Part 46: SKULLCRUSHER - You Guys Are Not Going To Believe This, But Vampires Are Evil
You Guys Are Not Going To Believe This, But Vampires Are Evil
Alright then, back to this room. Before, no matter what we did, we couldn't open this door. We need not only to know Batlin is on the other side of Skullcrusher, but also have to be told the password by Yenani.
On the corpse is some loot, and a scroll which gives some info about the town.
Those who know not the password, Despair! The brass gate bars thy way, would-be intruder, and only those privy to the secret password know when to use the runes! Crawl back to your cities of structured folly and temples of Order, dog! As I lie here, slowly dying of starvation, I laugh at thy fate, for though our city hath fallen, fool, thou wilt not use my gate as a means of ingress! Here in our city, your fellow dogs revel in their victory, knowing not that I have sealed them within! There, look! A general shakes his fist at me through the brass gate, sealed within! Nay, Order dogs, thou wilt not use my gate to send your metal slayers toward my fellows! Thou wilt have to use the serpent gates to conquer the southern lands! I can die in peace, knowing that, though mine home lies in ruin and the Chaos that is our city is now under the control of the enemy, my gate will stand closed for all eternity!
"Eternity, huh? And then came me."
"You do have a habit for shattering what should have been eternal."
"I know, and it's exhausting."
"This may sound out of sorts for me, but I'm perfectly willing to allow Steve to open a gate meant to stay closed if it will get us in out of the cold."
"Yeah, there are parts on my body freezing that I was not previously aware were even part of my body."
Anyway, first you need to return the runes to their appropriate pillars. Then you need to double-click the runes in the right order. The password is I-S-C-G-I. There are two I's, I believe you use the one to the left first.
And that'll get us into Skullcrusher, the City of Chaos!
Where, for some reason, there's an automaton guarding the gate.
"I thought the automatons were the servants of Order?"
"Precisely. These automatons, unmoving, unwavering. They've been guarding this city since the end of the wars we heard about from Isstanar."
"Then they're an occupation force?"
"They don't appear to be very good at it, since they're just letting us go in."
As I observed, this is a Chaos city. The paths meander, the ponds and streams are random in their shape...
...and sometimes the road just ends somewhere for no clear reason.
"Chaos seems to have been a force dedicated to pissing me off."
"No, I think that was Lord British."
There's a lab north of this little room. It looks recently used. Now why would that be?
"Huh, I wonder what all this stuff is."
"There's a book here."
"Oh sure, someone's going to waste an entire book to detail five items."
- One locket stolen from Frigidazzi, who refused to accept the passion I would have spent on her.
- The Living Scalp stolen from Filbercio, who sentenced me to die.
- The Spectral Orb stolen from Mortegro. I hate him, for he uncovered my dangerous research and betrayed me to the Council of Mages.
- The Flux Analyzer stolen from Gustacio. Gustacio the influential, Gustacio the dignified, Gustacio the magisterial, I despise thee! I despise thee for thou representest everything I could never be.
- The Wand of Stone, taken from Torrissio. I blast mine hatred of Torrissio to the seven winds, for he was my partner in twisting the rules of the Mages, yet he abandoned me to their justice.
"Well I'll be damned."
"...at least three people have told us about him. How he was evil? How he killed people? How they thought they killed him and his grave was empty?"
"I'm not sure that's a very good reason to wreck his house."
Also of note: The Gwani Horn is here, but it's trapped inside a forcefield. And conveniently enough, we don't have the Dispel Field spell yet. Oh Serpent Isle, you and your plot railroading.
Of course you can just hackmove the forcefield away and sequence break the game, but don't do this because it's what you did when you were 12.
"Now hold on a sec, the Flux Analyzer! Gusatcio said it could fix the Black Sword!"
"It... doesn't seem to have done anything."
"I know, I'm hitting Iolo with it and he's not dying any faster than if I were just hitting him with a regular sword."
"Please, stop that."
In the prison, a skeleton begs us for help. Like most skeletons, he immediately attacks us after we do so, but that's okay, because we want to get at that corpse in the cell with him.
And why? Because he's carrying two teeth for our jawbone! Well, our serpent jawbone, not our actual jawbone. I've got plenty of teeth there, thank you. These teeth go to the Great Northern Forest, and Fawn (I bet you didn't think Fawn had a serpent gate, well you're wrong!).
Oh and a book or something.
I was born and raised in the city of Moonshade, a foe of Vasculio. Then I was taken to this place, where I am a prisoner of He Who Was Dead -- Vasculio.
Vasculio survives beyond death! He doth drink blood out of the living to keep himself alive. Hence his great thirst for fresh blood. His corpse is animated by means of spells and the Forbidden Reagent. I am his prisoner, fettered worse than a wild beast; manacled by mine hands and feet by day and by night. My blood is so vital to him that he is afraid I could break away. How could I in this cage. At times, I feel like survival is a meaningless word. I am exhausted. He hath been awakening me at all hours of the already too short night, thereby robbing me of mine all too brief night's slumber.
This week I managed to write more. I feel better than last month but still weak.
All through these interminable weeks in this cage, I have suffered from chronic weariness.
I do not believe escape is possible. I have seen Death face to face and she hath seen me. I am more than ever determined to continue to struggle for survival, for this is the primary instinct of the animal.
The following week: I am losing track of time. I can track seven day periods but do not seem to recall any other relevant information; seasons and days are not part of my realm. Like life, they escape me. Am I less than an animal? This deranged mage, frantically seeking the lost secrets of Ophidian magic, certainly treats me as such. Actually, I do not feel anything anymore. I may live like an animal, but in my mind I am a man. I still think and write, therefore I exist. If this journal survives me and thou art reading it, regardless of the time elapsed, then I am alive. I am alive because my thoughts are alive.
Today, fifth day of this present week, I am going to tell thee more about the twisted Vasculio. He boasts that his magical powers are too great to be defeated by mere mortals. I have to tell thee that he was executed in Moonshade for practicing spells too diabolical for Man. His powerful magic allowed him to continue living as a liche.
Also, I shall share this with thee, so that thou mayest make good use of it: Remember that no information hath value until thou dost test it.
My words, hereunder, will guide thine understanding. Vasculio hath been experimenting with eternal life theories. Once, he stumbled upon a magic formula which, when used with the blood of an innocent, allowed a dead body to live longer. Moments before his execution he intoned the spell to keep his body living. Later he escaped from his coffin and travelled to Skullcrusher.
Why Skullcrusher, thou askest? The answer is simply because he knew there was a second source for Stoneheart. Stoneheart is the prime ingredient of Bloodspawn, here in these caverns.
There is also another important reason. Vasculio knew that his enemies, the Mages of Moonshade, would never follow him here.
Seventh day of the present week: This undying sorcerer doth spend his time researching new spells. He is convinced that great magical secrets lie beyond the sealed entrances. He detects great power and magic in these areas. Vasculio hath not been able to locate the Grand Shrine within the great labyrinth beneath the Skullcrusher Peaks. I could tell thee that he stores provisions to support his allies, the man-eating Gwani. But this is not out of charity for them, for he also lives on with their blood. At this point I must stop writing for I can hear Vasculio howling in the tunnels. This is a sign that he is coming for me once more...
Despite Maleccio's claim, I haven't ever found a whole lot of stoneheart in Skullcrusher. Come to think of it, there's not really all that much in the Mountains of Freedom either. Maybe Vasculio got to it first. Oh well, ring of reagents, I don't have to care.
"I have some serious concerns with the meter here."
"Rather juvenile, I must admit. There's some consistency to the rhyme scheme, but with one so basic I could scarcely imagine it being difficult."
"Mmmm, yes. Lacking the candor of cummings yet also the subtlety of Eliot."
"And what is it meant to say? The message here is too simple, and the verse lacks the depth to suggest a second."
"Ummm, guys? The coffin over here is opening."
"Jesus man, you look like Ted Nugent just crashed into a tanker truck of hairspray. Also, you're undead and evil."
"And thou art the cattle upon which I prey!"
"About the level of retort we expected from one of such a dead poetic soul."
"Also a dead regular soul."
"Who sent thee to destroy Vasculio? Was it those rotting worms of Moonshade? I know it was! Soon I shall have my vengeance for what they have done to me! Who sent thee? Filbercio?! Mortegro?! Gustacio?! Torrissio?!"
"What is it you have against Filbercio-"
"Do not mention the wretched name of Filbercio in my presence! He is the one who sentenced me to die! If that swine ever comes near me, I assure thee he will pay, and pay dearly."
"That despicable interloper Mortegro interfered with mine experiments, and betrayed me to the Council of Mages!"
"I always hated that insufferable Gustacio! Always flaunting his influence, willing to betray any ideal to preserve his false sense of dignity!"
"Ha! He is the most despised one of all! He broke our alliance and betrayed me to the Council of Mages!"
"Just wanted to check on all the people you hate, even though I already basically read a book about all the people who piss you off."
"Bah! They concern me not!"
"Sounds like somebody's projecting."
"Look, you're evil and we could completely destroy you, but I..."
"No, I just kinda lost my train of thought when I realized that technically speaking I have no reason not to do it. Let's do it."
"Thou hast sealed thy fate for no mere mortal can defeat me! Prepare for thy death!"
"People need to stop and take a look at all the ankh shit we got goin' on here before they start calling us mundanes and mere mortals. I've killed bigger assholes than you."
"But I can be merciful. I will spare thee, Avatar, if thou wilt give me one of thy companions. I hunger for fresh blood. Dost thou accept mine offer?"
"The Avatar will not accept thine offer, foul fiend!"
"Thou art wasting thy fetid breath making the Avatar such an offer!"
"Thou wilt not accept this ghoul's offer, wilt thou, Avatar?"
"So, Avatar, wilt thou listen to the whimperings of thy companions, or trade their life for thine own? True, they do not compare to thee, but I am not too selective in my tastes. One flesh is as good as another when one hungers."
"I'm confused here. Why do you think you have any bargaining power again?"
"Ah! But thou dost have the Magebane! I will make thee a deal then, Avatar. In exchange for thy blue sword I shall teach thee my greatest spell, one that can dispatch any foe. Dost thou agree?"
"So let me get this right. You're a mage, yes?"
"And the Magebane would completely neutralize all your powers."
"And you want me to trade this sword to you, the most efficient weapon for killing you, for a scroll you probably won't even give us before you try to kill us anyway."
"Actually, I was going to give you the scroll."
"No way, seriously?"
"Yep. Of course then I was still going to try killing you."
"Well then. I'm glad we had this talk."
"By the way, Iolo managed to die in the two seconds it took you to hit Vasculio with the Magebane and kill him."
"Ain't he something?"
Vasculio actually will keep his promise and give you a scroll (Mass Death or something), and actually I think you can kill him with it. So one way or the other, he winds up leaving you with the means of his own destruction.
Also the key to get out of here.
Moving along past Vasculio, there's still plenty of Skullcrusher to go. The library of Chaos is mostly destroyed, but a few books remain. Also a ghost librarian. We can't talk to him, but he's not aggressive, and it's a good idea not to kill him. The same is true of the other ghosts in Skullcrusher.
HISTORY OF SERPENT ISLE
During the First Age, the world was divided into four continents -- the LANDS OF LORD BRITISH, the LANDS OF THE FEUDAL LORDS, the LANDS OF DARK UNKNOWN, and the LANDS OF DANGER AND DESPAIR. After the evil wizard Mondain was defeated, only the Lands of Danger and Despair remained -- all other continents were destroyed.
The Lands of Danger and Despair became what we now call Serpent Isle, in honor of the Great Earth Serpent who is our guide. It was he who called to us from the Void, and in answer to our pleas, he taught us the ways of the Serpent -- the Way of Balance.
The population on Serpent Isle grew. The citizens helped each other and relied on each other. There was no crime and people were holding to their traditions. Parents taught their children about the Virtues of Order and Chaos. These traditions were passed on from generation to generation. Their devotions were presided over by the Great Hierophant. He was the only one allowed to open the Wall of Lights and enter the Void -- a magical place that connects dimensions in space and mayhap even time! Because great danger is involved in entering the Void, only the Great Hierophant is entitled to operate the Wall of Lights. Much knowledge is required for this procedure and the Great Hierophant must be in possession of the Artifacts of the Serpent.
"Didn't Batlin mention something about the Wall of Lights?"
"Yeah, I kinda zone out whenever he starts talking about the stuff he's interested in."
~~THE DOCTRINE OF CHAOS~~
I believe in the Forces and Powers of Chaos.
I believe in the ways of Tolerance, Enthusiasm and Emotion.
I believe that those ways will show me how to better myself and therefore how to better my life.
I believe that believing in Tolerance will teach me the acceptance of all things.
I believe that believing in Enthusiasm will teach me the source of the energy which will allow me to accomplish great tasks.
I believe that believing in Emotion will give me the ability to perceive feelings which come from the heart and not the mind.
"Ugh, a parade of tortured souls, whose cries of pain and anguish go unheard by an uncaring world of the living."
"Yeah, I hate Rent."
The Gwani dead serve Vasculio as random assailants of people who trespass in Skullcrusher or something.
A river of lava runs through the center of Skullcrusher, bisecting the city. Thanks to being in the frozen north, we don't need Chill in this place like we do in Furnace. Thus making the spell almost entirely useless.
Continuing the whole chaos theme, the dining area is kind of haphazard. There's also a ghost waiter or something.
"Oh man, finally! Rudyom's Wand! I knew we'd stumble across this one day or another."
"Good God, Vasculio couldn't you have done anything to hide this shit? Lock it in a safe or something?"
"Throw it in some lava?"
"Shut up you guys. I'm back!"
"What the hell? Hey, Iolo, check this out?"
"Oh my God, I actually think I like it better now that it's broken and only makes people sneeze instead of causing blackrock to spontaneously and violently detonate."
That's actually what it does now. Not making that up. Guess the teleport storms were a little harsher than we gave them credit for.
Vasculio's also left some of his crap lying around.
Day 1: This is the dawn of a new era for me. I have been experimenting with eternal life for so long now. At last, I am seeing some results.
Day 2: Entranced more Gwani in order to increase the number of my servants.
Day 3: Forced the Gwani to give to me the secret of entering certain passages. Experiments still in progress. A pint or two should keep me alive, depending on the frequency of transfusion.
Day 8: The lost secret of the Ophidians is within my reach, I can feel it. Ophidian magic will give to me absolute power.
Day 12: Last week I stumbled upon this magic formula which further lengthens the life span of a dead body. What a discovery! I need to use the mixture in an adequate proportion with the blood of an innocent.
Day 17: The caverns around Skullcrusher are filled with Stoneheart. More than I ever knew! I need as much Stoneheart as I may find since this is the prime ingredient of Bloodspawn. Stoneheart doth possess the red-orange glow of stalagmites. Once pulverized and mixed with fresh human blood it turns into a powerful magical reagent. Even though I have tried extremely powerful spells, Bloodspawn is easy and safe to transport. The mages who say otherwise are fools.
Day 21: This day I have spent researching many new spells. Exhausting. The prisoners in the cage may not live long enough to fulfill my plans. They seem to be weak.
Day 28: I am convinced that great magical secrets lie beyond the sealed entrances, for I sense great power and magic in the vicinity.
Day 34: Today is a sad day. My servants have failed me! While transporting Bloodspawn, they suffered simultaneous seizures and toppled into a chasm -- the Bloodspawn was lost!
This is endangering my schedule. I need more workers. They must work longer hours. Toil is a necessity; sleep, an addiction from which they must be weaned.
And on that subject:
~~ Beyond The Sealed Entrances~~
After all these years, I found two sealed entrances in the depths. I believe there is much to be discovered beyond these entrances, for they must have been sealed for a reason which doth go beyond mine understanding at this point in time. I have detected great power and magic in those areas. I presume that superior magical secrets lie beyond the sealed entrances.
There are a couple storage rooms around. Some of them have fairly carefully-hidden powder kegs. Now why would we want a powder keg?
I mean, you know, for what legitimate purpose would we want a powder keg?
Crossing the bridge to the east side of Skullcrusher. Vasculio seems to have been primarily concerned with the west side, but there really isn't anything different over there that makes this crossing special.
There's mostly some houses and whatnot, with the occasional books. They give some general perspective on Chaos, and how it was roughly as stupid as Order.
THE TRUE BELIEVERS
The true believers are not only to be found at the rituals and ceremonies. There are many poor souls out there who are pretending they do not believe in religious gatherings and activities. They want to make us believe that they do not need anyone for the sake of their souls. They are wrong, and deep down in their hearts, they know it, too. Sooner or later they will attend ceremonies. Most of them do not come back for a while, but that one appearance rouses their curiosity enough to attend again. It takes courage to admit that everyone needs some kind of belief. I understand that and I do not push for their trust. I know that deep down, underneath all that ruin, is a soul that wants to be rescued. It takes time, but I have all the time I ever need. I can wait and I will. I know that my day will come. And then I will open mine arms and welcome them into our religious community. There is room for everyone, no one will be turned away. And no one will be pressured to join us.
To the east is some kind of giant foyer that is on fire. There's a message here:
The Chaos vermin took their own lives rather than face us. Let them rot!
But somehow I don't think that one was from Chaos.
And at the far end of the chamber, some sealed doors guarded by automatons.
"Halt! It is our duty to question thee. Dost thou serve Order or dost thou serve Chaos?"
"Hypothetically, say we served Chaos, what would you do?"
"Hahahahhaha, for your sake I'm going to say we serve Order."
"Very well. We have been left here to watch for any survivors of Chaos who might come from the depths of these passages. There is no escape from this place save for these doors and still no one can obtain passage through them. As thou hast seen or surely wilt see, this is not a place that sustains life. There is no safe way out of this place. These doors will not open without the proper keys. Not even we have them. This is not an exit."
In fact, it is not an exit; these doors will not open. At all. Which is odd, because there's some stuff past there (see the next update) that you can't see unless you cheat your way through.
Off to the northwest the bodies of Chaos's followers lie in piles where they committed mass suicide rather than be murdered by Order.
Yeah, this is all very nice stuff that happened and will happen in Serpent Isle.
Yep, loooooooooooooots of dead people.
In the far northern gallery (there are some portraits dedicated to the virtues of Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion) there's a serpent gate, as well as another pair of double doors. Now these we can breach... but again, you'll have to wait for tomorrow.
"Well, I guess we're done here."
"What? Hell no we're not done here. We're gonna turn the fuck around and go exploring until we discover the deep, dark secrets of Chaos which will reveal to us what Batlin is really planning."
"Yes, and not just because I intend to steal something! ...although I do intend to steal something, just so we're clear."