Part 24: Cleopatra Jones and the Quest for RevengeCleopatra Jones and the Quest for Revenge
Last time, we helped Verse hunt down a man who was bragging about murdering a Scarlet Fury, breaking up some kind of covert Disfavored operation that to my knowledge is never mentioned again. Today we hunt down the treacherous Irissa.
Now this is much farther than we'd normally be able to go, but first we need to rest at the Spire because Cleopatra picked up exhaustion from somewhere and we may as well get the Spire bonus.
This includes Lore! We have an encounter on the way.
We're just gonna take all the options that let us continue the encounter.
Why not? We're low on friends at the moment.
You nod in approval, and she falls to all fours, clambering up the hill with her nose low to the ground, sucking deep breaths through her nostrils. You follow, easily keeping pace, but sweating slightly from the exertion.
The Beastwoman lady here is in fact a merchant who sells fairly unique stuff we want.
: Kills-in-Shadow chuffs in distaste. Beastwoman hunts to eat, only humans hunt for barter.
This is the game pushing how contact with humans is changing Beastman culture...except that humans and Beastmen lived - as far as I can tell - in contact before the arrival of Kyros.
Gem-claim here is abandoning a self-sufficent hunter-gatherer lifestyle to trade for cool things, which is honestly the smart thing to do.
We don't want any of that.
We want this thing. See that 10% spell damage? That applies even when the shield is in an arms slot we're not using, and it so happens we have an empty one. It costs over half our cash but I buy it for Cleopatra.
Unfortunately we have to have a weapon before we can equip a shield, so I slap on this spear I've had lying around in the hopes we can replace it with something better for mages later.
Anyway, we have to ask some people about Irissa.
: One man steps forward, pulling off his helm to reveal a grime-roughened face of deep umber crosshatched with pale scars.
: [Diplomat] I present a blue flag of peace. In accordance with ancient customs north and south, I offer and request a delay of blade.
: I'm Fatebinder Cleopatra Jones.
: One of the court enforcers... in Stalwart?
: You - you're the one they say awakened the Mountain Spire! He glances to his soldiers as if to make sure they're still present before refocusing his attention on you.
: We've come with questions for a warrior named Irissa.
: [Subterfuge 42] I take it from the furtive glances that Irissa's already dead.
The first option is actually NOT an abuse of our authority, as Verse's sisters were protected under Kyros' Peace. As we know from Tunon, that's a big deal.
: Krokus claimed Irissa was responsible for several slayings back in Apex.
This answers the question of "what the hell was Krokus doing with that drugged girl" - he was trying to sell her into slavery. What the hell the Disfavored have to do with it I have no idea. Were they waylaying merchants who were Nerat's agents while also getting slaves at the same time? Your guess is as good as mine.
: Is there anything at all you can tell us about Irissa?
: Absolutely nothing. She's dead. We're not. I suggest you pack your gear and go. He lowers his tone.
WHAT forces? Is he talking about Tunon's court? Just a reminder, these are the guys the Disfavored are still actively fighting, and they're able to fight even after Kyros called down an Edict on the place. They're not called the Unbroken for nothing. I guess maybe he wants Cleopatra and her 6 people who hang around the tower? We still don't have any actual troops.
: [Leave] Thank you for what you told us. Farewell.
They still haven't bowed to Kyros, even clinging to whatever religion they had before. Remember, legally the ancestors are a silly superstition which is not to be confused with the provable fact Kyros controls crop blights.
: Irissa kept these gloves with her. When she last left, she asked me to give them to her sister, Clea. You'd be able to find her on her homestead near River's Break in old Apex. It'll be years before I'm able to fulfill that request. A frown shadows his features.
This part is somewhat odd, come to think of it. Diocles correctly identified that we had come to kill Irissa in an extremely painful fashion, but now he's giving us the location of Irissa's family? Did he have some grudge against Irissa for hanging out with weird slaver assholes?
: I'll see that she gets them.
Nope, he seems sincere. I have thoughts about this quest but we'll wait a bit.
Wait, what? Just a minute ago you were promising future cooperation between our forces. Are we enemies or potential allies? Make up your damn mind!
: We managed to get through that without picking a fight. Verse turns from the retreating soldiers, resting a hand on her hip.
These are good gloves for Verse, but we swore to deliver them to Clea.
: You know these gloves?
: They belonged to one of my Furies. Verse replaces the wrappings with care.
: Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?
: We need to find this Clea. She must know something about who Irissa ran with during the war, right?
: You know you can't avenge yourself on a dead person, right? Killing her sister won't hurt Irissa.
: Come on. Screw this place. She gestures toward the road.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Who the hell are you? You're not a Disfavored fuckup but you're not from around here.
: As a diplomat, I use my secret diplomat powers to say the truce words!
: Agreed. Who are you?
: Fatebinder Cleopatra Jones.
: A Fatebinder? Oh, shit, you're THAT Fatebinder. Why are you here?
: We're looking for a warrior named Irissa.
: You look like you're prepared to kill rather than talk, um...shit...
: She's dead, right?
: Yup. No point in fighting us now is there?
: Krokus claimed Irissa was responsible for several slayings back in Apex.
: Oh, that fucker. He's a liar who sells people who hire him into slavery, don't listen to him. I got nothing else about Irissa, but I'll answer your questions in the hopes of a future alliance.
: Thanks, bye!
: Oh, uh, shit. I have to ask you something. Despite you coming in to kill Irissa, suddenly I trust you, a servant of Kyros and seeker of power, so please take these gloves to Irissa's sister. I'll even give you their family address.
: Uh, sure?
: Cool, thanks! Anyway, forget what I said earlier about an alliance, if we meet again it will end in blood. Bye!
: We managed to get through that without murdering a bunch of people, wow. Anyway, I've missed these gloves. They belonged to one of my murdered Furies. Anyway, Irissa had a sister, let's go murder her ass.
: That's not really going to help us, is it?
: Well, she might know something. I won't kill her if she doesn't deserve it - what, just because I'm a sociopath who enjoys killing and torturing animals doesn't mean I don't have any moral standards! What? Off we go!
River's Break is right next to the Mountain Spire we started from. Oh well!
Who is this? Looks like a subsistence farmer! Now, I can't really parse "what passes for abundance" because, well, this woman has a "verdant" farm and her own fig tree literally drooping with figs. That's abundance for a subsistence farmer!
: The farmer notices your approach and takes up her shovel as if it were a spear, favoring her left arm with a wince.
: Careful stranger. I'm no easy mark, and have little worth your time or blood. A few errant stands of thick gray hair, loosed from the band that tames the rest, frame her deeply-lined face.
Just what does the hair add here, exactly? We know she's preparing to fight, the dialogue frames her as preparing to fight, and the hair just deflates the tension.
: We seek Clea.
: Clea? Clea was my youngest. Why are you asking after her? She lowers the shovel slightly, her eyes widening slightly at the name.
: Was? Shit. Don't tell me we're too late.
So do we give the gloves to Essa, or...
: What happened to Clea?
: She narrows her eyes, her fingers tightening protectively around the shovel.
: I'm Cleopatra Jones, Fatebinder of Tunon the Adjudicator.
: Essa's blue eyes widen in recognition.
: You're the Peacebinder, then. She favors you with a faint smile.
It's easy to miss in the context of the quest, but Essa is very much the "average Tiersman". She's not some powerful lord or Archon, she's a farmer who used to fight for Queen Alata. The fact that someone like Essa is going around praising our peacemaking accomplishments...makes us a big threat to people like Ashe and Nerat who want to claim the Tiers. Cleopatra has the advantage that people actually like and respect her, which is not something you can say about Nerat.
: If Clea's dead, that's going to make it hard to fulfill Irissa's dying wish.
I don't have the heart to take option three.
: She died in Stalwart, aiding the Unbroken against the forces of Kyros.
Well...yes? The states of the Tiers were fighting a bunch of wars before Kyros came along. Much like many ancient cultures with military aristocrats, they glorified war!
: How was I to know your armies would come in their lifetimes, that the Gates of Judgment wouldn't hold, or that you'd stride into the Tiers with a man of stone who could step clean over a curtain wall?
: Even girls like mine couldn't stand against Kyros. There ain't been nothing like that northern shadow before, able to crush mountains and call earthquakes from a scrap of vellum. There ain't no fighting that, I told them.
: A mercenary named Krokus told us that Irissa hunted people for sport. That she displayed their heads on spikes.
: Krokus? I ain't never heard the na- She pauses, recognition flickering behind her wet eyes.
: Bald, bearded man? Skin the color of bronze and thick as a Beastman? I knew him by a different name.
: Right lazy bastard by my reckoning. Only thing he put much effort into was lying his way into a meal and a thong of rings. What justice is there if a man like him lives while my Irissa's met the void?
: What do you know about Catorius?
: The Sage? Was an older gentleman. Smarter than most, like he had the whole Vellum Citadel bouncing around in his head. A tad 'off' in that way magicians so often are. Eyes as hungry as a flame.
Good thing Lantry's not here or shit would be going down.
: You said you trained your daughters in the arts of battle?
Not sure if typo or sudden accent.
: If you're looking for someone to blame, I'd be that person. I trained them up, taught them the falx, the javelin, and the spear and shield. And aye, they used that knowledge against your precious Archons and their armies.
To be fair, so did we.
: You use all this food yourself, or have you sold it to other people in the Well?
In other words, there's a massive black market most likely, as I doubt even Kyros the Magic Tyrant has the manpower to police every individual transaction.
: What did you teach them about the Overlord?
She's not wrong, but...
If you haven't figured it out, Essa is clearly trying to commit suicide by Fatebinder. I am pretty sure this is a breach of Kyros' Peace.
: Anything else you want to tell me, Essa?
Yet more proof that Kyros' laws are just bullshit. Training your children to fight the Overlord? Forgivable. Naming a pig Kyros? Death!
: I've come to a decision in this matter.
I don't think that's a question I can answer on my own.
Decisions Lie Before Us
What are we doing with Essa?