Part 21: The Black Gate - Honor is For Stupid Dead People
To be fair, some of it has been spoiled already by the incriminating evidence in the Fellowship's letters and stuff. You just have to read closely.
Honor is For Stupid Dead People
"I can't help but notice you're not wearing your Fellowship medallion."
"It doesn't have any armor bonus, why should I? Besides, I'm only using this if it's convenient and advantageous to me, just like that time we all joined the Oppression by selling out somebody and then reloading so we didn't."
"If Warren Spector were here, no doubt he'd have made some kind of crack about your statement and religion in general."
"Yes, but mercifully he isn't. Let's go to a bar."
"I am so there. Hey, let's go to the bar in Jhelom, we can track down Elizabeth and Abraham and resolve a sidequest in the messiest way possible."
"Sounds like a plan."
The bar is pretty hopping at 10 in the morning. Jhelom clearly invented the Britannian wake'n'bake.
A pretty woman gives you a friendly grin and then coyly turns her eyes away from you.
"Didn't know you swung that way, but that's cool. I'm the Avatar, this is a gang of assholes and a minor, and I want a round for each of us."
"Coming up. My name is Ophelia, Avatar. I do most of the work at The Bunk and Stool here in Jhelom. Ever since Sprellic, the owner, was challenged to those duels by the three students at the Library of Scars, he has been busy preparing himself. I have been running the place all by myself... although Daphne has been helping me, I suppose. Honestly, I cannot imagine why thou wouldst be interested in her." She lets out a throaty laugh.
"Sprellic's the innkeeper, Avatar. Big wimp. And now he's about to die. That's the subplot I mentioned."
"I get to kill him?"
"No, but you get to kill everybody else."
"I heard that, Ophelia. Thou art a spiteful wench!"
"Now, now, Daphne. Temper, Temper! We don't want to scare off the patrons with a poor disposition in addition to a poor face!"
"'Tis said that indeed many strange things happen at this bar. As of late, in addition to being an inn and a pub, where thou mayest buy fine food and drink, it has become a betting parlor."
"It is a pretty rough place to work, but," she whispers to you in confidence, "I must confess I find myself attracted to the type of men that live here."
"What, like this Sprellic guy?"
"No one knows old Sprellic better than myself. Although he does not look it, he may well be the deadliest fighting master in all of Britannia. After he defeats the fighters of the Library of Scars, he may open his own school teaching his own unique style of fighting."
"It will be a great fighting school. Already, fighting men and women are coming to Jhelom to become Sprellic's students. They all long to know the secret that I can tell thee right now."
"This should be good."
Ophelia motions you closer to her. She whispers to you. "Sprellic is really the Avatar returned to us after all these years." She nods solemnly.
"Hahahahahahahhahahaha! Oh man, he is screwed."
You see a disgruntled, obviously overworked barmaid. She gives you a perfunctory grunt of a hello.
"Art thou still here?" she asks Dupre.
"I have not finished making mine assessment of thy fine drinking establishment!"
"What? Art thou working for Brommer's Britannia travel guides?"
"No, my dear. This research is strictly for mine own digestion!"
"Yeah well. Good day to thee, Avatar. Rest and take a load off. I am Daphne. I am the workhorse in residence of the Bunk and Stool. While our resident princess flirts with the customers I do all the cooking, cleaning and serving. Ever since the owner, Sprellic, got himself into trouble with the Library of Scars, there hath been no one else to run the place. Ohh, mine aching back!"
"Princess? You mean Ophelia."
"Ophelia this! Ophelia that! That is all I ever hear all bloody day! If all thou dost want to talk about is her, talk to someone else!"
"Do not hate me just because I am beautiful, Daphne."
"That is not the reason I hate thee, Ophelia!"
"Oh, yes, I remember now. Thou dost hate me because I am beautiful, and thou art not!"
"Thank thee so much, Avatar, for bringing up my favorite subject."
"So about this Sprellic thing..."
"The fool was caught stealing the honor flag from the wall of the Library of Scars! Now the three students who challenged him will kill him on the duelling field. 'Tis a tragedy."
"What's the Library of Scars again?"
"That is the fighting club in Jhelom which produces perhaps the toughest fighters in all Britannia. Sprellic has never fought before in his entire life."
"Ahahah, oh this is gonna be awesome. Who's he up against?"
You see a fighting man. His voice booms like thunder as he greets you.
"Hail to thee, Avatar!"
"You part of the brute squad?"
"My name is Vokes, Avatar. As big as a mountain, as strong as an ox, as fierce as... well, more fierce than anything thou hast ever fought!"
"So do you actually have a job?"
"Job! I am not in the habit of plowing fields or peddling vegetables, Avatar! I earn my gold with this sword arm," he says as he flexes a mighty bicep. "Right now I am in Jhelom continuing my studies in my trade with De Snel, and when I am finished my price is going to go up!"
"Planning to stay here long?"
"I was born here! Is it not magnificent?! Why, in any hour of any day thou canst get into a duel with anyone for no reason at all! Now that is what I call the benefits of civilization!"
"Mmmhmm. So you're in De Snel's little school."
"The Library of Scars teaches the supreme fighting style! One that enables thee to get the advantage against thine opponents and soundly defeat them through the brilliantly conceived subterfuge of Master De Snel! He is a genius. Perhaps the greatest military mind that ever lived. He told us so!"
"And you like dueling, huh?"
"A responsibility, yes, even a necessity. The cost of being honorable is that one must defend one's honor. There is no telling just where or when the next stain on one's honor may appear. Like this Sprellic fool, for instance. The perfect example! The bloody idiot had no idea that when he took our honor flag he would be seen doing it. Hence, he never considered the fact that he would have to fight a duel over our sullied honor. But now that the whole town is talking of the incident there is no way that we could refrain from standing up for ourselves. Especially since he has refused to return what he has taken from us. There is a widely known and long-standing tradition concerning the honor flag of the Library of Scars. It is said that taking the flag from the wall is a signal meaning that the person who takes the flag can beat anyone who studies at the school in a fight. It is also a grossly insulting way of saying that thou dost think the method of fighting a school teaches is inferior, which the Library of Scars most certainly is not!"
"This is going to be brutal."
Standing before you is a statuesque fighting woman with eyes that radiate a familiarity with danger.
"I am Syria, a fighter from the south."
"What's a nice barbarian girl like you doing in a dive like this?"
"Currently I am resting from my last voyage as a mercenary. I am studying in Jhelom with the fighting trainer De Snel at the Library of Scars. This is a city of fighters and duels. If thou dost not like it the way it is, then leave. Duels are fought here for many reasons. I have mine own reasons for fighting them."
"There is no question that Sprellic is the one who took the honor flag of our school. If he does not wish to fight the duels then he has only to return it. I was on guard when Sprellic took our club's honor flag. I saw him take it but I lost him in the shadows of the night. My punishment was ten lashes for allowing the thief to escape. I mean to repay him for that."
"So you just want him to give it back?"
"Yes. Since Sprellic has not done this, it proves that he is sincere in the grievous insult that he has made against us. And I shall grievously insult him-- through his heart!"
You see a very serious young man. He carries himself like a learned and mannered gentleman.
"Dost thou wish to speak with me?" asks Timmons.
"You're just a dumb kid, what are you doing fighting?"
"I said dumb kid, you're smarter than Dupre."
"Awwwwwww, it's just that I don't waste points in Intelligence!"
"Timmons is my name, Avatar. I have come to Jhelom to study under Master De Snel in the Library of Scars. A sailor on a ship at port in New Magincia first told me of the Library of Scars, of how it was the greatest fighting guild in Britannia and how its trainer, Master De Snel, had created the perfect fighting style. I immediately spent every coin I had to come here. But De Snel now refuses to accept me as a student. I know if I can defeat a fighter who claims to be better than anyone in the guild, and help restore its honor in the process, De Snel will have to finally accept me. The only way to prove oneself in combat in the town of Jhelom is by duelling. But my mother raised me to be a perfect gentleman. So far I have not succeeded in offending anyone sufficiently to have them challenge me to a duel. Hmmm. Perhaps I am just not suited to be a member of the Library of Scars. But then I heard of this man Sprellic who claims he is a greater fighter than any in the Library of Scars and how he had stolen the honor flag from their wall. So I sought this man out and challenged him to a duel myself."
Long story short, Sprellic would have to kill all three of these jerks. He's hosed.
Is anyone in this town sane? Almost.
You see a battle-scarred old soldier.
"Greetings!" says Kliftin. "Hast thou gotten into any scrapes lately?"
"That would imply something could harm me. Hey, I'm Steve."
"I am Kliftin. In my day I was a pretty damned good soldier. Now I am the master of the Armoury here in Jhelom. I sell and collect weapons of all types. Business is always excellent, although my best customers keep getting killed in duels!"
"Must be hard to build up a customer base that way."
"Jhelom is a rough place. If thou dost not like trouble then I can think of many better places for thee to be than here. Every day at noon in the Town Square people come to settle their differences. They fight to the blood or to the death. It is a madness! Like that Sprellic fellow for instance."
"Yeah, about that guy. Is he screwed?"
"Essentially. Our rather mild-mannered innkeeper stole the honor flag from the wall of the Library of Scars and refused to return it. Now he must fight three of our best local fighters in a duel to the death. The only thing that can dissuade them from wanting to kill poor Sprellic is to return the honor flag! It must have been taken away by Sullivan, but the duellists do not know that! If we had a duplicate of the honor flag we could give them that instead!"
"So we could, for instance, have you sew a fake flag, thus allowing us to avoid this entire messy affair and not lead to any deaths?"
"I suppose so."
"Yeah we could, but Arcadion's getting hungry, so let's not."
"You spoil me, master."
The trainer in question. Nobody's home though, and the back room is locked. It's noon, so everybody is out enjoying the fresh air and whacking each other with swords.
They yell "to the death!" even when not fighting to the death. They sure take their jobs seriously.
"Hey, can I talk to you?"
"Seriously, it'll only take a second."
"Do you mind?"
"Awww c'mon, you can stop this melee and... wait, who are you?"
You see a man who exudes the outward mannerisms of a shrewd administrator, in contrast to his youthful appearance.
"My name is Joseph. Presently, I am the mayor of Jhelom."
"You're the mayor?"
"I may seem a bit young for the job, but in a town such as this I am called upon to help keep order as often as administrate. I use my sword and pen in equal measure. This town is a rough place. A fine place for fighting men and women to live. Perhaps thou hast seen our local sport?"
"Is it beach volleyball? Because no. If it's dueling, then yes."
"Why, 'tis duelling! At twelve noon every day, the town square becomes a battlefield! ...I am exaggerating. Many of the fighters in town gather to spar with the training dummies and practice various methods of combat. There are a few harmless matches at times. Some are a bit rough every now and then. Some folks take wagers on it and turn a profit."
"And you condone this?"
"Well, the sound is worse than the act. 'Tis actually just a form of training and exercise. The fighters practice with targets and such. That is where I can be found, keeping mine own skills sharp. Of course most duels are simply to the blood, not to the death. It is a practice that helps restrain the passing knaves and rogues."
"Hey, if you're the mayor, I had a question about the Fellowship."
"That is what many of the duels are fought over! Some say The Fellowship is a load of rot, some say it is the only truth. Others say it is foolishness. Of course, as Mayor I remain neutral on such matters. If thou must know mine opinion," he says to you in quiet confidence, "I agree with those that say The Fellowship is a bunch of foolishness."
"So, seen a couple Fellowship members around? Elizabeth and Abraham?"
"Elizabeth and Abraham?" Joseph scratches his head. "Oh, yes! They were the Fellowship members who were just here! They were trying to start a branch in Jhelom. I am undecided on what to tell them. We will probably have a town meeting to decide if there should be a branch here. The couple said they were returning to Britain for a few days."
"You know the innkeeper is about to get pasted, right Joe?"
"Yes, I have heard of the events surrounding this fellow Sprellic and the duels against the Library of Scars, but frankly, mine official policy has been to not get involved in these sort of personal disputes. De Snel and I have an understanding. He works his side of the street and I work mine. It is hard enough to maintain order in this town without jeopardizing that. If I intervene De Snel will challenge me to a duel and if I am killed then his control of our town would be absolute. As Mayor and the peacekeeper I have to pick and choose my fights very carefully. There is no love lost between myself and the members of the Library of Scars, but they can legitimately claim that they have been wronged. I am required to remain impartial in this matter. As far as I can see, Sprellic brought this on himself when he took the honor flag. If thou dost wish to stop the duel, thou dost need only convince him to give it back."
"So you're saying I have to solve this. Figures."
"Well, yes. When I say that De Snel would challenge me to a duel I do not mean to insinuate that it would in any way be a fair or honorable contest-- more like a dagger in the back from one of his bullies as I was walking down a dark alley somewhere. That it would be a duel is just the story he would tell to make mine assassination somehow honorable."
De Snel eventually heads back into his Library of Scars, and is more inclined to chat.
Though he does not seem hostile, the man greets you in a fighting stance.
"What dost thou need?" asks De Snel.
"Are you the big cheese?"
"I am called Master De Snel. I operate the famous fighting school here in Jhelom, the Library of Scars. I also train fighters personally from time to time, if they show potential. I teach a fighting style of mine own invention. It enables one to gain complete mastery over his opponent. I could arrange a little demonstration for thee..."
"That's okay, really..."
"An elite school of fighters with a long, proud history! Many great fighters have trained within its walls. The group even has its own special weaponry."
He unsheathes his own sword and shows it to you. The sword has an elaborate serpentine pattern engraved in it. "Thou mayest recognize a weapon of the Library of Scars by its engraving. It is the sign of the snake. Striking quick, silent, deadly, as are we!"
"Like this?" You produce the dagger found at the scene of the murders in Minoc. The serpentine engraving matches the markings of the Library of Scars exactly.
De Snel looks at it and then back at you. He cannot conceal his surprise. "From where didst thou get that dagger?"
"Where indeed." You look De Snel in the eye and tell him that you found it at the scene of the murders in Minoc. He gives you a curious look.
"That dagger was stolen from the Library of Scars weeks ago. I have no further knowledge of it. By the way, hast thou had a demonstration of my training technique?"
"Uh, no, we're in a hurry here."
"Thou canst walk away so easy without a demonstration! Thou shalt have one anyway!"
"Ow! That kind of hurt. Oh well, if he's gonna. Arcadion?"
"You know guys, I don't think that was a training session at all!"
De Snel is dead now so he won't care if we look for a key in his house. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Money, Fellowship stuff. The book is not all that incriminating; it's just a copy of Batlin's Book of the Fellowship, which you can find about anywhere. De Snel clearly wasn't being totally square with us about what he knew, of course.
Time to finally meet the man who screwed up royally. He's cowering in his house, which I couldn't find for a while.
You see a scrawny and timid-looking man who eyes you fearfully.
"Oh, my!" he cries. "'Tis really the Avatar this time! Please do not hurt me, Avatar!"
"Y-yeah, I am the Avatar. You Sprellic?"
"Yes! I am the proprietor of the Bunk and Stool here in Jhelom. It is the local inn where all the fighters from the Library of Scars come to drink. They would wreck the place every night if not for Ophelia and Daphne. But that does not matter for soon I will be dead."
"What the hell did you do, man?"
"'Tis a long story. I shall probably be dead before I can finish it. My tale is a strange one. It may disturb and puzzle thee. Art thou certain thou wouldst like to hear it?"
"It all started the previous evening. I had given Ophelia and Daphne the evening off. A stranger had come to mine inn... A very odd stranger. He... he claimed he was the -Avatar-! ...And I believed him, which shows thee how gullible I am!"
"Considering the Avatar is a woman, yes, that would be kind of a dumb mistake."
"His eccentricity seemed to be surpassed only by his wealth. He booked both rooms in the inn so that he could try each bed and decide for himself which one was the most comfortable. As for food, he was voracious. He was a member of The Fellowship, too! I fear that this stranger was not who he claimed to be at all. I was a victim of a great and terrible deception that was perpetrated upon me."
"This stranger ordered one of every kind of food and drink on the menu. So if he ever wanted anything, it would be right there to eat. I was cooking for hours. Of course most of the food he left was uneaten! I had to give it away once it started to spoil!"
"Well, that's unfortunate, but it doesn't explain why you-"
"But then it got worse. He went to bed. After he went to bed, he complained that he was too cold. I brought him more and more blankets, but it was not enough. Finally, he had every blanket in the inn. And he was still cold! In desperation I ran down the street. It was the middle of the night. All of the shops were closed. The only thing I could find was some sort of old tapestry hanging on a wall. So I took it down."
"Actually, now as I recall being out in the night air, it was a quite tolerable evening. Alas, I was oblivious to little else but the prospect of earning a goodly sum in the service of the stranger. Woe is me! The next thing I remember there was an angry woman chasing after me. For some reason she wanted to kill me! I managed to get away from her and get back to the inn and cover the stranger with the tapestry. Finally he fell asleep."
"The woman warrior Syria, I assume."
"Actually, I had seen this angry woman before. She would enter mine establishment upon occasion. Unfortunately, this was our first formal acquaintance. I also fell asleep, only I slept late. When I awoke the guest was gone. He had not paid his bill and had taken all the blankets, even the tapestry. Before I could go look for him I had a visitor."
"He just LEFT?"
"As I have said, I was rooked by a professional. A Master Criminal, no doubt -- and one who is still at large! Anyway, it was the woman who had chased me the night before. Her name was Syria. She said I had stolen the honor flag from the wall of the Library of Scars. She also challenged me to a duel to the death unless I gave it back. And she is much bigger than I! When I tried to explain that I could not give it back, she hit me. It hurt. A lot! I will say this of the Lady Syria. She is quite beautiful when she is angry... At least, the visions of her that swam through mine head after she had hit me were quite beautiful. Tragically, I awoke. Later that day I ran into a man named Vokes. He is a fighter at the Library of Scars. He asked me to return the honor flag and when I tried to tell him I could not, he hit me. Then he challenged me to a duel to the death to be fought right after my duel with Syria. After Vokes left, I encountered a man named Timmons. He asked me to return the honor flag to the Library of Scars. I told him I could not and he also challenged me to a duel to the death. I told him I was busy, but he scheduled the challenge for right after my duel with Vokes. Timmons, Vokes and Syria are the three toughest fighters in Jhelom. I could not hope to survive against one of them, let alone all three. The mysterious guest and the honor flag are nowhere to be found. Even now my barmaids are taking bets on the manner of my demise!"
"You have got to have the worst luck I think I've ever heard."
"Mine only hope for survival is to find a champion who could stand up to the fiercest fighters in Jhelom. Wouldst thou be my champion, Avatar?"
"Well crap, I guess I am the Avatar, aren't I?"
Sprellic falls to his knees before you in gratitude. "Avatar, thou hast saved my life! I cannot thank thee enough!"
And so we sleep until noon the next day. Might as well not even leave the training ground. It's not like we'll be here too long once this starts.
"So, thou wishest to fight for the cowardly Sprellic! Then I have no choice but to finish thee myself!"
"Thou mayest fight for Sprellic, but I fight for honor!"
"Well, Avatar, I must prove myself to De Snel. If thou art the one who suffers, I will apologize, but I will not back down!"
"You guys are all retarded."
Also pictured: I forgot to turn everyone's AI off of retreat. Oh well, I didn't need those losers anyway.
"And with that, Jhelom's population is halved. Let's go home, guys."
Oh wait, one last thing.
You tell Sprellic that the situation has been resolved and how it was done. Sprellic practically kisses your feet. "How can I ever thank thee? Thou art the most noble person I have ever met! I shalt be forever in thy debt! I thank thee!"
Now, two quick things in today's corner. Neither terribly interesting.
The first is, of course, the alternate resolutions to the plot. You can have Kliftin sew a fake flag and give it to Syria, and she'll call off the duels against Sprellic. This is the most peaceful solution, but also the least interesting. The most interesting solution is to do what I just did, but also to place a large bet with Ophelia that Sprellic (or his champion) will win.
You can also bet heavily against Sprellic, then kill him yourself. De Snel is impressed with this, but the rest of Jhelom isn't.
I think it's better if Sprellic is left alive, however. We can eventually resolve the plot thread he brings up, and it'd be a shame to just slaughter a guy with his luck.
West and slightly north of Jhelom is a cave.
The cave spawns a random number of fighters, most of them decently armed (nothing magical, but halberds and such are common). Killing them yields a small amount of gold, and most interestingly, a Triple Crossbow.
A second cave system runs from here, in the east...
...through several magical field traps to a fountain which you'd guess is poison but which is in fact apparently just water...
...and out the west side to the moongate. There's some monsters, a few reagents, a little gold, some swamp boots, nothing much good in there. The real treasures are in the islands east of Jhelom, but since they're closer to Serpent Hold we'll go check them out when we go there.