The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 66: Governor Boris and the Chat with Nerat

Governor Boris and the Chat with Nerat

Last time on Tyranny we pressed Tunon extremely hard and he kindly refrained from opening up a can of whoopass.

Today we're gonna go annoy Nerat.

Tunon gives us the Barik sidequest. You know the drill. I'll try to show off the...erm, other, resolution to his quest.

Bleden Mark will never join us on this runthrough but there are a bunch of ways his misadventures can play out depending on whether he likes the player or not. I take the same path as last time.

Granted, he gives us some specific advice. He's not wrong!

Welcome to Cacophony! Unlike last time where we just visited to put Nerat out of our misery, Cacophony is going to be a major quest hub for us. It's the main Scarlet Chorus encampment, and a bunch of people would like us to help them with wacky misadventures involving mutilation.

The Voices is up and about on his throne. I believe that is Matani Sybil impaled on the right there - the more people we send to the Voices, the more people get impaled on spikes.

Nerat is happy to see us because he's on his way to becoming King of the Tiers.

: As if proclaiming and resolving the same Edict weren't impressive enough, you found the temerity to reject Graven Ashe and support our right to conquer these lands.

: You deserve a just reward when this is over, but it's too early to congratulate ourselves when there's plenty of war still to fight.

Nerat, being our friend/patron, is here to answer our questions. Graven Ashe does the same on his route.

: I want to ask about your power. You are a remarkable... person.

The key to getting Nerat favor is to tell him how great he is, which works on every Archon not named Bleden Mark and to a lesser extent Sirin.

: They say you're an interrogator without equal. What's your secret?

: We are full of secrets, and we can't be expected to share them with the adoring masses. We're certain that you have a few of your own - and wouldn't want them brought to light.

: His empty, green eye sockets stare with intensity.

: I'm ready to learn anything you'll teach me.

: Teach you? Impudent, ambitious little morsel! Our lessons come at a steep price.

: He chuckles, sending a gust of putrid, green smoke across the gap between you.

: What happens after you interrogate someone?

: It's a transcendent experience. The subject and I, we grow to trust, depend upon, and even love each other.

: We have long since learned that pain and the intensity of our conversation make strange bedfellows. Applied together, anything can happen.

This is of course nonsense, as we saw Nerat lose control and let out Hagrivar and Brennix in Cleopatra's playthrough.

At least he's honest about his inevitable betrayal.

: Have you ever tried to... absorb... another Archon?

Something to keep in mind during this encounter is that Nerat, by definition as the Archon of Secrets, is a thoroughly unreliable source milking us for flattery.

So far this is believable. The legality stuff is standard boilerplate, sure, but Nerat wanted to show loyalty and win favors for himself.

This part is most likely bullshit. Remember, Nerat gains power from mages like the Wild Wrath and Tidecasters by devouring their minds. If Nerat COULD gain power by devouring other Archons, they'd all turn on him immediately. Archons have a lot of privileges, but they're not supposed to turn on each other without permission from Tunon, and if he could steal the power of the other Archons he'd be a threat without equal. Hell, he could maybe someday eat Kyros - or the endgame Fatebinder - and start dropping Edicts. If Nerat could do this, he has no incentive to give us an honest answer that he can because outing himself like that would make him enemy number one.

It's also a potential reason for Kyros to try to get rid of him. bewilderment in the thread had a brilliant explanation of Nerat that's worth keeping in mind.

bewilderment posted:

Maybe I'm just inventing too much, but to me Nerat (who is far more distinct from his army than Ashe is) represents the opportunists. Nerat is the kind of person who is rich enough to 'always be on the winning side'. Like a political campaign consultant who switches parties because it's all about their career, not their actual beliefs. It doesn't matter who their boss is - either way, they know how to rile up a crowd. Nerat is always capable of providing the right face for the situation.

: Is your knowledge limitless?

: What a question! We know many things beyond the purview of the disgusting farmers and merchants you'll find outside of our vaunted stronghold. Much more than any of them could learn in a hundred lifetimes.

: When you know as much as we do, this much will seem obvious.

: He leans uncomfortably closer to whisper.

Now, this might seem like obvious wisdom, but remember what we said about Nerat before? Nerat believes in nothing. The official doctrine of the Empire is that Kyros is basically the Catholic God.

Tunon flunks theology posted:

It's a subtle hint that Nerat doesn't believe in any of this stupid Kyrosian doctrine - but he will prove to be a master at exploiting the legal system, because like Bleden Mark and the endgame Fatebinder, he recognizes the laws for the bullshit they are.

The guy also said he was going to eat us to our face, so it's not like he's a complete coward.

: Let me ask about something else.

: Would you tell me something about yourself?

: Why... we're honored that you would ask!

: We always thought that knives were the friendliest weapons. So eager to meet new people. You really have to appreciate these things!

More power games.

: No, it isn't.

: We are the Archon of Secrets, but call us whatever you want. Stories are our real trade. Take it from us - everyone has a story, and all are welcome in our hall of wonders.

: He taps the side of his head.

: I'm actually curious about your history.

: I don't wish to steal your secrets, Archon - only to learn from your brilliance.

I liked chatting about the law with Tunon better, personally.

: Why do you speak of yourself in the plural form?

: That much should be obvious. We are multitudes - an army unto ourselves, a council of shadows babbling to be heard.

: Your body... the green flames... why?

: We are greater than your confines. No stable form can house our magnificence.

: The flames about his neck flare out to form a regal collar.

: You are art.

: Tell me of your rise to power.

: In our youth, we were the youngest scion of House Nerat. These would be the early years of Kyros' reign, if numbers make any difference to your fragile matter.

: The Northern Empire wasn't the bastion of order and peace as we know it today. Our gracious Overlord contended with sedition and lawlessness from his subjects, from his enemies... and even from the noble House of Nerat.

Huh, Nerat's calling Kyros male.

: How did you escape the shadow of guilt?

: You tortured your own family?

We covered this briefly in the Anarchist runthrough when Bleden Mark brought it up. The information that Nerat was the youngest heir (and thus least likely to inherit anything) probably played a role in this as well.

This is, of course, self serving nonsense, but self serving lip service is what got Nerat to where he is today - an inhuman flaming monster mash leading a brutal army in service to a tyrant.

Ha ha, carve, get it?

: What city was this?

: Were they guilty?

The thing with Nerat here is that he's setting up all the warning signs of his betrayal - but trying to lull the player with his "honestly" that he won't betray you - you're a Fatebinder, you're too useful, yadda yadda yadda.

: House Nerat needed to be cleansed of treachery.

It's also a minor test of how far you'll go.

: You said the Archon of Misery offered a better life?

: He took it upon himself to be our instructor. He taught us the beauty of agony - how to slide the knife just so, how to divide flesh with no mortal wound, and how to inflict waking nightmares upon our foes. No more of our clumsy, blood-soaked efforts for spectacle. True torture is a sensory performance, staged for an audience of one. He made us an artist.

: We were proficient at our work. Our name spread beyond the boundaries of the child Empire as people whispered it in private, or shrieked it in fear. Whole galleries were erected to display our accomplishments, which were studied and interpreted by head-scratching scholars.

: Our talent with the blade, rope and saw grew so renowned that Kyros' faithful and unfaithful alike believed we could steal truths from their minds with little more than a stare.

: Back to my previous questions.

: How do you manage an army as vast as the Scarlet Chorus?

: They manage themselves of course! Men and women of grit rise in the ranks to become gang bosses. When they take too many wounds, or their swords grow too heavy, another boss claims their rightful place.

: Tell me of the Scarlet Chorus' tenets.

: Tenet the first! Whatever you can claim through sheer force of will is yours for the taking. Those who think us 'chaotic' should spend some time away from the farm, and learn what it means to survive.

: That also means you can kill who you want. Kyros' Peace extends to servants of the Empire, but these Tiersmen haven't enjoyed the pleasure of our laws yet. Until they do, you can treat them like sport, and not even starchy old Tunon will get offended.

This is of course, as presented, a horrific waste of resources where if a Blood Chanter has one bad day they get murdered and the army loses a valuable professional soldier, but tyranny is often inefficient and wasteful.

: I'm curious about the Scarlet Chorus' history.

: And why wouldn't you be? Rest a spell and let our words wriggle among the chaos of your imagination.

: The great uninformed think of the Scarlet Chorus as one of Kyros' many armies. In fact, they are our personal force. Beginning in the earliest days of our power, we cobbled together a rabble of miscreants from freshly-conquered territories. The Scarlet Chorus has always been dredged from the bottom-feeders. Then there are the camp followers who skulk in our long shadow.

We'll come back to this.

: As Kyros forged the rest of the great Empire, we were used to subdue any lingering resistance. Those who opposed Kyros' Peace joined our howling disharmony and lived, or died, in Kyros' war. A fitting fate, is it not?

: By the time Kyros set a magnanimous eye on the Tiers, it was all but assumed that the Scarlet Chorus would lead the vanguard. Though they answer to us, we are happy to loan their services for the Overlord's pleasure.

: So what's your plan? I'm ready to talk strategy.

: Of course you have questions. We'd be disappointed if you didn't have any. Our first priority is to humiliate that pissbucket Graven Ashe, but we'll have a better chance of it once every corner of the Tiers is wearing red.

: Do you see our design, Fatebinder? Does our madness complement our method?

: How do you expect to do that?

: Conquest is a delicate matter. It needs feeding, watering, soft caresses, a lullaby before bed.

: We will... invite the leaders of the resistance to join us. If we have their leaders, the people will follow. You will bring them to us, yes? Chiefs, and the assets of chiefdom.

: As for how you factor into these plans, that is in part up to you. We have many ingots in the fire - it's more of a question of what piques your interests.

: The Blade Grave is a beautiful pocket of disorder. An Edict shreds the land to ribbons, and soldiers by the hundreds are fed into the furnace of war. Angry sons of old Stalwart, dubbing themselves 'Unbroken', clash spears with the Disfavored.

: We can use the Edict and the conflict to our benefit. They keep the Disfavored occupied, and the Tiers within our grasp. While these idiot juggernauts bash each other into ruin, we can extract what we need.

: The daughter of Graven Ashe has been a prisoner to these Stalwart wretches. Secure her for us, and fetch her to Cacophony straight away! Inviting Ashe's progeny into the fold is an advantage we cannot ignore.

: Seek out also Jagged Remedy in Trapper's Junction. He has cornered a beleaguered unit of Unbroken. Help him recruit their leader - Mattias - into the fold, that he might help us reach the jewel of the realm - the great keep of Sentinel Stand.

Now THIS is illegal! It's also a test for the Fatebinder - if they do this, it's a break from Tunon and gives Nerat leverage to report us to Tunon should we displease him somehow. Remember, Archons' Privilege works against us hard here.

I could have sworn you started at the Vellum Citadel, but it's been a while since I last betrayed Nerat.

: [Leave.] Let me think about this.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Well, we're all gonna die someday, so instead of being miserable we may as well get what we can before we die. Hey! Our favorite Fatebinder! I'll be sure to reward you when I become King of the Tiers!

: You are the great leader who invented the cheeseburger. Please tell me about your power.

: I do love a good verbal ass-licking. Well, go on!

: You are a genius and unarguably the sexiest green flame in a stone mask I have ever seen.

: I'll remember that when I absorb your brain, ha ha! Anyway, I'm reallllly good at torturing. Like, damn, people say "that Archon sure loves torturing people." Maybe you'll gain firsthand experience someday, tee-hee!

: Could you eat another Archon?

: Well, I have had to put down other Archons occasionally when Bleden Mark was making that one guy's wife make him cookies. It was TOTALLY LEGAL and Kyros was TOTALLY COOL with it. Now, I did eat them, but I totally did not gain any cool and unique Archon powers out of the deal, and that does not make me one of the greatest threats to Kyros, Tunon, or both in the entire empire.

: Wow, do you know...everything?

: I sure am smart, but, young man, nothing is limitless. Nothing. Not even, say, a hypothetical dictator named "Rykos".

: Can you give me the lowdown on your history?

: Let me troll you - ok, fine! I was once a boring noble heir of the "House of Nerat", back when the Empire was still young and Kyros' secret police were murdering everyone who didn't constantly praise Kyros. Specifically, the youngest who wouldn't inherit everything. Fortunately, my worthless family spoke treason against Kyros, so I took the initiative, marched them out into the town square, and personally flayed them all alive until they confessed to all the shit I made up! It's my house now!

: Your own family, holy shit!

: They were NOT my family, they were traitors to the empire!

: Where was this?

: A place that was wiped off the map by Kyros centuries ago.

: Were they guilty?

: Who gives a fuck? I did what I had to do to survive, and then I was taken in by the Archon of Misery who taught me how to torture super well! I did the best torture! They even had a museum of torture, which I'm assured was very hygenic! Then I became an Archon because everyone thought I was such a good torturer!

: So, tell me about the Chorus - how are they run?

: Well, they manage themselves! I just let them fight amongst themselves! Never granted a promotion - the whole thing runs on social Darwinism! Whee! Also, because it's literally random criminals and monsters formed into an army by indoctrination techniques like "killing all your neighbors", I let them take out their abuse on the local population!

: Can you tell me the history of the Scarlet Chorus?

: Oh, they're my personal army! They're made up of losers that no one else wanted, so I turned them into my personal army with a whole bunch of useless loser camp followers! Kyros used it to dispose of dissidents by forcibly drafting them into my army so they could fight his wars. Haha, irony, amirite?

: Anyway, I was first chosen to lead the last conquest. I'm always happy to provide my armies to the Overlord, it makes me too useful to get rid of!

: All right, cool, what's the plan?

: The first priority is to humiliate that fucker Graven Ashe! Oh, and quell the rebellion I guess. You can go to the Blade Grave and bring me Graven Ashe's daughter for... "safekeeping", or you can go fetch a Forge-Bound master and send her to me for... "safekeeping" because we need that iron! Which do you prefer?

: Let me ask the internet.

: OH COME ON!!!!

In a nice touch the game even lists Nerat's request as evidence we can present to Tunon of Nerat's evil crimes.

So, what to make of Nerat? Nerat is using the classic manipulative technique of trying to get the Fatebinder to agree that Nerat's crimes against other people were totally justified and necessary, using false openness to convince the Fatebinder that they're special, and that while Nerat might have done those terrible things to those OTHER people they'll never turn on the Fatebinder. I can attest to this from seeing this technique used on me (and I will not elaborate as it's rather personal) but it's something manipulative people do. It's clear that Nerat has no remorse about betraying and using people to get ahead, and would have no compunction about torturing and killing the Fatebinder if he can get away with it - he says as much - but is supremely confident in his ability to manipulate anyone via this method. We even see this from Verse.

Last playthrough posted:

: The Voices thought Verse and her sisters expendable.

: Bullshit. Each Fury is worth two dozen conscripts! A sisterhood that dances together like ours? There's no more vicious force on the whole fucking field of war!

Verse is not surprised when the Voices displays extreme cruelty toward their enemies or when it would be advantageous to the Chorus, but heaven forfend he betray her! She's an elite Scarlet Fury, worth two dozen conscripts! Sadly for Verse, twenty four times zero is still zero.

Thus, much like how Ashe and Barik's abusive relationship was echoed by the relationship between Kyros and Ashe, Nerat's relationship to the Scarlet Chorus is echoed by Kyros' relationship to Nerat. Kyros would never turn on Nerat, he's too useful as a torturer, army "commander," disposal unit for dissidents, and spymaster! Nerat's done everything Kyros and even sacrificed his own family to the cause, that must count for something right?

Nerat fails to realize that he's perfect for the Machiavellian role of the disposable tyrant Kyros rids herself of to come in and proclaim a new rule of justice. I've quoted that Machiavelli section twice in this LP, so have a Dune quote.

Dune, Frank Herbert posted:

A tank-brain, the Baron thought. Muscle-minded tank-brain. They will be bloody pulp here when he's through with them. Then, when I send Feyd-Rautha in to take the load off them, they'll cheer their rescuer. Beloved Feyd-Rautha. Benign Feyd-Rautha, the man who saved them from the beast. Feyd-Rautha, a man to follow and die for. The boy will know by that time how to oppress with impunity. I'm sure he's the one we'll need.

This leads us to the Scarlet Chorus, which Nerat describes as an "army" but in the same breath reveals himself an incompetent commander. It's not clear whether we're supposed to see the camp followers as useful logistical foragers and tradesmen who do things like repair weapons and procure food, or as useless mouths to feed who accompany the Chorus. Nonetheless, the point of the Chorus isn't to win battles, it's to be a dumping ground for the discontent and the uncontrollable and send them off to either die or commit crimes elsewhere. Nerat doesn't describe great victories of the Scarlet Chorus because there are none. They lost to Graven Ashe, a man who believes the height of strategy is to charge headlong into a feigned retreat and drown in a river. Nerat's good at manipulating people and encouraging treachery, but no step of his evil plan involves having the Chorus fighting Ashe and winning. It's a penal battalion led by a creature who can conceive of no other way of controlling his troops then by pitting the whole army against itself in a parody of the trauma that led to his own rise up the ranks. On some level, we can see Nerat trying to upgrade the quality of his troops by stealing iron, but he never seems to put together that a unified cohesive force would be able to take on Graven Ashe and win.

There was discussion in the thread about who was responsible for halting the Conquest, and the honest answer is that Kyros set up the whole thing to fail in the first place! Presumably if Kyros had wanted the Tiers conquered swiftly and efficiently she would have mustered the army from Act III that even Tunon believes is unbeatable and ordered them into combat. Instead, she picks two incompetent commanders who hate each other and cannot adapt to changing circumstances. The armies are terrible at actual occupation and keeping the peace, as they're both taking out the abuse of their leaders on the civilian population, and the conquest only succeeds because the people of the Tiers have similarly bad leadership and cannot unite against a greater threat. The Scarlet Chorus is not an effective fighting force because the horrific losses are the point. The Disfavored are not an effective fighting force because they're dumb fascists who continually underestimate their enemies, cannot get reinforcements, and get ordered to do dumb shit like march into an Edict or a river. Neither of these forces can be used to keep the peace after the war, because the Chorus literally murder everyone when they conscript and hate farmers, and the Disfavored are brutal fascist assholes locked into a cult of struggle who have no use in peacetime. Thus, the Edict of Execution is the point - the Fatebinder is not supposed to succeed, and Kyros rids herself of two useless Archons and their equally useless armies and hands the province over to Tunon or somebody.

The last question Nerat's conversation raises is why he calls himself the Voices of Nerat if his entire family were traitors that had to be put to death, and that is wide open to interpretation. Kyros could have named him as a reminder, much like how Graven Ashe got his new name upon surrendering, it might have been a taunt to his family that he despised, or indicative of a secret guilt he has about murdering his family. The last seems unlikely to me, as the sequence with the Archon of Misery indicates that that transgressive act desensitized young Nerat to doing whatever acts of violence he wanted - once you've flayed your own family in front of everyone and exacted confessions, what else is left? It's also not clear that Nerat actually stood to gain his family's wealth from this - he murders "Father. Mother. Sisters. Aunts." but no older brothers who might take his inheritance. He whiffles between declaring his family enemies of Kyros and describing the noble house of Nerat, and honestly it really doesn't matter! Nerat is adept at shifting his face and emotion to whatever his current victim wants to see, so if he feels any guilt he's far too composed to act on it unless it would either advance his position or let him validate his ego as when he torments Graven Ashe with his dead son.

Decisions Lie Before Us!

Are we going to the Blade Grave to "rescue" Amelia, or to Lethian's Crossing to maybe do some treason?