Bardass! Quest 10 – Taste of Death

Finally, we’re at the end of the Sakarland episodes!  It’s taken so long!

Quest 10 – Taste of Death

Barkeeper Stewart: Hey, thanks for everything.  And, uh… keep this between you and me.
Brier: No sweat.  Just as long as I get paid.

Brier left the bar with his reward and sighed.  He had just finished another “chump change” quest, this time playing a song to lead a family of rats out of a local bar.  It was hardly a productive use of his time.  Once again, he trekked to the Monastery for an update.

Brier: I can’t keep doing these cheap quests, Nutmeg.  Do you have anything for me?
Nutmeg: Hey, be happy you even have work to do.  Now, as for that bard you’re looking for, I at least found out his name.  It’s Fahren Teller.
Brier: That can’t be his real name.
Nutmeg: It’s the name he goes by.  He left the Sakarlands around a year ago, and I’m still trying to track down any info about where he might be.  But I’m not sure if you can learn much from him.  His specialty was in chants, not melodies.
Brier: Well whatever his specialty, I need to learn whatever I can from him.  Keep looking.
Nutmeg: If you say so.  Oh, and I’ve got a quest for you… but I’m not sure if I should.
Brier: I’ll be the judge of that.
Nutmeg: Suit yourself.  Here’s the information on the contact.  You need to see him about the details.  But I have to warn you, there’s a reason no one’s picked this one up.
Brier: Yeah.  They’re not me.

Brier followed the directions and found his way to the residence of Raymond, a young Warrior in training.

Raymond: You’re the only one?
Brier: I’m all you need.  Oh, and Arco here.
Arco: Sss!
Brier: I miss the squeaking.  You’re not cute when you grow up, Arco.
Arco: Sss…
Raymond: O…. kay… Well, this won’t be easy.  I’m sure you’re aware of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Brier: Nope.  Should I be?
Raymond: You must not be from around here.  Well, they’re a shadowy cult that kidnaps young men and brainwashes them into joining their ranks.
Brier: Are you sure they’re being brainwashed?  Are you sure they aren’t just persuaded?  Don’t answer that.  The last time you said you were sure of something, you were wrong.
Raymond: Well, believe what you want.  But I’ve lost many of my friends to the Brotherhood.  I saw an old friend once lurking at night.  I called out to him but he didn’t respond to his own name.  Brier, I… my older brother, Jared hasn’t been seen for over a month now.  I fear he too is in the Brotherhood.  I can’t stand it anymore.  They need to be stopped!
Brier: Define “stopped.”  Because however I think this through, it’s not happening peacefully.  If you want me to help slaughter the lot of them I have no objections, but do you have any idea how to find them?
Raymond: Even though they’ve been terrorizing the local population for the last half year now, no one’s been able to figure out where their hideout is.  They’re unpredictable.  No one knows where they are likely to strike, or when or even why.  I can’t just wait around for them… I need to make the move to attack.
Brier: Yeah, I get what you’re saying, but it’s still not telling me a thing about where they are.
Raymond: I know a man that got an invite.  We’re going to follow him to their headquarters.
Brier: Hmm… Could be tricky.  He might have counter-spies tailing him.
Raymond: Counter-spies?
Brier: Don’t worry about it.  I’ve got a song for that.  It’s going to cover us with a shroud that makes us unnoticeable to others, but only for as long as I’m playing, and the spell is broken if attention is drawn to us.
Raymond: Understood.
Brier: So where’s our mark?
Raymond: We can see him from my window.  He hasn’t left home yet.
Brier: Is that him?
Raymond: . . . yes.  Let’s after him.

Quest: Infiltrate the Scarlet Brotherhood!
–Sakarlands–

Recommended Level: 25

Party Leader: Brier

Brier [Bard] lv. 25
Title: Dark Bard
Familiar: Arco

Raymond [Warrior] lv. 21
Title: (none)

Objectives:
*Follow the new recruit to the Scarlet Brotherhood hideout without being discovered

Brier: If we run, our footsteps might give us away.  We don’t need to do any sneaky stuff, so just don’t lose sight of him.
Raymond: Got it.

Brier and Raymond followed the new recruit across town, but lost him when he entered a side alley.

Raymond: H-how?
Brier: Shh.
Raymond: (I know he went this way.  There’s no way… Did he know we were following him?)
Brier: . . . (Follow me.)

Brier walked to the end of the alley and stopped at a cloth lying on the ground.  He nodded down, informing Raymond to pulled it away, revealing a hidden door.

Brier: (Where do you think this goes?)
Raymond: (This must be one of the old catacombs.  No one uses them anymore… Not since the newest ones were built near the Monastery.)
Brier: (I’ll wager these have seen some recent use.)

The two entered the underground catacombs and continued forward through a dim path scarcely lit by torches.

Raymond: (Which way now?)
Brier: (It’s too risky to switch to a different song….)

Brier stopped playing, and the two stood in silence.  The faintest hint of human voices could barely be heard, and the two approached its source.  Once they got close enough, Brier continued playing his song of stealth.

Raymond: (It’s them…)

The new recruit knelt in front of a man in a cardinal robe, holding a goblet above his head.

Hooded Man: Now, know that you are not joining our ranks, for that is not what we are.  We are not many, but one.  When you are called, you do not listen for a voice and come running to it.  You respond immediately like a limb.  For that is what you are.  Now, drink and be one with our body.

Raymond: Is that… blood?
Brier: Damn it…
Raymond: Brier?
Brier: This isn’t your run-of-the-mill crazy ritual.
Raymond: When are they ever?
Brier: When they’re fake.

* * *

Caden: Ha ha ha!  Now, drink!  Drink from my blood, and achieve immortality!
Balken: Caden, what the hell are you up to?
Caden: Oh, Lord Balken!  I was just…
Balken: Making another Lich?  Why would anyone want to come back to life just to serve you?
Caden: Because I have seen through the veil.  I know what lies on the other side.  Even if it means slavery, anyone would embrace the opportunity to escape Death’s grasp.
Balken: So says the Necromancer.
Caden: Balken, do you know the difference between a Zombie and a Lich?
Balken: Yeah.  Liches are bigger.  More powerful.
Caden: Ha.  Only if need be.  Zombies are mindless reanimated corpses.  Liches are not mindless.  A Lich is a fallen soul inhabiting a new body.  The personality and memories are the same… if, perhaps, corrupted from the experience of death.  A Lich is a second life.
Balken: Under your control.
Caden: They should be so lucky.  Oh, and I must thank you, Balken.  You destroyed Lorath, putting an end to a race of stagnant fools that believed themselves to be immortal.
Balken: I see there’s no love lost between you and your own people.  You were the one who gave us access to Lorath, and you were the one who urged me to cast the spell without so much as a warning.  So these are the words of the sole survivor of Lorath?
Caden: I am not the last of my kind.  That honor will be bestowed upon my brother.
Balken: Your brother?
Caden: I never mentioned him?  Avery is my younger twin.  He and I were nothing like those arrogant ancients.  Avery seeks new paths.  He would have withered away in Lorath.
Balken: And you?
Caden: I have freed the land of the ancients.  When the time comes, I will return to Lorath and claim what they have long enslaved.  But the land must first recover.  And I must hone my craft.
Balken: And your craft is… making our prisoners drink your blood?
Caden: How else would I control them?  You see, amateur Necromancers stumble upon a spell of Lich summoning and immediately regret it.  The Lich gets tired of servitude, attacks its master, and breaks the spell.  Mutual death.  Nothing gained.  But with a blood bond, the Lich is bound forever under me.  Of course, being mere prisoners of war, there is little value in summoning them except as experiments.
Balken: So for what end is this experimentation for?
Caden: That I will keep to myself.  Say, would you like to become a Lich?  Out of all living men, you are the only one I can think of that would be a suitable specimen.
Balken: I don’t think so.
Caden: It wouldn’t hurt.
Balken: I don’t plan on dying.
Caden: That’s everyone’s problem.  They should.

* * *

Brier: This is a spell designed to turn men into slaves…
Raymond: He’s convulsing…!
Brier: Must have been poison in that blood.  But just watch.

The new recruit fell to the floor, seemingly dead.  But then he awoke and again knelt in front of the hooded man.

Brier: That man is already dead.  He’s just a slave now.
Raymond: Then…
Brier: No one here can be saved.  They’re long gone.
Raymond: I…

Raymond stood up and brandished his sword.

Raymond: I will put an end to this!

The spell was broken, and everyone turned towards the two interlopers.  The Hooded Man pulled away his cowl and and addressed them.

Jared: Brother!
Raymond: Jared?  You… You’ve been behind this?
Jared: You don’t sound pleased.
Raymond: Why would I?  Our friends… the people of Sakar… You…  What have you done?
Jared: Nothing.  I have done nothing of consequence.  Not yet.  The question is, what will be done?  The answer is thus: REVOLUTION!
Raymond: Rev… a coup?
Jared: Yes.  You know that bitch that sits on high and makes claims of being worthy of rule just because she’s never known the pleasures of the flesh?  We don’t need her.  What kind of authority is that, anyway?  Tradition won’t save us.  Only power.  The power of a united Sakar.  One where everyone is equal regardless of birthright, status, or so-called purity.
Raymond: The Sakar you speak of is only united in death!
Jared: So be it!  The united dead Sakar is only the beginning.  Rhea, Astoria, Harl, and all the rest will become like Sakar!  I will be ruler of a united world, brother!
Raymond: Don’t… don’t you dare call me brother!  All of my family is dead.  You’re just the corpse of my brother!
Jared: You simply haven’t been awakened.  No matter.  If you can’t understand in life, I’ll see to it you do so in death!
Brier: Raymond.  I suggest we run.
Raymond: No!  I’ll end it!
Brier: WE’RE OUTNUMBERED!  LET’S GET GOING NOW!

Brier begins playing Surface-Seeker’s Elegy!

Brier: Multiple exits?  How big are these catacombs?
Raymond: Hell if I know.

The two ran for the nearest exit, but a small group of zombies blocked the way.

Brier: Crap, forgot.  We’re in a catacombs.  Corpses everywhere to animate.  How is your brother a Necromancer?
Raymond: I don’t know!
Jared: There’s no escape.  But your stories don’t have to end here.  You can still join the Brotherhood.
Raymond: Jared… Why do this?  You had a high position in Meuri’s court.  What is there to gain?
Jared: Do you know what people say about Queen Meuri?  They say she’s immortal.  But I’ve seen first hand the truth behind those words.  She’s a monster, Raymond.  Sakar cannot survive under the rule of a monster.
Raymond: So instead, you would have us all become monsters?
Jared: Monsters in complete control of our lives.
Brier: That’s enough.  In my experience, Necromancers tend to lose their minds.  The best thing we could do is kill him.
Jared: And how do you propose pulling that off?
Brier: Lesson 1: Zombies are flammable.

Brier threw a torch into one of the zombies.  The fire spread quickly to the entire group.
Brier: Lesson 2: Low-level reanimation spells like yours are easily overriden.

Brier began playing a song, and the flaming zombies began marching to Jared.

Jared: What?!  But I’m your master!
Brier: How long did it take you to learn Necromancy?  Two months?  Here’s another free lesson.  Lesson 3: Zombies prioritize turning on their monsters when the command link is broken.
Jared: Then I won’t have to rely on zombies.  Brotherhood!

Jared’s army blindly strode forward and attacked the flaming zombies with their bare hands.

Jared: You see, Brothers?  You feel no pain.  Something like this is nothing to us.
Brier: Ah yes, your Lich army.  That’s something I didn’t expect.  You use a blood bond link.  That’s a technique that comes straight out of Lorath.  How’d you learn it?
Jared: I found a journal in the Queen’s library and put it to good use.
Brier: I see… Must have been one of Caden’s.  Didn’t think she was the thieving type.  But blood bond techniques are only really effective when a Lorathian performs them.
Jared: True, but you’re not going to be breaking that link as easily.
Brier: I don’t need to.  Heh heh… I’m going to give your entire army the death they deserve.

Brier threw another torch into the mob.  Unlike the zombies, Liches are not as easily affected by flames.  However, they still react like normal men and avoided the torch attack, giving Brier and Raymond the opportunity they needed to continue fleeing.

Jared: Cowards.

The two escaped the catacombs and found themselves back on the surface.

Raymond: Where are we?
Brier: Hmm…  Perfect.

Brier began playing a song.

Raymond: Is now really the time?
Jared: So, you stopped running?
Raymond: Jared!
Jared: It doesn’t have to end like this.  You can still become us.
Brier: Any time now!
Arco: Hss!
Nutmeg: Ugh, what have you gotten yourself into now?
Brier: Good job, Arco.
Raymond: You sent your familiar for reinforcements?  When did you get that done?
Brier: You kidding?  I heard “evil cult” and “underground catacombs.”  I’d have to be an idiot not to call for a Monk.  I sent Arco off before we went in.
Nutmeg: Brier, we’re sharing the reward for this one.
Brier: Go for it.
Nutmeg: Discs of Light!

Nutmeg’s Discs of Light easily cut through the Lich army, slicing them down.

Nutmeg: Okay, I re-killed those corpses.  What do we do with the Necro over here?
Jared: Ugh… My… my army…
Brier: Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t care about your Queen either.  But you were destined to fail and fail hard.  How about you hand me Caden’s journal and we can forget this all happened.
Jared: Don’t mock me, Bard!

Jared pulled a knife out of robe and lunged at Brier.  He quickly deflected the attack with his lute and kicked Jared in the gut, causing him to double over in pain.

Jared: Urgh…
Brier: Lesson 4: Using your own blood makes you weak as hell.
Jared: My… my revolution…
Brier: Raymond.  Kill him.
Raymond: I’m sorry, brother… This was treason.
Nutmeg: They’re brothers?!
Brier: Not anymore.  Right?
Raymond: Right…  Jared…
Jared: Brother… Don’t.  I was only… I was only trying to save us all…
Raymond: . . .
Brier: Kill him.
Raymond: He… He’s learned his lesson.
Nutmeg: There’s no reason to go that far.
Brier: Question!  What’s the difference between a regular Necromancer, a Lorathian Necromancer, and a regular Necromancer TRYING to be a Lorathian Necromancer?
Nutmeg: I give up.
Raymond: What?
Jared: . . .
Brier: Nutmeg.  Smiting Weapon on me.
Nutmeg: Sure thing.

Nutmeg cast a spell on Brier’s fists, causing his hands to glow a soft light.

Brier: This is why you have to kill him.

Brier placed his hand in front of Jared’s face, but did not touch.  The glow of his hands revealed blackness running under Jared’s skin,

Brier: Lorathian magic is meant to be used by Lorathians only for a reason.  Normal bodies can’t handle it.  Jared here hasn’t been able to feel the light of the sun without burning up for a good while now.  Give it another two months and he’s going to start feeling that pain even in the moonlight.  As time passes it’s only going to hurt more.  In less than a year, he’ll be in so much pain he can’t even sleep.  If you really hate your brother, you’ll send him to a dungeon where he’ll be kept alive to experience that living hell.
Jared: Y-you’re lying!  Nothing like that is written in the journal!
Brier: Haven’t I been right about everything else?  Jared, you know what’s happening to you better than me.  Tell me you haven’t been feeling the illness I’ve described.  Tell me I’m lying!
Jared: . . . You… you’re just a simple bard.  A boy!  What would you know about…
Raymond: Jared…
Nutmeg: Let me.
Raymond: No.  It’s my duty…
Jared: Raymond.  No it isn’t.  After all, I’m not your brother anymore, am I?

Jared brought a small vial to his lips and ingested its contents.

Raymond: What was that?
Jared: The arms and legs of the Brotherhood have fallen.  So too must its head.

Jared’s writhed around, his limbs twisting and bending violently before falling flat with a shudder.

Raymond: Jared…
Brier: . . .
Nutmeg: So that’s the end of it.  I have to say, this isn’t the ending I had hoped for.
Brier: No one has to know about this.
Raymond: Jared was… He was always more talented than me.  What could he have seen to go through with this plan?
Brier: I don’t know.  And right now I don’t care to find out.  But I will say this.  Add forbidden magic to the mix, and it isn’t surprising.  It just has that effect on people.

Quest end!

Received 6,000 gold!

Raymond paid Brier his reward, and the two parted, hoping never to see each other again.  Brier and Arco followed Nutmeg to the Monastery.

Nutmeg: I didn’t know you were so well-versed about Lorathian magic.  I suppose it’s suitable.
Brier: What do you mean?
Nutmeg: I found out where Fahren might be.  There’s a village in the western Rhean Forest.  It’s close to Lorath, so be careful.
Brier: Lorath, huh?  Damn…

Brier leaned over to take the map, but Nutmeg pulled it away.

Nutmeg: Just a second.  I’ve got a party set up for you.
Brier: I kind of prefer to adventure alone.
Nutmeg: I don’t care.  You need help if you’re going near Lorath.
Brier: Fine.  Who do you have set up?
Nutmeg: Just head by the adventurer’s guild in the morning.  You’ll get your map then.
Brier: Okay, okay.  So I take it you’re not coming?
Nutmeg: Nope.  I’m needed more in Sakar.  And to be honest, you scare me a little sometimes.

The next morning, Brier went to the adventurer’s guild to meet with his new party.

Brier: Whoever they are, they’re late.
Arco: Hss.
Brier: Can’t we just grab the map and head out?
Female adventurer: Aren’t you busy?  But you’re not going anywhere without me.
Brier: Hm?  Wait, you’re…

The voice came from a familiar and unexpected vision.

Brier: What are you doing in Sakar, Coleen?
Coleen: I’m on my way to Lorath, and I hear you could use the company.  It’s been a while, “Dark Bard.”
Brier: Heh.  I take it you learned all you could from the old sage.
Coleen: Before he died, yeah.
Brier: Oh.
Coleen: I hope you’ve improved your singing.
Brier: Don’t you worry about that.  I’ve learned all kinds of new songs to screw up.

Brier [Bard] lv. 25
Title: Dark Bard
Familiar: Arco

Coleen [Mage] lv. 30
Title: Seeker of Shadows

And so, Brier and Arco are once more joined by Coleen, the wandering mage on a quest to find the Dark Lord Balken and take revenge upon him.  Together, they depart the Sakarlands in search of Fahren Teller, a bard that knows ancient hymns and may unlock the secrets of the Ultimate Inspiration to Brier.

Next time, on Bardass!  It is time to discover the origins of Meuri, the Cleric of the Seven Heroes, and the woman people now claim cannot die.  Just how much truth is there to that title?  Find out in Break 2 – Meuri the Immortal.

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