I thought Dominus was a leader of vision, of purpose. The man who would resurrect the Eternal Empire. In truth, Dominus is only after power... the black, thaumaturgical power locked within the Virtue Gems. He wishes to create a new empire, one in his own image. I drank every night to try and wipe that image from my mind. It's still there.
My poor Greust. A kind man. A strong man. And now...I begged him not to meddle with that relic. It washed ashore after the earthquake and Greust simply had to know whether it was a danger to us... to me.
The unholy thing within that device...it possessed Greust. Turned him into a monstrosity. We fled the village, and as I turned back... I saw... he was killing them, the stragglers, killing them all! Even the children!
My Greust is dead. That thing that has stolen his body...please, destroy it.
My poor Greust...a good man blinded by bravery and hope. I guess that's why I loved him. He truly believed that if he stood against Alira that courage would triumph. Even he should have seen it to be hopeless when they descended upon the village, enslaved us all. They cut his head clean from his body...stuck it on a pike, paraded it before us.
Then it was as if the very rocks cried out against this cruelty. The earth shook and that blasphemous relic emerged from the water. Whatever was inside, it transformed Alira, turned her into...well, I suppose she simply became what she had been in her heart all along.
My poor Greust...a good man blinded by bravery and hope. I guess that's why I loved him. He truly believed that if he stood against Kraityn that courage would triumph. Even he should have seen it to be hopeless when they descended upon the village, enslaved us all. They cut his head clean from his body...stuck it on a pike, paraded it before us.
Then it was as if the very rocks cried out against this cruelty. The earth shook and that blasphemous relic emerged from the water. Whatever was inside, it transformed Kraityn, turned him into...well, I suppose he simply became what he had been in his heart all along.
My poor Greust...a good man blinded by bravery and hope. I guess that's why I loved him. He truly believed that if he stood against Oak that courage would triumph. Even he should have seen it to be hopeless when they descended upon the village, enslaved us all. They cut his head clean from his body...stuck it on a pike, paraded it before us.
Then it was as if the very rocks cried out against this cruelty. The earth shook and that blasphemous relic emerged from the water. Whatever was inside, it transformed Oak, turned him into...well, I suppose he simply became what he had been in his heart all along.
I'm aware that you and Greust had something of a commercial relationship prior to his...accident. As is the Azmeri custom, Greust's few possessions have now passed to me. I'm by no means the warrior he was, yet I know my blades and bows well enough.
At least it's something I can do to honour his memory, and to keep my mind off things.
Don't get me wrong, I've witnessed many unsettling things in my lifetime, but a spectral corsair living next door to me? We reside in dark times indeed when the living need share their quarters with the dead.
I didn't think it possible for Silk to grow any more peculiar, but then I've been wrong about so many things since coming to Wraeclast that I shouldn't have been at all surprised.
Still, it's interesting that his behaviour of late has mirrored that of certain Templar zealots I had the dubious pleasure of meeting back in Theopolis. Like them, Silk appeared obsessed with finding answers to this reality in some ethereal realm of divinity.
For my part, I prefer to keep faith in this world. The answers that come from 'beyond' are seldom the ones we want.
I'm afraid that the Inquisitor's spirit has indeed returned to the Chamber of Sins, yet while you won't encounter Maligaro by wandering his halls, I do perhaps know how you can find him.
Whilst investigating the Fellshrine, I learned of the existence of a map, forged by Maligaro from his own viscera. This map allowed him to transfer his spirit into another form of existence, an existential safe house to which he could retreat should death ever attempt to take him. Understanding the map's purpose, Voll tried to destroy it, to no avail, so he locked it away deep within the ruins of Phrecia Cathedral.
Find that map and place it upon the Reverie Device in Maligaro's old laboratory. And when you step over that threshold, expect the very worst.
I imagine it was no easy feat, removing that abomination from its tomb. The horrors that must still lurk beneath the Fellshrine...
Well, I suppose you'll be meeting abominations aplenty where you're going next. Place that map upon Maligaro's Reverie Device and remember...hope for the worst. At least then you'll be partially prepared for what's to come.
When I was part of Piety's expedition into the Chamber of Sins, I stumbled upon a secret passage. It appears to have been constructed by the Inquisitor for the purpose of conveying his creations from his laboratory, via an ancient cave system, to the surrounding countryside without detection. These caves seem to feed out into what was once farmland near our former village.
It may prove a useful route for you, although the passage was locked when I last stood before it. Let us hope that the key remains somewhere nearby.
Yes...I thank you. Though I loved him, I know Greust was lost to me the very moment he touched that Vaal abomination. I will weep over his passing for many more nights to come, but I am...happy that you avenged his honour, and freed him from his torment.
I'm a woman of science, not vengeance, yet in this case I'm willing to make an exception. I will continue to weep for Greust until time takes the pain from my heart. Your actions won't speed that process yet I know, wherever he is now, my gentle warrior would appreciate the honour you've restored to him.
There's an Azmeri shrine, tucked away in the Northern Forest. Greust took me there, told me it was a memorial to those who had gone before him, a place where their spirits could rest. When he passed, he wanted his remains to be laid to rest with the bones of his people. His body...I find it difficult to even think about it...but I doubt it will ever be recovered. Yet there might still be a way. He gave me his necklace, the fangs he earned when he rose from boyhood to manhood, handed it to me for safekeeping only moments before, before Ralakesh... it's almost as if he knew what was to come.
Please, could you deliver this necklace to the shrine for me? Put Greust's spirit to rest? I would do it myself, but the journey to the Northern Forest is not what it was. These lands have changed, and not for the better.
I feel I have failed my poor Greust, not being able to return his bones to the resting place of his people. Still, we have done all we could, considering the circumstances. Greust was a practical man at heart. He would understand.
You deserve our thanks. Here are some of Greust's most treasured possessions. I'm sure he would have wanted you to have one.
Piety once spoke of Tangmazu, referring to him as the god of treachery. She told me how he once commanded the affections of the ancient and deadly Silent Brotherhood. They were the Empire's most sought-after assassins, if what I've read is true. Murder at the highest of prices, yet they refused to even unsheath their blades without their trickster god's blessing.
If Tangmazu is waking and walking again, the Silent Brotherhood is sure to grow in his footsteps. Wraeclast needs stability in these dark times. If we ever hope for a civilisation to take root and flourish in this blistering soil, trickster gods like Tangmazu must be dethroned. Peace will never grow in his shadow.
Our expedition made camp in the western forest while Piety took a few men through the pass to Axiom Prison. She was after the research notes of one Shavronne of Umbra, a witch who devoted herself to the study of transfiguration during the latter days of the Eternal Empire.
Piety returned alone and disturbingly happy with her findings. I've learned that when Piety is happy, misery is soon to follow for everyone else.
Piety led us into that wretched place in the hopes of finding a device named simply 'The Spike'. Fashioned by Inquisitor Maligaro, it was said to enable the injection of 'Calibric Extantia' into living flesh. Calibric Extantia being the corrupt energies locked within virtue gems.
We couldn't find the Spike, yet we met its most successful application.
Maligaro had an assistant, a man named Raulo. If Maligaro's records spoke truly, Raulo offered himself freely as a test subject. With the Spike, Maligaro injected Raulo with a high dose of calibric extantia, thus gifting the poor man with both endless life and horrific deformity.
In honour of his sacrifice to Maligaro's work, the Inquisitor gave Raulo a new name. Fidelitas.
According to his notes, the Baleful Gem was a byproduct of Maligaro's attempts to enhance the already formidable qualities of virtue gems. It was an abject failure yet Maligaro wasn't one to waste his atrocities.
By combining the Baleful Gem with the venom extracted from one of his arachnid subjects, he brewed something called 'Black Elixir'. He proudly proclaimed it to be 'the most potent poison in existence' until it was stolen by a man named Victario.
It was rather entertaining to read Maligaro's intentions for Victario once he caught the man. Twisted...yet I can't fault the Inquisitor's creativity.
Piety would've concurred with Eramir's theory about that north-western ruin. The Vaal were a powerful civilization predating even the Eternal Empire and Piety very much wanted to see what toys the Vaal might have left for her to play with behind those stone doors. Yet we couldn't budge them, not with that giant of a tree holding them fast in her roots.
You now carry a cure to that problem, or rather, a useful illness. Use the Spike to inject the Baleful Gem's calibric extantia into the roots. One day soon, Piety will find her way into that ruin. You need to get there first.
The Blackguards will never stop pursuing someone they consider a traitor. I'm a danger to everyone around me, and not long for this world if I can't find a place to hide. Based on what the Azmeri have told me of this region, the Dread Thicket is rumoured to be a terribly dangerous and wild place. The Blackguards will never search there. Let's travel separately to avoid detection, and I'll meet you there.
The Blackguards will never stop pursuing someone they consider a traitor. I'm a danger to everyone around me, and not long for this world if I can't find a place to hide. This seems like a good area to build a hideout, but it's filled with monsters. Can you clear it of everything dangerous?
Curious... with the death of the last monster here, the very air itself feels different. I wouldn't use the word 'purified,' but you've definitely negated the pall over this place. I'll stay here for now and make sure nothing dangerous re-emerges.
I retrieved the Transmutia Device from the Chamber of Sins, and I believe I can rig it to imbue equipment with magical modifications. This may involve minor meddling with dark forces we don't understand, but we'll have to take that risk. Wraeclast is a dangerous place, and we'll never get anywhere by playing it safe.
As long as we treat the process scientifically and approach it methodically, we should be able to craft equipment to our needs.
Alright, I've taken the liberty of performing a few tests. There are a few magical modifications the Transmutia Device can make that are safe every time. Try enhancing a piece of equipment now. Let's see if my results hold.
While you're out there, try to remain vigilant for other possible locations for hideouts. The Blackguards never give up, and they may eventually stray close to this place. I want to have a backup location ready to go in the event we need to make a quick exit.
He's well-intentioned. That's the foremost thing I can say about him. I've never seen any trace of hostility in his actions, but his words sometimes stray from the path he set for them, and his laughter can be a little too gleeful. I fear that Voltaxic Sulphite exposure is poisoning his mind.
But despite that, he may be the most qualified person on Wraeclast when it comes to the mysteries under the earth - and under the earth is exactly where thousands of years of history have sunk over time.
With that book on Vaal blood thaumaturgy, Alva has accessed a power scholars have only dreamed of for centuries. Travelling back in time sounds both insane and absurd, yet I've seen her incursions myself.
It is both a curse and a blessing that she chooses to employ those incursions solely for personal gain. Yes, we could do so much more with the power to visit the past, but her focused interests also keep the timeline stable. I can't imagine what would happen to us here and now if, for example, we tried to go back and assassinate Malachai to prevent the Cataclysm.
Would we cease to exist? Or would we simply create a second Wraeclast, one in which the Cataclysm never happened? One could go insane thinking about it...
When I first met him, I underestimated Einhar. Coming from the poorest of Ezomytes, themselves already a battered people in this region of the world, Einhar struck me as someone who could contribute brawn to our cause, but not much else.
How wrong I was. If anyone can decipher the dark design afflicting the creatures of Wraeclast, it's him. I've been looking for the source of all this, an equation or overall pattern, but he's unknowingly taken an empirical approach. By learning about and understanding every single corrupted animal - and the energies their blood contains - he's done more to advance our understanding of the problem than I could ever have done myself.
One day, he may even solve the symptoms of Corruption without ever understanding the root cause. Make no mistake, exile, that's... impressive. A humanistic brute force approach to a cosmic problem.
I heard of Zana, back in Oriath. I even experienced some of the contempt for her and people like her that Dominus wanted the "church-approved" scientific community to feel. With those lies broken, now I see that she is a woman of science like me, and utterly dedicated to her cause.
The forces she faces are orthogonal to the concerns of this life. I must worry about the real-world logistical and political concerns of Wraeclast first and foremost, but I recognize that she is protecting us in her own way.
I find Navali's state of existence curious. She is present, sapient, and capable of self-directed action. In a land where the dead continually rise as mindless monsters intent on nothing but destruction, Navali stands as a stark outlier. I suspect that she is trustworthy only because of some Karui essence that still remains from her life before, carrying with it honor, duty, and respect. Were it Piety or Dominus returning in such a form, the consequences would be unthinkable.
Jun keeps to herself. It's clear that she's not used to trusting strangers. From watching her, I think she is dealing with the loss of her akhara by pouring everything she is into her mission. That's admirable, but dangerous. Keep her safe, exile.
The Order of the Djinn is real? (light laughter) You have no idea how much that means to me as an archaeologist. I was in an apprentice position, yes, but my colleagues still refused to listen to a degree I found absurd. I was convinced that there was a pattern behind the absence of artifacts of myth. My conviction reached a certainty so strong that, if a colleague told me about an expedition they had in mind, and if the sought after artifact was one of sufficient mythological renown, I would bet a month's pay that it would not be found at its supposed resting place.
I never lost those bets, and now I know I was right, even though I didn't know the name of my theorized secret organisation of relic keepers until now. The Order of the Djinn found and sequestered all of those powerful artifacts long ago, and good they did. Power like that in the hands of men like Dominus would be catastrophic.
While asleep, while dreaming, I felt I was on the verge of a brilliant revelation. In one hand, I held one of Navali's little purple orbs, and in the other, I had cut my palm for one of Alva's blood thaumaturgy incursions. In my dream, I was a scale, balancing these two forces.
No, they were one and the same, and I was caught inside their eternal vortex.
And with me in that vortex, above, was the shouting, screaming, clawing, and cawing web of life as taught to me by Einhar. Below me, quiet, magmatic, frozen, and grasping, were all the nightmares beneath the earth that Niko has revealed with his delving.
I thought I was the center of a strange balancing act, but no, exile, it was not me. For I was dreaming; Zana was there, ahead, forging the dream, the unreal. Where she was ahead, I now saw that I was behind, creating the physical, the real. I was not the center. You were.
Do you understand this dream, exile? Even if it means nothing, it's still reflective of the truth. Each of us carries one end of an impossible axis, and you unite all these forces.
Many of the Blackguard are still alive and scattered across Wraeclast, but the organisation has had its back broken after what happened in Oriath. I wouldn't want to run into a random knot of them, especially as they start to get hungry and desperate, but I believe their concerted search for us has ended. That'll give us some breathing room to face new problems.
Malachai himself gave this Transmutia Device to Maligaro. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to think about the horrors that it helped bring into being.
But I must remind myself that science is not responsible for what happened in the Chamber of Sins. Science provides tools for mankind to manipulate the world. It is up to each of us to choose to do good or evil with the power so provided.
Maligaro was the evil responsible, and Malachai before him. Together, you and I are going to start using this Device to undo the damage they did.
I was no wonder child back in Oriath, but I prided myself on what junior accomplishments I managed to put together within the strict set of allowed sciences. Archaeology was my specialty, and Dominus and his ilk had an uncommon fascination with artifacts from the past. And I... I was told I was crucial. That I was important, because I could tell whether an artifact was truly Vaal simply by running my hand along faded stone patterns.
I may have had a head slightly too big for my shoulders. When the Ebony Legion made available an archaeologist position on their expedition to Wraeclast and nobody volunteered, I thought my colleagues were all simply afraid of continental dangers.
No. They knew better. None were allowed to speak it openly, but they knew. I didn't find out what kind of society I was truly a part of until I saw Piety's aspirations. I studied the Vaal. I knew all about their downfall, or at least our Templar-twisted perception of it. Piety's ocean of slaughter... the Vaal called their hubris the Apex of Sacrifice. The Eternal Empire called theirs the Purity Rebellion. We call ours the Temple of Lunaris.
And I know nothing, exile. Nothing at all.
Save that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past unless we learn the hard way.
I've recently thought long on the nature of time and determinism, prompted by the the rather insane notion that the prophecies Navali hands out somehow contain alternate futures.
The paradox keeping me up at night is agonizingly simple. Let's say, Navali foresees that you will meet me in Trarthus. You still have a choice. You might never go to Trarthus. Or, you might go to Trarthus too early, and return multiple times until you finally meet me there. Did the prophecy come true because it was fated to do so? Or, did the prophecy come true because you chose to make it happen, and worked to cause it?
Either way, I am the one without any choice, because neither you nor the prophecy asked me whether I wanted to go to Trarthus.