Part 30: Cleopatra Jones and The Last TidecasterCleopatra Jones and The Last Tidecaster
Last time on Tyranny, we were chatting with Bleden Mark about a hat and he wanted us to go grab more artifacts so we could claim to be a totally legitimate power center and not some jerkass seizing power by force.
: Okay, sure.
As ominous as Mark seems, he's been pretty helpful and trustworthy so far, and he hasn't really asked us to do anything morally abhorrent. Yet.
: I was thinking of heading to the Stone Sea. What should I look for when I'm there?
: For a century, the Azure Shield went from one Regent's Knight to the next - it seems like such a little thing next to a Disfavored shield, but it's a powerful relic all the same. Finding it in the maze of the Stone Sea will be a challenge.
: I have an agent that could point you to the Stonestalkers - a tribe of Beastmen that have filled the power vacuum left by the fall of Azure. Only they know the landscape of the Stone Sea.
Jesus, Mark, that's just mean.
Oh no you don't. We need exposition.
: Wait, I have questions.
: The Archon lets out a short sigh as the color returns to his image.
: Again with the questions?
As much as this annoys him, Mark is probably the one character aside from Tunon who is privy to what all is going on at the highest levels of Kyros' empire.
: I want to know more about the other Archons.
: What are your thoughts on Graven Ashe?
This is kind of weird to me. The authors put a lot into how Graven Ashe is an honorable old general beloved by his men because he cares about them so much - and that's the official line, so that's fine. It's weird to see Mark uncritically echoing that, because Mark's whole thing is that he's a cynical old bastard who doesn't buy any of the official idealistic bullshit because he knows its all a bunch of crap made up to control people. This isn't to say Mark believes in nothing - as EclecticTastes pointed out, Mark's cynicism is the cynicism of a man whose ideals have been trampled and he tried to actually stop Kyros - but he's certainly not going to tolerate professions of idealism from anyone under Kyros, because it's all self-serving lies.
We haven't seen the event that really shows what Ashe really thinks of his men, but we've had some hints from Barik still being assigned to us eternally without orders to be recalled, and of course Barik's quest that shows us that Ashe is the one keeping him trapped in his own shit.
Then again, I said the same thing about Ashe caring for his men earlier, so who knows? Certainly the Disfavored believe it.
: What's Graven Ashe's story?
: Ashe was some bannerman in the Northern Kingdom, and while his countrymen were butchered in the war, his band were a killing shadow in the mountains.
We've seen Blood Echo before - Nerat mentioned him and praised him for being a violent lunatic who was easily manipulated.
This incident undoubtedly started the enmity between Ashe and Nerat that carried over when Ashe and his legion swore fealty - and fed Mark's cynicism.
It's also noteworthy that despite being the target of "the Archons" Mark was never sent against Ashe.
: What do you know about Kyros?
: He shrugs.
: Why do you think the Overlord is allowing the Archons to fight?
: Huh. I was expecting a dumber question. Kyros sure can appear fickle. Cairn was treacherous and vocal about it and gets an Edict dropped on his head. The Voices and Ashe openly bicker and Kyros just watches... if you don't know the Overlord, it can all seem random and erratic.
This ties right back into the recurring theme that divisions ultimately enable Kyros. The Tiers were weak not because they were naturally inferior or whatever Ashe would tell you, but because they were divided. The Archons are controllable because Kyros keeps them at each others' throats. The Scarlet Chorus is controllable because - as Verse tells us repeatedly - they're too busy fighting each other for scraps to unite into a real army that could threaten Kyros or Nerat.
: How did the Overlord come into power?
: Such things were before my time, but from what I understand, Kyros did not enjoin the Archons with charisma and cooperation. It was the power of the Edicts that terrified many into bowing. Once a trio of Archons answered to Kyros, it became a matter of time until all others bowed.
This is where the tyrannical allegory becomes a little weird. What's missing from our wacky not-quite-twentieth-century authoritarianism is the charismatic leader who can rally enough true believers to keep the rest in line. Many tyrants are actually charismatic and rely on their personal charisma to gain support, so Kyros being this weirdly reserved person who can't actually use that to his benefit is kind of a flaw in the allegory.
This is the closest Mark will come to outright condemning Kyros - he can pull stunts like this, but Kyros has him by the metaphorical nuts.
: Let me ask about something else.
: Maybe another time. You're too curious for your own good, kid.
Free sigil! Bleden Mark rules! Incidentally, this one is an accent that increases the accuracy of future spells against the target(s). It's pretty great.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Nice hat. Can I borrow it to do totally legal things in the Oldwalls? I'll be back faster than you can say "Glory to Kyros."
: Go nuts.
: Excellent! I finally made it through Das Kapital thanks to that hat. Here's your hat, I powered it up somehow.
: Sweet, thanks.
: Where are you going next?
: The nice people of the internet told me to go to the Stone Sea.
: Excellent. You're looking for the Azure Shield - it doesn't look like much, but it was wielding by the Regent's Knights who used to serve that country and will let you claim legitimacy from Azure you really don't deserve. I've got an agent who can hook you up with the Stonestalker Tribe - just tell him this is his chance to see his wife again. Mark out!
: Exposition? Pleeeeeeeease?
: So what's Graven Ashe's story?
: He was a rebel in the Northern Kingdom when Kyros conquered it. He and his band successfully resisted the conquest, going so far as to trap and kill Blood Echo, the then Archon of War. Then he made Nerat look like a chump, so we gave him amnesty and recruited him. Everyone has a price.
: Why is Kyros allowing the Archons to fight?
: Good question! It might seem random, but Kyros doesn't need them any more - so why not let them kill each other?
: How did Kyros come to power anyway?
: Threatening the Archons with Edicts until they fell in line. What, did you think charisma or something? Kyros is the least charismatic tyrant ever! Anyway, that's enough questions. I got you a sigil, try not to die kid! Mark OUT!
It's time to go back to the Spire to switch to our new all-mage party.
It really speaks to how poorly Sirin's been treated that she's looking forward to going on adventures with us where she has to fight for her life on a regular basis.
Unlike certain games, Lantry and Sirin gain XP outside the party, so we don't have to worry about people falling behind.
We also have a little pile of spell slots to fill! This is the reason why Quickness - the stat that reduces cooldowns - isn't nearly as good for mages, because you can seriously just rotate through all your attack spells and by the time the rotation ends your first spells will be off cooldown.
The next trial at Tunon's court has sadly not triggered. I do have a save with another character I can show off that has it, as I think it's kind of important and needs to be shown off. I'll keep trying on Cleopatra, worst case scenario, I load the practice run.
We're on our way to the DLC area to do...stuff.
The thread voted to talk to Eb, so before we get into Bastard's Wound we're going to chat up our foul-mouthed water mage.
: We should discuss matters at hand.
Eb's not wrong, if only because the initial Havoc fight is done and the rest of the game is piss easy by throwing enough spells at it.
: Let's talk of something else.
We tell Eb we have some questions for her, and...
: Tell me about yourself.
: Tell me about your name.
: Hazen? Didn't realize you were nobility.
The game has hinted at this by putting Eb in the leadership of the Vendrien Guard - which was led entirely by nobles with distinguished family names like Matani or Pelox.
: How'd you get the nickname?
Moving to the next set of questions...
: Did you always want to be a Tidecaster?
: So when I was a little girl, what I REALLY wanted to be was a marine - the burly bitch at the prow of a trireme, first to crack some skulls when the ships rammed... you know, an honest living. Fortunately, the School sought me out before I got myself killed at sea.
: The School of Tides was looking for new blood, and my father was an Admiral of Haven - so the School wanted me for the political connections. I got to spend my first couple years proving I actually belong[sic] with the Tidecasters...that was fun.
: What did you do in the years before the war?
: My husband was born in Apex, and he left his prosperous lands to be with me. So when the nest was empty, it seemed right we leave my homeland and see his side of the Tiers.
: We had a year and a bit to ourselves before the war upturned things. We saw all of Apex. I took him along all my old sailing routes around Five Wives and Sunder... those were good times.
: Tell me about your family.
: Tell me about your husband.
We've seen the Pelox name before.
Earlier in the game posted:
Hell, this isn't the first time, we keep running into the Pelox brothers throughout our attempts to suppress the rebellion - the gentleman we convince to turn himself over to save his men, and his brother whose life we spared.
Earlier in the game posted:
Eb's not just asking this because she's a high-ranking member of the rebellion trying to get the nobles released, they're her family! Specifically, all those Pelox brothers are her brothers-in-law.
: What became of him?
: He perished at the Gates of Judgement. I saw him die - I do not wish to discuss it, just know I've made my peace with it and am glad I was with him on the field of battle when his time came.
This is blatant rationalization bullshit. Eb clearly cared enough about him to join a doomed rebellion partially led by his brothers.
: Tell me about your children.
: There were the twins - Drevenor and Lorma, then my youngest son Acamas. Aldenos wanted more, but I was nearing the ends of my trials at the School of Tides - and dueling with lethal magics is a terrible idea when with child.
Whereas Lantry is constantly high to escape his Kyros-inflicted losses and Sirin is an angry teenager determined to smash the system, Eb is the last survivor after Kyros took literally everything from her.
: What of the twins?
: They died at the Gates of Judgement - or at least, Drevenor died - run through by a Disfavored spear. Lorma was at the battle but... I don't know what became of her. My fear has been she was recruited by the Scarlet Chorus... perhaps she has a new name... if she's still alive.
She never shows up as far as I know.
: What became of your youngest?
Do you think this is gonna have a happy ending?
: I should have put him on a trireme and shoved him out onto the high seas. He did not ask for birth, nor did I prepare him for the bitterness that life would offer.
: I'm very sorry for your loss.
: Spare me the sorrow. We've all lost family to Kyros... I just lost two in one battle - but even then, I'm hardly unique.
We're also personally responsible for the deaths of some of the in-laws, so maybe we should shut up.
: What of the rest of your family?
: My family's Haven folk through-and-through. My mother prided herself on being descended from a Hazen Rabban, one of the founding magistrates of the city of Ardent.
: She looks to the side, mouth twisting in thought.
: Sad thing is, they died during the conquest, but that's not how I lost contact. I lost contact because magic and travel became my life. Had plenty of time to get to know them as an adult but... I simply missed it.
Eb's recurring theme here is that she holds herself personally responsible for the loss of her family that is entirely Kyros' fault. It's all survivors guilt, leading her to do things like join a doomed rebellion with her in-laws to try to make Kyros and company pay for their deaths or blaming herself for her family's deaths at the Gates of Judgement.
Actually, you can! If it weren't for Kyros you'd have had more time to get to know your family, and it's entirely reasonable to go around traveling the Tiers with your husband and spending the time raising your kids and teaching them. We're not taking that skepticism option, it's a dick move for less perceptive players. Back up the tree!
: How did you fall in with the Vendrien Guard?
Notice she doesn't bring up her husband or in-laws.
Back up the tree!
: I have questions about the people of the Tiers.
: I'm curious about the people of the Tiers.
Notice anything contradictory here? Kyros adores factionalism. Haven, Azure, and Apex could not stand alone against Kyros, and the divisions in the Tiers are exactly what the Kyrosians want.
: When were the Tiers settled?
: Human settlers arrived over four hundred years ago. Displaced from a war between whta are now Kyros' realms of Treyn and Fertile Sands, a flotilla of barely-seaworthy rigs headed west across the high seas.
What else happened 400 years ago?
The Very Beginning of the Game posted:
: Tiersmen will sometimes speak of the Five Wives - we use it to refer both to the first five settlements where the colonists made landfall, as well as to the five matriarchs that went on to form the ruling dynasties of the Tiers.
: Why don't men own land, or women ships?
: For centuries, it has been our way that the men own the ships but the women own the harbors. Our customs don't truly prevent ownership, they limit inheritance - lands pass to daughters then sisters then mothers and aunts. Ships pass to sons then brothers then fathers and uncles.
: It seems strange to outsiders but it makes sense to me. Men are blessed with wanderlust, women with a sense of the permanent. Likewise, the captain of a ship can't pause to carry a child, and the men grow restless if left in place.
This is gender essentialist nonsense that's explicitly not supported by the rest of the game - Verse leaves her comfy inheritance of a big farm to go join the Scarlet Chorus voluntarily, Calio is a roving Fatebinder in the service of Tunon, Eldian sits around and runs Lethian's Crossing all day, and she's saying this to a lady Fatebinder who enjoys running around the Tiers.
Don't read too much into it, the challenge of Colonialism vs People With Shitty Cultural Artifacts Like Caste Systems comes up more in Pillars of Eternity 2, and were mostly glossed over by people wondering if the second game was going to do anything with the big revelation from the first game that the gods were a lie made up by men to keep social order. As it happens, the game went with "that may be true, but there's nothing you can do about it" and pissed off a bunch of goons in the thread. Oh well!
: Why didn't the Younger Realms stand united against Kyros?
This is a really sore subject for Eb because it's not just political, her family died defending the entire Tiers and the rest of the fuckers didn't follow through. She mentioned the Gates of Judgement, we've heard that name before.
Earlier in the game posted:
An actual battle hardly warrants a mention. It's clear that Eb and her family joined some attempt at defending the Gates, but she doesn't even mention it in the intro she narrates and instead points out the garbage Tiers leadership hung her family out to dry.
: Well then... what would Queen Eb have done?
To recap: 400 years ago, the Tiers were founded by people fleeing from Kyros. In the present day people thought Kyros would never get them.
: Tiersmen live with greater numbers of Beastmen - what's that like?
Oh boy, here comes the minefield.
This is not remotely true - at least not the harmony part.
This is the equivalent of asking some dude in antebellum South what it's like to live with all the black people. The Stonestalker tribe isn't so much a historical clan structure as it is a bunch of Beastmen who escaped actual slavery in Azure forming a new country where they can have a life that doesn't suck. Just wait till we get to the Stone Sea and see what complete assholes they are.
Remember, Eb is a Tiersman noble.
Yea we're just gonna slowly back away from the patronizing crap. Pity I didn't have this conversation when Killsy was in the party. It's clear Eb means well but also doesn't really know any Beastmen. Back up the tree!
: What of the major resistors to Kyros' rule?
: Tell me about the Stonestalker tribe.
Remember, this was the more humane and modern treatment Eb spoke of.
: The Stonestalkers are a tribe born from these newly-freed beasts. I imagine they would never bow to Kyros or the Archons - too many generations have been enslaved. I'd wager anything they'll die before they ever bow.
She's not kidding, but we are fortunately on the wrong route to test this.
This, to be blunt, is bullshit. Kills-in-Shadow had never met us, but was willing to acknowledge Cleopatra as Prima just from hearing stories about the lady who spoke words that called down fire from the sky. We know literally nothing about the Beastwoman Archon Mark killed. However, this is the kind of logic that justifies White Man's Burden garbage where the British troops aren't coming to steal all your shit, they're actually here to stop widow burning and the very bad caste system while calling you the n-word and mandating only white people can be in charge. No it doesn't make sense and don't think about it too hard.
: Tell me about the Bronze Brotherhood.
: The Bronze Brotherhood is one of the most feared and famous of the Free Cities mercenary companies. They serve the highest bidder, and during the war, that was Kyros.
: Most of the Brotherhood perished in the war, but a handful, the crew hired to work at Lethian's Crossing - they got to babysit the Forge-Bound and survive the last few years with minor losses.
I will bet actual money Kyros went out of her way to ensure that the most capable troops and competent leaders got killed off.
Actually, I'm pretty sure we broke the last of them.
: Tell me about the Unbroken.
: A decade ago, Stalwart was the ass-end of jokes Tiersmen tell each other. The people of Stalwart are obnoxiously proud of a long history of being invaded but never losing. The Disfavored put an end to their vaunted record of victory.
: Are there other remnants of the Younger Realms that could still rise against Kyros?
: Several Sages came to our aid during the second battle of Vendrien's Well - I at first thought they meant to kill me, but instead they put their lives on the line for us.
: They spoke of others in their guild braving the Edict of Fire to salvage lore from the Burning Library... though I may find them untrustworthy, it must be said that the Sages have a certain... fearlessness toward the Overlord - perhaps that could be kindled further.
Unfortunately Eb hasn't completely internalized the lesson that division just rewards Kyros, so...
: Would you rather they be our enemies?
Exact same line of thinking that got your family killed for nothing, Eb!
Back up the tree.
: What can you tell me about the different nations of the Tiers?
: Tell me about the Younger Realms.
: Haven, Azure, Apex, and Stalwar have been the four major forces of the Tiers for the last four centuries. A few other dynasties have tried their hand, but all eventually were defeated or absorbed into the four we know today.
: Not sure when the term "younger" came into fashion, but it's always been a term of humble contrast - just look at the Oldwalls - someone was here before us and built them - don't know really anything about them, but it stands to reason there used to be an Older Realms that did all the construction.
: Tell me about the Bastard Tier.
: It's the northernmost of the Tiers, and the choke point to the Northern Empire. It's been a hub of trade for centuries, and a long line of merchant families and private armies have kept the realm largely lawless.
: Though many of used[sic] to joke about the Bastard City being sacked by rabid dogs, Tunon's capture of the city was a terrible blow to the morale of the Tiersmen - we knew that day Kyros was more than just a fun story to scare your kids.
: What can you tell me about the Free Cities?
This is what Kyros loves to hear!
Back up the tree!
...you know what? We've got a LOT of Eb chat to go about her magic and her take on the Archons, and this update is getting extremely long already. I can't blame people for seeing the wall of screenshots and going "fuck, that's a LOT of words!" so let's talk about what we did get.
Eb is a noblewoman of Haven who married into Apex nobility. The rebels she was helping at the beginning weren't just an unrelated band of freedom fighters, they were her in-laws. Her husband and children got killed at the Gates of Judgment, in a battle so inconsequential that her opening narration didn't even bother to mention it. She feels guilty at being the last survivor of her family when Kyros killed all the rest and holds herself personally responsible for the suicide of her youngest son. She blames the Tiers' craptastical political leadership - all trying to betray each other for momentary gain when the massive armies of Kyros are at the door - for ensuring her family died for nothing, and this probably motivated her to join the doomed rebellion - hell, she swears allegiance to us because she sees somebody she could use to maybe destroy Kyros.
In other ways, Eb represents the leadership of the Tiers. She's very vocal about their customs of gender essentialism despite the game vomiting out counterexamples everywhere, she is patronizingly racist toward the Beastmen and doesn't understand them at all, and despite her ability to recognize that the political divisions in the Tiers got her entire family killed, bears a grudge against the Sages despite the two awesome Sages that held off Kyros' entire army until Cleopatra stepped in. Eb is very much a progressive noble. She fought for the Tiers and not just Haven or Apex, she married outside her country, she's able to recognize that the Azure treatment of the Beastmen was slavery - but she's still an apologist for her native culture to a degree with the gender essentialism and her claim that the Northern Empire treats Beastmen even worse. It ties back into the idea that Kyros wins when the status quo is bad because Kyros can come in and profit off the division.
Earlier in the game posted:
I spent Act 1 pointing out that the Tiers nobility sucks because they're Bronze Age nobility ruling over peasants mad that they have to bow to a dictator instead of being the head honchos. Eb's story reinforces this - there's very little view of what the Kyrosian conquest is like for your average farmer from her perspective, but the very sad tale of how the Tiers nobility was no longer "free" to dick around while the Beastmen and peasants grew all the food. Her husband is a military aristocrat she thinks of as a woodworker because he fucked around with carpentry as a hobby while she made dick jokes, and it's telling her idea of "real work" isn't farming or spinning clothes but fighting. Even teaching her children to read is explicitly called out by the game as a privilege of Tiers nobility. This should not be taken as a detraction from the very real tragedy of Kyros slaughtering her family and her survivor's guilt driving her to avenge them...but it should be placed in perspective. Eb's family aren't the regular people being starved to death in Ukraine to make reality follow some untested theory, they're the Romanov kids being executed. Eb's also explaining why the Tiersmen rebellions aren't getting anywhere, they're still not unified! Even Eb, the lady who lost everything to Tiersman infighting, can't put aside her hatred of the Sages. Tarkis Arri signs her final hate-filled letter to us "Apex Patriot", not "defender of the Tiers" or some such.
Why is this important? It ties back into what Bleden Mark's plan for Cleopatra is. By having us gather artifacts from all the Tiers nations, Cleopatra - and Cleopatra alone - can lay claim to being the heir of a new, unified Tiers. It's kind of like how Wagner wrote a bunch of operas about German mythology despite how Germany hadn't been a unified country until recently. By going around and breaking all these Edicts and claiming these Artifacts, Cleopatra can claim to be the heir of the unified Tiers, something which the existing nobility can't do because they're all too focused on their own little slice of the pie. We already have the Staff of Hours, the Hammer of Sunder, and the Banner of Ardent to legitimize our newfound heritage from those places, and our goal is to go to the Stone Sea and get the Azure Shield so we can weave the people of Azure into our new myth as well. It really helps us a lot that the locals aren't up to the task.