage and resist, ours is the duty to record. The decision to defy Kyros was not unanimous... nor one decided upon lightly.

: Tell me a bit about the School's history.

: The centuries fly by and suddenly the Vellum Citadel is the definitive archive in the Tiers. The Sages branched out into carrying missives for wealthy clients, training noble children to read - the peasants may have feared us, but we remained useful enough to the Kings and Queens of the Tiers to avoid war.

: What sort of sigils do the Sages practice?

: Traditionally, we use magic only so that we may observe and archive, so that means magic of concealment and protection.

: But in truth, we have amassed a great wealth of knowledge. Before the Vellum Citadel fell, any given subject of magic had at least one Sage practicing it.

Eb we literally taught Lantry the Phantombolt spell! Eb does NOT like Lantry for this reason.

The irony is that we know the results of this training - Lantry and the Sages are much stronger in combat than members of the Tidecaster order. Eb has a skill tree dedicated to compensating for her relatively low Lore skill (although you can break this in half with a bit of effort) when you first team up with her in the rebel path she has all of two spells and a few abilities that scale off might. Lantry starts with two sigils known already (per his self-description he mostly buffed himself to fight before we turned him into a nuker) and his lore outstrips the rest of the party. Enemy sages use a wide variety of spells, from fire to ice to atrophy to their custom time manipulation skills.

Sadly we do not run into a wild Sage slinging gravelight spells.

: I can see this conversation going to very constructive places. Both of you, drop it.

One last option from dialogue. Going back up the tree one more time...

: So they say Sages know all sorts of things...

: Could you teach me something about history?

There sure are a lot of opportunities to bully poor Lantry, aren't there? Screw that. Lantry has been nothing but kind and helpful to us.

: [Lore 38] But what better tangent than triangles?

I get the trigonometry joke, ugh.

:allears: A Brief History, Volume I is great.

And then you ruin it with bad proofreading. Tyranny!

We are taking all the Lore options here for that sweet, sweet XP.

: [Lore 24] [Listen politely.] Fascinating...

I admit I literally laughed out loud at the flashbacks to Tunon's lectures.

: [Lore 38] [Listen politely.] Really? Do go on...

: [Lore 42] But were your two measurements far enough to derive a parallax?

Lantry is of course referring to the Pythagorean theorem, which indicates that the Sages are far ahead of everyone else we've seen as far as knowledge of science goes.

: [Lore 43] So if that's correct - you could estimate almost any length from a known angle...

I get we're playing this for laughs as "ha ha Lantry is a boring ass nerd" in a video game most assuredly made by people with computer science degrees based on linear algebraic graphics algorithms but it kind of doesn't completely work. For someone bored out of their mind the Fatebinder is sure able to come up with an instantaneous use for all this math.

We'll give poor Lantry a break, for reasons I'll get into after the summary.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Sec, let me finish this stuff. Mmm...drugs....

: Know anything about the area?

: Spires are ancient, even I don't know anyone who climbed one.

: What all are you writing down?

: All kinds of stuff because I'm old, heh heh. Recording your deeds, the war, name it.

: All over your arms? Is that safe?

: Hell no! All these inks? They're actually drugs! I take that shit all the time!

: I wanna get hiiiiigh!

: Whoa, hang on, you're my friend, this is some hard shit...

: It can be a lesson to me, you're kind of like the father I maybe had? Pleeeeeeease?

: you want the red, the blue, or the sepia? They all fuck you up in different ways...

: Give me the blue I wanna get fucked uuuuuuuuup! WOOOO! Did you know, I have the complete authority of Tunon unless he personally overrules me? I AM THE LAWWWWW!

: Uh, you'll sober up quickly, that wasn't a big dose...oof.

: Hey, I'm back, and I'm sober again. Tell me your story.

: Well, my family sold me to the Sages as a kid, so now they're my real family. Even though I kept getting passed up for promotion by all those fucking nepotists. Anyway, I'm 84, Lantry is my real name, and I couldn't imagine anything other than being a Sage.

: There's something you're not telling me. What is it?

: Well, I used to be a spy for the Voices of Nerat. He put me up for schooling there and had me try to convince them to surrender to Kyros. It didn't work, I failed, and it ended with the Edict of Fire.

: Tell me about the Sages.

: Well, they're all fuckin dead now. Basically we all went around collecting and hoarding knowledge - all of which was forbidden by Kyros, so the Sages fought. We're a pretty old school that dates back to when the Tiers were first settled, and we used to advise kings and queens so we were always protected. We practice pretty much every kind of magic, because we have agents in every mage school -

: Hey, does that include the Tidecasters, you word skanks?

: Well, when you have that knowledge for generations, you kind of use i-


: Knock it off you two, this is gonna go nowhere. I don't need any Ashe and Nerat cosplayers. Hey, Lantry, you know anything cool?


Like almost everything in Tyranny, there's more than meets the eye. Let's go back to the inks for a moment. Did you notice that Lantry is basically constantly high? Go back and reread that. Lantry is constantly applying these inks to his skin or licking them off his quill. That's not recreational use. Now, what kind of things has Lantry been through?

So far (from what we've seen) Lantry's been used as a pawn by the Voices of Nerat to convince his adopted family to surrender, believes himself culpable for the Edict being called down on the school (note his word choice: "I failed") and the deaths of all the Sages...oh, yes, and when we met him he was being crucified by the people he was working for. Then he ended up owing his life to the woman who burned all his friends alive after seeing even more violence (as he states, he got into a lot of fights on the road) and this is all the stuff we know about! Lantry getting high off his inks isn't because he's a cool old stoner, it's because he's using these drugs to escape his traumatic life. He mutters vague bullshit about anxiety but that kind of constant drug use is not healthy and does a number on you. Hell, his reply to Cleopatra that he can't let her poison himself suggests that on some level he knows exactly what he's doing and that these drugs are terrible for him.

It's a recurring theme that all of these companions have something wrong with them - Barik is repressed behind his armor that seals him in his own shit, Verse is a violent psychopath given free reign to indulge her desires (whatever they may be), and now Lantry is a traumatized drug addict trying to escape reality by constant drug abuse. Unlike Tides of Numenera where half the companions had no real connection to the Changing God plot, all of these issues are tied directly to the brutality of Kyros. I can't talk about Eb, Kills in Shadow, or Sirin (come on, she had the PC portrait, no use hiding she's our last party member) but like the party members we've seen, they have all suffered grievously at the hands of the Overlord, and that takes a psychological toll on people. The point you should (again) take away from this is that Kyros ruins everything she touches, even her own servants, and that broken systems create traumatized people. Lantry cannot get through a day without pumping tons of drugs into his system, and quite frankly it speaks well of him that despite all of this trauma he is still a good and loyal friend to Cleopatra. Pour one out for Lantry. He's been through so much shit, but at the end of the day he's a healer. He starts with the healing sigil and he has explicit talents to make him a better healer, but he's convinced himself he's a terrible person responsible for the destruction of his friends.

Let's leave poor Lantry alone for a moment and take a look at the Sages. There's another running theme through the game that the Tiers echo the failings of Kyros and her forces in miniature, and the Sages are no exception. Throughout the Conquest we see that Kyros is able to defeat the Tiers by exploiting their divisions (making peace with Apex to continue marching, inciting a riot in the Bastard City to allow the armies to march in) as that is Kyros' one strength. The Sages' nepotism mirrors the Disfavored, their hording and LARP names the Scarlet Chorus (we'll come back to that next update). This is not a story about the heroic underdog rebels fighting for the equality of man against the tyrannical overlord, this is the story of a tyrant mastering the war of all against all, and the consequences thereof.

Next time: Cleopatra really regrets not getting a library card.