- I swing by and pick up the new summons at the Sun Temple magic shop - ‘elemental wolf’ and ‘revive corpse III’, those should be fun - before checking in with the rest of the Order.
My first stop is actually the Chroniclum (or however you say that), the digs of the Nehrimese mages and the Order’s chroniclers and archivists. I’m a little disappointed none of the NPCs have anything to say about Constantine being gone. Maybe news hasn’t trickled down the ranks yet?
On the other hand, Novice Elia (she’s part of a super short quest I did earlier, where you have to track her down in the cemetery district) seems to have moved into Constantine’s room to keep an eye on things (that is, to keep me from stealing all the shit in that room).
Lexil the Archmage has some interesting (read: depressing) backstory now that I’m actually talking to him outside of quest events. Basically, his life was so
shitty (Nehrimese noble says: You and your mom are my slaves now!) that eventually it wrapped around to being awesome, when he was sold to a new master who died of fleshmaggots when they came to Enderal (yeah, gotta watch out for… basically everything, on this fuggin’ continent). Since his master was a Sublime (that’s the Enderalean noble caste. Do Enderaleans get to own slaves? Why haven’t I seen slaves around here?), he basically got shuffled into the Order, distinguished himself, yadda yadda now he’s the Archmage. Also his old master probably got killed in the civil war, although his mom went MIA and he’d like to go look for her someday.
- Does anyone
have a happy backstory in this game? I’m legitimately trying to think of one.
Maybe the ones with happy backstories don’t feel the need to parade them around within 5 minutes of me asking what their deal is.
- Anyway, on to the council room. Looks like Arantheal is keeping the faith, but the others are none too happy about … anything, really. Us going missing for what was apparently a week. Us returning after a week without a word. The invasion. The price of grain, probably.
The Truchessa (it was Disapproving Order Mom after all! Apparently she was the leader of Enderal while Arantheal was in prison for years, bet that won’t be a problem ever) is angry about Arantheal diverting resources to the Beacon.
Lishari is furious to the point of drawing her sword over Constantine and shouts threats at the Truchessa, who is coldly furious right back, and Arantheal has to bust out his Disappointed Dad voice to get them to back down.
I wasn’t aware she liked Constantine so much, her voice actress is really emoting here; Constantine meanwhile could never even remember her name. In fact, I
can’t remember her name, because Constantine kept mispronouncing it on me.
I am watching this alliance disintegrate in front of me, and it’s kind of amazing in a trainwreck sort of way.
Also, hey. Speaking of being none too happy, I just noticed. Why are Jespar and I at the foot of the table?
Literally the entire table is closer to Arantheal than we are. I’ve got a Capital Letter Name too, shouldn’t I be up closer to the front?
- Anyway, there’s some optional ally maintenance you can do before moving on to the next step (Lishari has some ideas and wants to meet at the Dancing Nymph).
Arantheal will tell you some cool backstory about Qyra: land of intellectuals, mages, colleges and constant - goddamn constant - civil wars. I guess when no thought or philosophy is forbidden, you get some radical ideologies.
So basically, the Truchessa was throwing Arantheal’s past mistakes back in his face, y’know, like friends do, and how he accidentally caused one of Qyra’s civil wars to blow up. Manipulated into killing a village of enraged, scared farmers that came at them with pitchforks, basically. Arantheal has since sworn that he would never allow fear of his own death get in the way of his decisions again. What a boss.
Although I have to wonder… shadowsteel swords? Why didn’t I get a shadowsteel sword signing bonus? I just got some shitty steel armor. I’ve never even seen a shadowsteel sword before, is Arantheal holding out on me?
- Arantheal also posits that if Coarek is the Messias (presumably that should be ‘Messiah’), then some of the Emissaries will be fighting on the High Ones’ side, and whatever is granting us our powers isn’t an enemy of the High Ones, but some neutral party. Possibly that mystery woman that stopped time to talk some cryptic nonsense right before I got tied to a rock and drowned near the start of the game.
I have the option to tell him that the Highbear said he wasn’t a real Emissary, but I decide not
to do that. It just seems like it wouldn’t help, you know? Call it paranoia over the time Coarek had me murdered for mouthing off.
- Calia also wants to complain about the state of the world and stuff.
And hey, since Jespar has been dodging my attempts to nail him down on the ‘him and me’ angle, when given the option I figure… why not? And start sending some compliments Calia’s way. To her credit, she picks up on it immediately, and I’m given the choice of playing it off as a joke, admitting I like her, or pull some dodge about me being a woman. Girls can’t love girls, you know.
Although since she literally turns into a shadowy demon when in the grip of strong emotion she’s kiiiind of not looking for anything right now.
Which, y’know, that’s fair. She asks me to respect those boundaries, and I do! I totally do. I watched her kill a man until he was dead and then mutilate the corpse for a good 7 seconds afterwards. I don’t want to see Demon Calia again if I forget an anniversary, either.
- And Jespar has a new story about being hired to steal a tribal idol, making the poor decision to accept the advances of a pair of Amazonian native sisters, and waking up sans idol, money and clothes.
He actually appreciates it if I laugh at him about it, the masochist.
I’m kind of surprised he didn’t have a quest for me, considering he mentioned his sister the noble-turned-Apothecary went MIA and he wants to search for her.
- Well, now it’s time to head up to her room at the Dancing Nymph to see what Lishari has to say. She’s pretty sharp, and-
Ooh boy. So that’s Lishari, in bed, as naked as Skyrim ladies ever get. The sword that presumably killed her is stabbed through the mattress, and the blood is everywhere.
I’m not sure which answer would be more unsettling, so I’m not even going to ask ‘Was she stripped down to her underpants before
she died, or after?’
And then Yuslan Sha’rim, Nehrimese of the same Order, expert mage and possibly some kind of ghost-whisperer (he spends at least half of every conversation talking to someone named Naea, and plays coy when you ask who Naea is), walks in the door behind me. Because fucking of course.
Yuslan gets way more pissed than when he heard Constantine died (I get the feeling they were an item at some point, he and Lishari), and throws some accusations around. I throw accusations back about his convenient timing, and then claim I was there for a lesbian rendezvous. I panicked, okay?
He seems to buy it, anyway.
So we dig around the room a bit and come up with a bottle of drugs that honestly seems like pretty weak evidence to me, but Yuslan latches onto it.
I also carefully do not point out that Lishari was probably murdered by someone in the Order (she said she had some evidence she wanted me to take a look at), because at this point, with two of the three heads of the Nehrimese mages coming down with a bad case of dead, I’m kind of worried Yuslan would murder somebody and/or leave if I did. And I like them a lot more than the Order, who still only barely (and snidely) tolerate me.
I’ll just have to burn some midnight oil and figure things out solo, like a proper protagonist!
- Before heading back to tell Arantheal the news, I decide head out to Fortress Fogwatch to give my new summons a shakedown run. I have a quest from way back when I first got to Ark, you see: an alchemist named Bal had a grandfather who fucked up and bred some plague mushrooms (just what Enderal needed, more evil mushrooms!), and Bal needs his notes and mushroom samples to try and figure out a cure and redeem the family name.
So yes, this guy wants me to grab a bunch of plague mushrooms, put them in my bag, and bring them back to him in Ark. Whatever, money’s money, and I’m already dead, so I’m
- On the way I run into a pretty neat little village full of entropy mages (that’s the evil forbidden magics, remember) and ‘runaway convicts’ being kept chopping wood at all hours. Not sure what’s up with all the wood chopping, to be honest, but the village is basically like the mages just came in and took over some little shithole village in the name of religious/magical freedom and made the villagers their slaves, which is a pretty cool narrative.
They planted explosive runes everywhere around the village, and I learn this by riding right over one and exploding. But it only knocks about half off my health bar, so who cares?
Revive III works pretty well, but not quite well enough: kill a mage and use it on the corpse, and she revives into a kinda-sparkly blue mage-wight and runs off to go blast the shit out of the rest of the town for me. The problem is that after being revived once, the NPC turns into a cloud of dust that can’t be revived again.
Compare this to my new wolf – made entirely of flame – who can be resummoned eternally and who can, I learn shortly, take on three ghost-mages solo. Just doesn’t quite measure up, you know?
- So anyway, I work my way up to Fortress Fogwatch through an extremely evil-looking forest (this looks familiar; did I take my trial here? You know, the crazy dream sequence one. All these evil mushroom forests start to blur together after a while), and then kill roughly 50 undead, including a lot of ghost alchemists who hit hard with their silver swords and also throw magic in a pinch.
Here’s a neat thing, by the way:
Is this Mary Seacole, do you think? The legendary Jamaican herb woman, hotel owner and war nurse?
What with it being put up in an alchemist’s laboratory and all.
- I settle into a plan of attack I like to call ‘Aggro room of monsters, run away while wolfie deals with them’, since 3-4 of these alchemists kick my ass but my wolfbro must have an enormous health bar because he’s totally fine.
If I didn’t have the wolf, I’d be doomed. The difficulty of this quest is not in any way worth the 150 gold pennies the alchemist will give me for completing it, although these piles of silver swords being worth around 75 pennies apiece makes up for it.
I decide to turn in the mushroom samples to the Apothecarius in Sun Temple instead of the guy who hired me, partly because the last thing Undercity needs is another plague, and partly to punish Bal for making me do this and then paying me a pittance for it.
I wonder if we’re shifting into the endgame here? There’s a war on, and narratively important NPCs are suddenly dropping like flies. I would say I’m less invested in Lishari’s death than Constantine’s (or my own!), or if, say, Jespar bought the farm, but she’s still a solid secondary NPC who got killed offscreen just to raise the stakes. And I’m at least half convinced that Jorek or the Truchessa will turn out to be the hand holding the knife.
I also appreciate the game giving me the choice of whether to go the inflammatory route or not. Sure it’s probably not going to matter either way, but it feels
like I have the choice to hold back some information for the sake of politics or hurt feelings, or just throw caution to the wind and go full disclosure, and that’s a good feeling.
Fogwatch Fortress turned out to be a fairly mediocre quest. One man’s quest to redeem his family name isn’t a bad narrative, but it’s not as visceral as say, Kor’s priesthood purging their undesirables. Where the letters prime us to care about the wives who didn’t make it, which in turn keeps us going until we find the sunken temple and the rest of the bodies. Having more journals from the researchers might have done the trick here, but all we got was the grandfather’s regrets which was a little insufficient and late.