Part 19: Cleopatra Jones and the Quest To Unfuck Barik's LifeCleopatra Jones and the Quest To Unfuck Barik's Life
Notice by this point we aren't "a" Fatebinder, we're "the" Fatebinder. Cleopatra is moving up in the world.
: I take it you know me.
: Who are you?
: You sought me out - I assumed you knew already. Or do you make a habit of walking into strangers' houses?
: Nice forge.
: Thanks. I made it myself. She chuckles.
: [Lore 42] After the Vellum Citadel?
: I have a forge of my own if you'd like to relocate. It's significantly larger and provdes a much better view.
: I need you to examine my friend Barik.
: This one, I assume? He's pointy. Her gaze wanders around Barik's assortment of sharp edges.
: Damn it, Fatebinder. Why can't you leave this be?
: Currently he's pretty bad at climbing, sneaking, swimming, and using the privy unassisted. I'd like you to address that.
: I promise you that this will be for the best, friend. Let me deal with the legal ramifications.
: I assume that you want to come out with all your bits regardless, right? Then hold still and quiet down.
: Before anything else, I need to ask you a few questions.
: Understand that there may be things we can't tell you.
: I won't ask anything political or tactical. Only matters personal.
: Hardly reassuring.
: [Lore 47] It's important, Barik, particularly in the case of a possible convergence of arcane energies, to rule out resonant adulteration.
Ah, so that's how the Disfavored stay in formation!
: And that's all I shall speak of it. I have never passed time with a mage. Or Archon, Oath Bound, Beastwoman, or anything else unusual.
: Is there anything you are unwilling to soil with your perversion, witch?
: You wore Forge-Bound armor during the Conquest, correct? The smith nods.
: And prior to it.
: Was it sigil-woven? Enchanted against harm?
: I do not believe so. It was iron.
: Have you had sigils of any kind branded onto your skin?
: The mark of the Disfavored?
: The General's sigil, or rather what of it the Overlord's decree allows. Many members of the Legion scar themselves with it, binding their loyalty into their flesh and blood. It marks us family.
It's one big vaguely incestuous family. Also this would seem to imply Ashe's sigil is not one of ours.
: I've heard it said that Graven Ashe protects. The Sages had no direct knowledge of the Archon of War's abilities, but there were many, many theories. I don't suppose you can provide any concrete information.
He's a terrible general and a terrible leader. His entire tactics seem to be "throw heavy infantry with occasional mage support at enemy".
: [Lore 47] Archon Ashe shares a strong connection with his soldiers. It allows him to take on some of their harm while also sharing in their experiences.
What did you expect after we yeeting Erenyos off the tower?
: And you do not need repairs or maintenance on the armor, I presume?
: Aside from oiling it and filing down the pointer bits? No. Wait, how did you know that? Metal grinds quietly.
: What am I supposed to do with this?
: [Take it.]
: Are you insane?
: Perhaps a little. Comes with having most everyone and everything you know wiped from the face of Terratus with a few magic words from a distant tyrant. She shakes her head.
: [Stab Barik.]
: [To Barik.] It'll be okay, Barik! You've faced worse!
: I suppose that's true. Though usually with a bit more warning. He twists his torso in an attempt to get a look at the wound.
: [Examine the wound.]
: I need to see the injury, Barik.
As opposed to fast reluctance?
: You peer through the hole in the oxidized bronze and iron shell, willing yourself to ignore the mixing smells of cooked meet[sic] and fetid human waste. You see the ragged, oozing flesh beneath, a gasping red cavity pulsing in time with Barik's labored breath.
: [Lore 42] His armor seems to be healing... just like his flesh.
: Your armor and flesh heal as one. Is that a standard property among the Disfavored? She straightens, peering into Barik's mismatched eyes.
: [Lore 57] If he and his armor heal as one, they're likely mystically bound together.
: I have a working theory, but what I can't make out is what differentiates you from the other Disfavored who served in the Blade Grave. Maybe it's some trick of the blood, maybe it's your connection to the Fatebinder, maybe something else.
: But I hardly knew the Fatebinder prior to Vendrien's Well.
: [Athletics 26] Choose your words carefully, smith.
You might hurt Tunon's feelings! Do you know how hard he works on those laws?
: We'll get you the sample.
: Then I await your return. She turns from you, peering thoughtfully into her slack tub and the iron rod within.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Oh fuck me, it's the Fatebinder. I mean, uh, welcome to my humble abode.
: You know me.
: Everyone has seen the Spires.
: Who are you?
: You don't know? You came to my house! I'm Lycentia, a wizard who is also a smith.
: Nice forge.
: Thanks! The heat wards were inspired by...well, the Vellum Citadel after the Edict.
: Mine is bigger if you want to come work for me.
: Wow, really? No.
: Can you take a look at Barik?
: This is illegal, you know.
: Let me handle that. He, uh, can't swim good, can you help him?
: First, we need to ask some questions. Barik, are you a virgin?
: Barik, it's very important that you talk about your sex life in front of this 15 year old Archon, Lantry, your boss, and this strange but not entirely unattractive smith lady. Actually, Sirin, cover your ears, you're too young for this. It's because of magic and stuff.
: Uh, ok, I used to fuck other Disfavored all the time. We were all perfect people and not mongrels...but now...I can't, because I'm stuck in this armor. I've never fucked an Archon or a mage or a Beastwoman or any of that! We're done here.
: Hmm...and you just wore regular iron armor? Nothing overtly magical with sigils and whatnot?
: So, how about the Disfavored? How do they work?
: I can't betray the Great General!
: I can! He's got a magic bond where he takes some of the damage from his troops and helps them heal, but he also shares in their experiences.
: Let me try something. Take this hot iron bar and stab him.
: OW FUCK WHY!!!!
: Yea, the wound is healing but also the armor is self-repairing. Hmm. I have a theory but I need a sample from the Blade grave.
: I'll go get one.
You are probably seeing where this is going. More when the quest is done.
We got another missive from Rhogalus.
Dear Cleopatra Jones,
Your summation is most fascinating, thank you for sharing.
You are certainly not the first to proclaim an Edict - many of us have been used to complete the casting of the Overlord's magic. And you aren't the first to break and Edict - though that list of names is a smaller, more exclusive list.
What's curious though... living and recorded memory make no mention of someone who proclaimed and shattered the same Edict. In that regard, you are an anomaly.
The bad news is, the Archons know this and will be suspicious of this distinction.
Along with this parchment, I have included the contact information of the Honorable Fatebinder Myothis, an old peer of mine and perhaps the most knowledgeable in the Court on matters not taught to us by Tunon. Treat her with respect, and she will not betray your confidence.
Best of luck, Cleopatra Jones, I think things are about to get even stranger for you.
Let's write to Myothis.
We will politely introduce ourselves. Being a dick to experienced Fatebinders is a bad idea.
It's going to take us a long time to get this artifact done so let's finish up Barik's quest.
Hail the refugees.
We already set the precedent that scavenging is kind of OK, so we guide them through the storm.
Having a reputation for fairness never hurt either.
Myothis is pretty cool and gets back to us.
Do you remember your training under Bleden Mark? I remember mine - funny to think that you and I are about a century apart, but to Bleden Mark, we are all children.
I'm now the oldest of the Court's 'children' and I've seen much in my time. It's probably for the best everyone assumes I'm old, harmless, and worth shuffling away in the archives... if I were scrutinized too closely, I'm sure Tunon would find I've grown lax in my spoiled old age...
Part of why I am where I am is that I've kept my head down - you appear to be doing the opposite. In some regards, this is beyond your control - you were chosen for the honor of proclaiming Kyros' Edicts - twice! To decline would have meant death, but to accept means to be placed on the stage for all to see.
Kyros' most powerful weapon is not the Edict, it's her ability to hand us rope that we willingly use to hang ourselves - never forget this.
There are numerous questions nestled in your request - what is it you wish to know most? Focus your inquiry and I will answer as best I can.
We are going to ask about Spires
Our reply posted:
It seems wise to know one's own domain, and seeing as I'm now the master of the Mountain Spire, I ought to learn all that I can. If you would share with me what you know of the Spires, I would be in your debt.
I'll start with what I know and have observed so far. The Mountain Spire seemed to awaken at about the same instant that Kyros' Edict of Execution was put to rest. There was a burst of arcane energy that drowned out my senses, and I awoke at the summit of the Spire in (what seemed to be) just a few heartbeats of time.
Atop the Spire is an old sculpture of sorts, and it seems to be the core of the Spire's mystic energy. I've been seeing visions and receiving sensations FROM the sculpture - it seems odd to describe it as talking to me, but that seems the closest analogy.
Am I the first to report such things? There are other Spires elsewhere in the world, correct?
We'll get to Myothis later. There's a lot of text to get through.
Welcome to the Blade Grave! It sucks!
When we get here it triggers a cutscene.
Specifically all these Scarlet Chorus jerks run out from nowhere.
I honestly think this is the only lady Blood Chanter in the game.
: [Glare silently]
: Am I supposed to know who you are?
: How did you know I'd be here?
: Get on with it and tell me what you want.
: Aside from revisiting on you what you did to the Censor? Her lip twitches
: What does the Archon of Secrets want with Barik?
: [Attack] I think that I speak for both Barik and myself when I tell you we'd sooner see him dead than in the hands of the Voices.
It's another Tyranny fight! We're not going into details. Sirin goes down because I fuck up my micro and didn't upgrade her equipment, but then we burn them all to death.
Sorry Careless Spark! I kind of liked your design!
Grab the sample, and...
: Something bothering you, Barik?
Barik, you asked Cleo to get you out of your armor. Do you really want to go through life as a celibate man covered in shit?
: Barik, I just want to help. Why are you so resistant to it?
As we can see, Barik has been covering his ears every time the game has proven that the Laws of Kyros are worth what they are written on.
: More ambiguity than you might think. The flexibility of the law is in the details.
: Peering at the ground for several seconds, Barik says nothing, and then turns his attention to you.
: This place haunts me, Fatebinder. These walls, these lands, they were hard once, but they possessed an austere beauty. The General saw them for what they were - lands well worth fighting for.
: Go on.
: We were no fools. We knew what had fallen upon us, and we took cover as best our iron shields and the General's protection allowed. Yet the wind tore us away, one by one. Some silent, some screaming.
: Take the metal to your smith or do not. There is nothing further to be said. Let us leave.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hi! I'm Careless Spark. I'm here with the Archon of Secrets and we'd like to take Barik with us. Pleeeeeease?
: I think I speak for both Barik and myself when I say "fuck off and die".
: Let's murder these clowns!
: Ow! I'm dead!
: Fatebinder. Why do you persist in this, when Tunon explicitly told you NOT to do it?
: Have you seen this legal system? It's designed to have gaping loopholes the privileged can somersault through.
: Dammit Fatebinder, I will never understand this bullshit lying I keep seeing from the Court.
: This place scarred me. We were marching through what was once a beautiful land, and then Kyros' Edict hit. I saw my friends I used to have sex with a lot flushed away, torn by the winds despite our iron and the General's protection. Only I survived.
So, uh, we have officially pissed Barik off enough to get his Fear ability.
It's not bad!
Let's finish up the Barik quest.
: [Give the sample.] Here.
: With rapt attention, Barik watches the smith move about the sample, examining it from several angels. He says nothing, though when the faceplate of his helm shifts toward you, there's accusation in his eyes.
: Heh...hmmm... A few other thoughtful sounds follow as she continues her examination.
: A revealing cantrip and some aimless grunting? Oh come on, I could have managed this.
: This will do. This will most certainly do! She straightens, nodding vigorously. Lycentia brings her hands together again in a single, sharp clap.
: It's going to take me a little time to work out the rock's properties, but this is a promising start.
: Of course not. Don't be ridiculous.
: Of course not. His armor grinds against itself with a growl.
: Pull up a stool or crate and make yourselves at home. This shouldn't take too long...
(We fade out, and...)
: Find anything?
: I'd sure as stone say I did.
: The alloy absorbs and retains mystical energy. Specifically in the form of magical effects. She grins.
: What does this mean for Barik?
: You live your entire life in service to Graven Ashe and the Overlord. The added burden of this armor is ridiculous!
: Unfortunately, separating Barik from his armor may not be as easy as one imagines. Perhaps if I'd gotten to him immediately after the Edict...
: As is, Barik is as alloyed with his armor as the iron is with the bronze. She gestures toward the sample.
Yup! The power of Graven Ashe is trapping Barik in that armor with his own shit.
: That's not encouraging.
: Is there no other way?
: An alternative? I'll continue studying the alloy. If I find anything, I'll send word to your Spire. She drums her chin with three sooty fingers, frowning.
: You could always visit. We have a teleporter, it's not like you have to climb the whole thing.
: I'll pass, thanks. High spaces have never agreed with my... everything. She passes an open palm over her belly.
This is a DLC quest, which may explain the typo pile.
It's kind of weird to me that neither the Disfavored nor the Chorus build any siege engines outside Vendrien's Well ever. I guess that takes time they don't have, but still.
: Thank you, Lycentia. Please keep searching for a better way.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: You're back! Hmm. Hmm. Hmmmmmm. Hmmmm.
: Are you gonna tell us anything? I could do better than this!
: It's going to take a bit to check out this rock.
: Are you going to be stabbing it with hot iron too?
: Nope lol.
: I figured it out!
: Now we can stop this heresy!
: Barik, you've spent your entire life serving Ashe and the Overlord, you don't deserve to be in that armor!
: I don't do it because it's just, I do it because it is the will of Kyros! I AM KYROS' BITCH!
: It's Graven Ashe! Graven Ashe is fucking you over by regenerating your armor! Nothing I can do about it unless you kill Graven Ashe or quit the Disfavored.
: Never! I have nothing else!
: Is there no other way?
: Nope! He's fucked!
So we very briefly talked with Barik earlier, but we got enough out of him from the quest that we can say a bit more. The thread compared Barik to Boxer the horse from Animal Farm, and honestly that's a really astute comparison. Much like Boxer, Barik's response to continuing abuse is to proclaim his loyalty more loudly and swear to work harder. Barik is a military commander while Boxer is the Russian peasantry, but the comparison stands.
Earlier in the game posted:
Kyros knew exactly what she was doing - punishing the Disfavored troops for the indecision of Graven Ashe. Barik has been nothing but loyal to both Ashe and the Overlord - remember, Ashe hasn't rescinded Barik's orders to protect us, and his reward is to be trapped in his own armor for sins he didn't commit - because of the "protection" of Graven Ashe. As I've been saying, Barik's tragedy is that he is a noble man who cares for others trapped under a prison of iron crafted for him by the superiors he serves so blindly. There's really nothing more to say.
Next time: We finally get that artifact and chat up Bleden Mark.