I was hoping to get this one done before March, but… Oh, well. At least it’s still in before Spring. I may just finish the rest of the Sakarlands arc in time.
Quest 09 – Light of the Sakar
Brier learned quickly that Sakar runs on Clerics. Cleric adventurers get priority over other classes. Thus, a Bard had no chance of picking something up. In order to pay for his board, he’s had to rely heavily on pawning and…
Brier: 60G down on Phelps!
Jim: 80G on Mica!
Volc-ale-no is a bar game. What is a bar game? It’s a game played in a bar, what else? People gather around participants and bet on the results. Of course, the participants bet between each other as well.
The game of Volc-ale-no has each player standing across from each other on opposite sides of a long table. On the table in front of them are 12 mugs filled with different liquors. The two players take turns throwing a ball lit aflame called the “Fireball” into the other player’s mugs. If a Fireball lands in a player’s mug, that player must remove the doused Fireball, drink the contents of the mug, flip the mug over, and re-light the Fireball before making their move. In the event that neither player forfeits due to injury or death, a winner is declared when every mug on the opponent’s side is turned over or destroyed. It should be noted that some of the liquors used in this game tend to explode when they come into contact with the Fireball, in which case the destroyed mug will count as “flipped.” The game has a 60% fatality rate.
Another popular game is Pop Darts, where a mixed bundle of balloons with one of two different colors floats in the center of the bar. Players take turns throwing darts at the balloons to pop them. The winner is whoever pops every balloon of their respective color. The game has a 15% fatality rate for players. No one has been able to properly determine the fatality rate of its spectators, however.
The Fireball ignited a mug, causing it to explode. Shards of glass shot up into the face of one of the players.
Mica: AAARGH! My eyes! I forfeit! Get me to a Cleric!
Brier: YES! This calls for a song! Ha ha ha!
Brier leaned back into the bar and strummed his Obsidian Lute.
Brier begins playing “Triumph of the Gambler”
Brier: Oh, a gambling man who loses is a woeful man in need…
Barflies: But a gambling man who triumphs is the greatest one indeed!
Brier: With luck and fortune on my side, the world will soon be mine!
Barflies: For worries, doubts, and hungers all shall be strewn aside! My path is clear, I’ll have no fear, and journey through the sand…
Brier: …until the next bet to be had!
Despite his success in gambling, Brier only had enough saved up to stay in Sakar for another two days at the cheapest Inn he could find. Without a high-paying quest, he would need to resort to living off of nature in the Rhean forests again. But fate decided to cut him some slack that night.
Brier: Hey, not bad not bad… Hey there, Missie. I know what you’re thinking… what else can he do with those fingers? You wanna find out?
Nutmeg: Not in the mood, Brier.
Brier: Huh? Wait… NUTMEG?! What the hell are you doing, confusing me by looking like a lady?
Nutmeg: Well excuse me for dressing casual. I was only here to meet with someone about information.
Brier: So didya get it?
Nutmeg: Sure did. …Say… I’ve got a proposition for you.
Brier: I hear ya. Looks like we’ve both changed our opinions of each other. What do you say we head upstairs to my room?
Brier led Nutmeg to his room: a tiny cube with a messy makeshift bed made out of hay and old sacks in the corner and a dozen crates scattered throughout the space.
Nutmeg: Huh. Not very… cozy.
Brier: Cozy enough.
Nutmeg: If you say so. Now, to the point… How’d you like to make some money?
Brier: Wow, this night keeps getting better. Usually I’m the one that… Wait, are we talking about a quest?
Nutmeg: Yeah. Why, you had something in mind?
Brier: N…. Actually, yeah, I was. No idea why I was about to lie… I thought we were going to learn more about each other. Carnally. The idea was that I was going to stick my-
Nutmeg: I get the picture. And given the nature of this quest, highly inappropriate.
Brier: What are you getting at?
Nutmeg explained that in recent days, an intruder has been sneaking into the Clerics’ quarters at her monastery and ravaging them in their sleep. This crime has gone unpunished for nearly a year, and it hasn’t been easy to solve because months passed before the first attacks happened. They only recently started up again, and a reward has been put up to catch the one responsible.
Nutmeg: This pervert’s favorite targets are the Clerics at the top of the class. We don’t have enough security to protect everyone, especially since we don’t allow men anywhere near the Clerics’ quarters. It’s pretty much just been me, and I can’t be everywhere at once.
Brier: Okay, I understand that much… but I think my being male isn’t going to help matters much. Unless… NO! I promised myself never again! I’m never going on a quest that involves cross-dressing!
Nutmeg: Not what I had in mind. Besides, you’d never pull it off.
Brier: I beg to differ.
Nutmeg: Do you want to cross-dress or not?
Nutmeg: Then quit talking about it. I just need for you to do what you do best. And sing better than you normally do. Kind of like you were at the bar.
Brier: You… want me to sing?
Nutmeg: You are a bard. That is what you do.
Brier: …So I am. Imagine that.
* * *
Choir Leader David: Everyone, this is Brier, our new choir-boy.
Brier: It’s an honor.
Choir Leader David: We’ll have our first session with Brier this evening. In the meantime, if you have free time, please spend some of it to make Brier feel welcome here.
The monastery’s choir chapel is in the first floor of the monastery, dividing the Monk and Cleric quarters. Monks and Clerics have separate training regiments, so the chapel is the only place where the two are allowed to interact with each other within the monastery grounds. Nutmeg is one of the rare exceptions. Both classes practice their craft in the Grand Monastery, but Clerics have additional training at the Sakar Cathedral, a massive structure in the heart of the Sakarlands that also acts as a castle fortress. It is at the top of the Cathedral where the current ruler of the Sakarlands, Meuri the Immortal, sits on her throne.
Brier spent most of the afternoon in the garden, tuning his lute and practicing bars from the book he received from Bairnes.
Clarisse: So you’re a wandering Bard? That sounds like such a romantic life.
Melissa: What brings you to the monastery?
Brier: The songs, obviously. I’ve traveled all over the world and learned the local ballads, but I only recently learned about the traditional hymns you only hear at this monastery.
He was only half-lying. He had known about the hymns of Sakar for ages, but he never had any use of them until he became a Bard.
Nutmeg: The hymns here are on a completely different level than what you’re used to. I hope you don’t take it lightly.
Melissa: No need to be so serious about it, Megan.
Nutmeg: It’s my nickname. My real name is Nutmeg.
Brier: R-really? I would’ve figured… Nah, not important.
Nutmeg: By the way, have the night rounds been decided yet?
Melissa: Yes. Unfortunately, we only have enough volunteers so one person patrols one floor, plus an extra guard for Theresa. You’ll take the top floor.
Brier: Hm? What’s all this about?
Sally: You just got here so you wouldn’t know. But some perverted deviant has been terrorizing the Clerics’ quarters… Oh, I dare not say what he did, but… Well, it’s just awful.
Melissa: He first struck about a year ago. That’s when he got Cecilia and Megan. They were the top two Clerics in the monastery at the time.
Nutmeg: I stayed and studied the ways of the Monk. But Seci didn’t take it very well and left the Sakarlands.
Brier: Wait… Seci?
Nutmeg: Short for Cecilia. She was a better Cleric than I was back then.
Melissa: After those two he just disappeared without a trace. But a week ago he showed up again. First it was Clarisse. Last night he went after Theresa, but we managed to interrupt and chase him off.
Sally: I’d rather we caught him and brought him to justice. Maybe bring him to Lady Meuri. There’s no telling what she would have done.
Brier: Sounds scary. If there’s anything I can do…
Melissa: Thanks for the offer, but men aren’t allowed near the Cleric quarters. You understand, don’t you?
Brier: I guess.
Melissa: Well, take care, Brier. I hope you come to enjoy your stay.
Nutmeg: Go ahead, I’ll stay a while longer.
The two Clerics left the garden, leaving Nutmeg and Brier to discuss their next move.
Nutmeg: Okay, you should have a better idea about our situation now.
Brier: Of course. I have to say, I was hoping this was a revenge trip. But you said there would be a reward for me.
Nutmeg: The monastery is offering a bounty, but without clues no one stands a chance. Our best bet is to catch the culprit in the act.
Brier: What did you have in mind? I don’t think there’s a song that can make you exist in more than one place at once, and there’s no guarantee the guy you’re waiting for will even show up.
Nutmeg: Oh he’ll show. If he’s the kind of person I think he is, he’ll be back to get the job done. But it’s all for nothing if I’m not the one to catch him.
Brier: You’re willing to put another girl’s safety on the line for a chance at personal gratification?
Brier: I underestimated you. You were right to come to me. I think I’ve got an idea of what you want now. A song of deep slumber, yes?
Nutmeg: One that only affects virgins.
In case it wasn’t apparent by now, only virgins can become Clerics. It is believed that only maidens of the most pure mind and body are worthy of the powers of a Cleric. In fact, once a Cleric has lost their virginity, they will have lost all of their powers, and with it, their chance to potentially become Queen of the Sakarlands.
Nutmeg: Here, you’ll probably need this.
Received “Monastery Hymnbook!”
Brier continued practicing until the evening choir. Focusing all his energies into singing passingly well tired the bard out, but he managed.
Choir Leader David: Okay, that’s all for the day. Return to your quarters.
Brier: Sir, if it’s all right, I’d like to stay in the chapel and practice my lute-playing.
Choir Leader David: Certainly. Just don’t stay too late or keep anyone awake with your playing.
Brier: (Believe me, that’s not the plan).
Brier played an assortment of melodies from the hymnbook until it grew dark.
Brier: So, about to start your rounds?
Nutmeg: Yeah. I have to say, though… Not much of a singer, but you play beautifully.
Brier: What can I say? I’m good with my fingers.
Nutmeg: I think you’ve used that line before. So, can you do it?
Brier: The song? I’ve already been playing it.
Nutmeg: You are? But it sounds like the same old hymns…
Brier: That means it’s working. I’m slipping in parts of the slumber song in between hymns so it affects everyone gradually. By now everyone within range should be feeling pretty drowsy. In one hour they’ll be so asleep, nothing will be able to wake them up as long as I keep playing.
Nutmeg: Perfect. I knew I could count on you! As soon as you hear something off, stop playing and come help me.
Brier: Sounds good to me.
Quest: Protect the Maidens!
–Sakarlands: Sakar Grand Monastery–
Recommended Level: 25
Party Leader: Brier
Brier [Bard] lv. 23
Title: Dark Bard
Nutmeg [Monk] lv. 29
Title: Mace to the Face
*Discover the identity of the night stalker
*Capture the night stalker
*Do not allow anyone other than Brier or Nutmeg to capture the night stalker!
Just as Brier promised, every girl in the Cleric quarters was fast asleep. Every girl except Nutmeg, who, after making sure the plan worked, sprinted towards Theresa’s room to take over guard duty.
Brier stopped playing once he heard the sound of shattering glass. He immediately ran towards the sound and spotted a figure fleeing towards him.
Brier: Time for the ol’ El Kabong…
Brier ran to intercept the intruder and swung his Obsidian Lute.
Night Stalker?: Tough Skin!
Brier’s lute struck the Night Stalker’s ribs and a loud twang echoed out. Because the effects of his song were no longer active, this woke everyone nearby.
Night Stalker?: Damn it!
The Night Stalker punched Brier in the gut and followed up with a haymaker to his chin. Brier crumpled to the ground as his target made his escape.
Brier: I… hate… Brawlers…Grr…
The intruder wasn’t powerful enough to knock Brier out, but the Bard had to rely on his lute for leverage. There was no chance of him leaving the scene in time.
Melissa: There you are… Brier? So it WAS you!
Nutmeg: It can’t be him.
Melissa: What makes you say that? For some reason, I fell asleep while keeping guard. That shouldn’t have happened unless it was a spell… or a magic song. When I woke up, Theresa’s room had been broken into again and for some reason you were there.
Nutmeg: It’s a good thing I was because I chased that villain away before he could get to Theresa.
Melissa: But you weren’t even supposed to be on that floor. Why were you there and awake when everyone else was put to sleep? Are you two in this together?
Melissa: Are you really that spiteful that you would pull this stunt on us?
Nutmeg: That’s not it… You’ve got it all wrong!
Brier: I don’t think she’s listening to reason.
Melissa: You’re in no position to talk, ravager!
Brier: Hey, I told you, I didn’t…
Nutmeg: No, you’re right, Brier. We don’t stand a chance. Shining Ball!
Nutmeg created a shining ball of light that exploded in the air, blinding everyone in the area. With their pursuers temporarily indisposed, the two escaped the monastery and ran back to Brier’s lodging at the bar.
Nutmeg: That didn’t turn out anywhere close to what I wanted. I can’t believe I let him slip through my fingers again… What were you doing in the garden? If you had just kept playing…
Brier: He still would’ve gotten away. If that guy weren’t a Brawler, I would’ve knocked him out.
Nutmeg: …a brawler?
Brier: Yeah. He used Tough Skin on me, the jerk.
Nutmeg: …Damn it…
Nutmeg: This isn’t the guy I’m looking for… Must be some sort of copycat rapist. The guy that got me and Seci was a Hex Wizard.
Brier: Really? How do you know?
Nutmeg: How could I not? I tried to fight him off, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even move. I couldn’t even SPEAK. All my training was useless. He cast his hex on me while I was sleeping. If not for that, I would have been able to put up barriers. Come to think of it, the fact that the recent victims were able to scream for help should have been a tip-off that it wasn’t the same guy. I guess I was in denial. I really wanted it to be him…
Brier: So… what now? You still want to get this guy?
Nutmeg: Even if he’s not the same one I’ve been hunting all this time… I can’t forgive anyone who would dare to copy that man. But chances are the girls won’t let me back in the Monastery now… Even if they did, you sure as hell aren’t getting in either. How are we supposed to pull this off?
Brier: First, tell me something. The first time this happened, he only attacked two of you?
Nutmeg: That’s right.
Brier: Never got caught, right? But did word of this get out? I mean, outside the Monastery?
Nutmeg: No… No, of course not. It would’ve ruined our reputations…
Brier: Then I’ve got this all figured out. And there’s a song in this old book I’ve got that I thought was useless, but it’s just the trick we need. But first…
Brier: It’s time you did a favor for me.
Nutmeg: Okay… name it. But only one. So it’s got to count.
Nutmeg: One. If we pull this off I’m already sharing part of the reward with you.
Brier: … Dammit. Okay, one. Think back to that time when you were still a Cleric. Was there a Bard at the Cathedral? A male one.
Nutmeg: That’s a weird question… But, yeah… back then, men were still able to enter the Cathedral. Come to think of it, there was a wandering Bard that stopped by for a time. He was an amazing singer.
Brier: That might be the guy I’m looking for. He’s the reason I came to the Sakarlands. Tell me what you know about him.
Nutmeg: There isn’t much I know about him personally, really. I don’t think I even remember his name. But I can find out.
Brier: Damn… Okay, but you’ll find out for me, right?
Nutmeg: Only if we clear our names.
Brier: Not a problem.
Nutmeg: I hope so. Oh, by the way…
Nutmeg: I haven’t seen Arco lately.
Brier: Wasn’t a good idea to bring him to the Monastery. So I told him to stay here.
Nutmeg: So you say, but I don’t see him.
Brier: Hmm… Come to think of it… Yeah, we haven’t been separated in a long time. Usually when he’s off by himself he’ll go hunting.
Nutmeg: Hunting? For what?
Brier: Whatever. Not too many beasts in the Sakarlands though… So probably field mice and the occasional baby fox.
Brier: Anyway, unless you wanna get frisky, I’ve got a song to learn.
Nutmeg: Alright, I’ll leave you to it. I’ll just… look for a clean blanket.
* * *
The next morning, Brier and Nutmeg returned to the Monastery and willingly turned themselves in for judgment. All of the top Clerics were present at the Chapel. All according to Brier’s plan.
Choir Leader David: It’s a shame we had to meet again under these circumstances. You are quite skilled at the lute. So, Brier. Plead your case. Explain your actions last night.
Brier: Oh, it was nothing really. I’ve got a major thing for Clerics. Such succulent forbidden fruit. And you can really only enjoy them once. So I like to savor the experience. Only the best and the youngest… Well, within limits. Theresa, Theresa, Theresa… Third time’s the charm, right? Give me another go and I promise I’ll offer you ecstasy you never dreamed possible.
Nutmeg: Brier… what the hell?
The entire mass glared at the Bard, seething with anger. There was a tense silence threatening to erupt at any second. It was Brier himself that broke this silence with song.
Melissa: Don’t let him play! He’s trying to escape!
Brier: If you start to feel drowsy, feel free to kill me. Just let me finish this one last song.
Oh let’s play a ga~me, A~lce~
One that’s called “Reveal the Heart.”
Everyone, think abou~t me
You see? It’s not very hard!
Colors shall tell your sto~ry
And malice makes them turn dark.
Brier: Alce, LET’S PLAY!
Everyone in the Chapel began to emit an aura about them.
Choir Leader David: What is this? What’s happening?
Melissa: Kill him!
Brier: It’s not dangerous.
Nutmeg: Brier, what’s going on? Everyone’s glowing!
Brier: Were you not listening to the song? This is Alce’s Light of Truth! It displays your heart! As you can see, pretty much everyone here has a dark red aura. Red is the color of passion. If you glow a light red, like pink, it means that person has feelings of intense love for me. But malice turns the light dark, and that means it’s an intense hatred. Judging by how your light is wavering, you’re not sure how you feel about me. And that’s only natural.
Nutmeg: Yeah, I figured. And it only makes sense that all these girls hate you after what you said.
Brier: All… except for one. Why so… yellow, Sally?
Everyone turned toward Sally, the only person in the Chapel glowing with a yellow aura.
Brier: Do you have something to say? Or should I say it for you.
Sally: It’s a trick… You’re…
Brier: SHUT UP! If you’re going to be like that, I might as well spell it out, then! Yellow is the color of anxiety.
Sally: A… anxiety?
Brier: That’s right. A malicious anxiety is similar to fear. But your aura is looking pretty bright to me. So what you’re feeling is “expectation.” Unlike everyone else here, you want to see me punished for this crime, but not out of outrage. No… It’s because you get something good out of it. Like deflecting attention from whoever you hired to actually commit the crimes.
Brier: Looks like your aura’s getting a little dark.
Sally: You… you… how dare you… What would I possibly gain from this terrible crime?
Brier: You’re only slightly behind Theresa in skill, aren’t you? With your competition out of the picture, that puts you at the top of the class, and potentially next in line for the Queendom.
Sally: You can’t prove that! I can be the best, fair and square! I don’t need to resort to such cheap tricks!
Brier: You’re right, I can’t prove it. All I can do is reveal your heart. But this next song… Heh heh… It won’t kill you. “Broken Chains of the Heart” will make you feel as if you’re being crushed by what your heart keeps hidden. The only way to end the pain is to bare your hidden secrets. Of course, if you’re telling the truth you won’t feel any pain. Let’s give it a go… Ohhhhhh…
Sally: OKAY, I ADMIT IT! The man who broke in is my cousin! He’s a Brawler from Etrium! Just don’t play that song!
Brier: Don’t worry. That song doesn’t exist.
Brier: To be honest, I didn’t think you’d fall for it.
Nutmeg: Sally, you’re going to draw that cousin of yours out so he can pay for his crimes.
Sally: . . .
And so it came to pass that the mystery of the Copycat Night Stalker was solved. Nutmeg and Brier received the full reward and split it between themselves, and Nutmeg was again allowed to return to the Monastery.
Nutmeg: Thanks for everything. Even though it wasn’t the same guy I’ve been searching for, you still pulled through for the Monastery.
Brier: Hey, I don’t do it for the justice. I do it for the reward. Speaking of…
Nutmeg: Right, that Bard you’re looking for. I promise I’ll look into the records. Just give me some time.
Brier: Define “some.”
Nutmeg: Hmm… three days?
Brier: *sigh* Fine.
Nutmeg: I can keep you busy. Come see me if you need quests and I’ll dig something up for you. Any time you’re in the Sakarlands.
Brier: I’ll keep it in mind. But for now, I’ve gotta find my Familiar.
Received 7,500 gold!
Arco is evolving!
Arco evolved from [Flying Newt] to [Winged Iguana]!
Arco lost the ability of [Flight]…
Arco retained [Lv. 1 Glide]!
Next time, on Bardass! A shadowy cult lurks beneath the Sakarlands, performing dark rituals and abducting impressionable youths to convert them to their Dark God. Brier assists a man whose family has been ruined by the cult, but neither are prepared for what they discover at their lair. Next time, it’s Quest 10 – Taste of Death.