No... Sirus is still alive? Gods, I thought he was dead! He took the brunt of the energy released when we sealed the Elder. How did he survive?
Sirus was the leader of the group of Exiles I recruited. Brilliant and determined, and a force to be reckoned with even before we travelled the Atlas together. We... grew close. I was distraught when he vanished with the Elder. At first I thought the other Exiles were looking for him as I was, but perhaps they knew he was still alive...
I have a terrible feeling that Sirus may be tied to the madness of the others. Or perhaps he is just as mad as they are. We need to find and stop him -- if the others are looking for a way out, I'm certain he is too.
I'd never have thought the others were masking Sirus's location... He'd been using them as a barrier the whole time! Listen, be sure you are ready for this. Sirus will not leave without a fight. He has spent all this time in the heart of the Atlas, growing more and more powerful. I've drawn up a map to get you to his location.
Exile, please, be careful. I really can't bear to lose any more friends.
Exile, I think it's important you understand what you're up against. Words don't adequately convey just how dangerous the Elderslayers are. So to that end, I've managed to recover a memory of one of the trials they had to endure, so you can see for yourself just what they're made of. This map is identical to one they conquered on their journey to face my father, the Shaper.
You must think me a fool for taking so long to understand just how mad the Elderslayers have become, but... you don't know what we were up against. Look, I'm going to show you a memory of a battle against one of the Elder's guardians. Perhaps then you'll see why it wasn't so clear.
My father was dragged into the Atlas by the High Templar Venarius. Surely you remember just how cruel and conniving he was before he "disappeared". Well, I discovered he didn't simply disappear... He was trapped and slain in the Atlas, and now his soul haunts the fragmented memories that are scattered across the Atlas. See for yourself, but... be careful.
This will no doubt sound strange, but there's a map with an odd stone monolith in it, and everything seems to indicate it's actually of Wraeclast origin. To make things even stranger, it appears to be surrounded by people from Wraeclast, except... not. I know, it sounds like nonsense. That's why I need you to see what's really going on.
By the way, I've limited the access into and out of this map. You'll only get one shot at this, I'm afraid. We simply can't risk anything or anyone coming out of that portal besides you! So, watch yourself.
Another thing: Someone or something is tampering with my map device's ability to provide a stable connection between here and there. We've only got a small time window to do this before we'll need to call it off, so once inside, you'll need to be quick.
There's a caveat. The connection between here and there is tenuous. I believe the creatures that lie on the other side are the source of the instability. Each one you slay should allow you to stay there a little longer. But if the connection becomes too weak, we'll have to call it off.
Also, this connection appears to be inherently unstable, so I'm not sure how long I can keep it open. That said, if you can activate any standing stones on the other side, then I should be able to buy you a little more time.
I'm no stranger to madness, as you know, and Niko's definitely heading down that path. The madness of the Atlas creeps up slowly and almost imperceptibly until you're too far gone to be rescued. Niko seems to be aware, to some degree, of what's happening to him, and even what the cause is, yet he continues to expose himself to it, and even craves it.
Exile, I urge you to keep an eye on him. I know I will.
I've spent far more time with far worse people than Einhar. He's eccentric, sure, but his actions come from a place of love. Well, not for his game, but for us. Yes, he keeps bringing me slabs of completely inedible animal flesh, and yes, he is loud enough to draw every fiend in a ten mile radius towards us, but you can be damned sure he'll stand and fight each and every fiend that comes running.
I worry about that girl... I don't think she fully understands what she is getting herself into. I used to be like her -- headstrong, impulsive and results-focused, and all it got me was more trouble. Alva has completely glossed over what a miracle she has access to.
If it weren't for the surprising accuracy of Navali's predictions in Wraeclast, I'd have thought she was as mad as the exiles in the Atlas. In my experience, anyone who claims to know the future is a few cogs short of a timepiece, or they're trying to trick you.
I have to question her motives though... She claims to be an agent of Hinekora, and so far even the most benevolent of gods tend to cause utter chaos. Let alone a god of death...
I don't think Jun trusts me yet. When we speak, she always averts her eyes and keeps her sentences short, like she wants to leave. I've caught her staring at me too. I understand why she might be suspicious, especially given what she has been through, but... We need all the close friends we can get. We need to be able to trust each other!
Not long ago I would have had a tough time trusting someone like Helena. The training the Blackguards underwent borders on brainwashing, and it's tough to undo something like that. But I've learned that trust isn't about someone's past -- it's about someone's actions.
Helena's actions have gone a long way to prove just how trustworthy she is.
During my first forays into the Atlas, I felt like every bit of progress unlocked deeper understanding about the nature of existence. Now I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't the reverse.
There are times when I feel like the Atlas is watching me, observing me, and offering me a glimpse of my desires to keep me coming back. It's as though the deeper into it I explore, the more it wraps itself around my mind.
Like many of those once loyal to the Templar regime, Baran held particular contempt for his former brethren. Our mutual disdain for Dominus helped us bond. We stayed up far too late on many nights, discussing where science and spirituality overlapped... and where they clashed.
While I tended to agree with Veritania's secular view that people must be responsible for their own actions, Baran was still a firm believer that trust in God was necessary for good moral judgement. Despite everything the Templar put him through, his faith was unshaken.
We didn't always see eye-to-eye, but we respected each other's positions. Of course, once the madness set in, that respect vanished, replaced by fevered argument and name-calling. As the group dwindled, he found reasons to cast doubt on each of the departed. In our last fight before the two of us went our separate ways, he accused me of being sent by a shadowy demon to draw him away from the righteous path...
When I met her, Veritania was a paradox. She was quiet and reserved to the point of reclusiveness, yet she seemed to feel compelled to help others by a humanistic moral code she'd profess by the campfire. Before, she took care of the hungry, the down-on-their-luck, the homeless, the addicted, and the enslaved alike. She was, in fact, exiled for her charity work... helping one too many mistreated Maraketh or Karui made powerful people in Oriath very angry.
As we explored the Atlas, Veritania's mind became an invaluable resource. Thanks to her, we were able to stretch our limited resources farther than I could've possibly hoped, avoiding fruitless confrontations and conserving our strength for moments that mattered most. She'd see a bad situation coming sooner than anyone, and help steer us away from it.
But her mind, like the others, soon broke beneath the weight of the Atlas, and the once-merciful Veritania became contemptuous of all we encountered. It was impossible for anyone but Drox to meet her increasingly high standards. She broke away from the group not long after we left him. The last time I saw her, she accused me of using the mysteries of Atlas as a drug to distract myself from the loss of my father. After that barb, you can imagine I'm not too eager to see her again.
I've seen my fair share of combat, Exile, but never have I seen someone more comfortable on the battlefield than Drox. Though he was not our leader, he was our commander. When an impossible decision had to be made in the midst of battle, somehow, Drox always found the right path forward. He led us through numerous situations we thought fatal with an unflagging warm grin that let us know he believed in us.
But at some point, almost imperceptibly, Drox stopped making decisions for the group, and started focusing only on his new dream. His smiles turned to scowls. He remained fixated on this mad idea of building a kingdom in the Atlas. He became cold to Veritania and distant to the rest of us. All his efforts went towards securing the Atlas and establishing law. His obsession was putting us in danger, and that is something I could not tolerate.
When I led the group away from him, he either didn't notice, or didn't care.
When you spend as much time in the Atlas as we did, basic survival skills no longer suffice, and it becomes necessary to master the lay of the land. That's a tall ask in a place where the land changes from day to day, and yet Al-Hezmin took to it like a rhoa to mud. I could not count the number of times he saved us from getting lost in endless twisting caverns, or spotted the tracks of a dangerous beast far sooner than the rest of us would have.
Our praise must have gone to his head, because he began to strive to be the best at all times. If Drox brought back two boars from a hunt, he needed to bring back three. In battle, he had to deal the flashiest and most devastating blows, and he had to make sure we all saw him do it.
His fixation on honing his skills was actually quite useful during our campaign against the Elder, so at the time we thought nothing of it, but... It hollowed him out in some fundamental way. He was full of bravado, yet at the same time desperately afraid of being exposed as merely second or third best. He was never unkind to me, even as the madness crept upon him, but for capable warriors like Drox that threatened his self-image... A clash was inevitable. We slipped away in the dead of night, but I doubt we've escaped a man of his talents. He's out there, lurking and watching, waiting for the best time to strike...
My home... Our home... It's... it's just... gone. After everything it has been through, I still thought Oriath could recover, could become the place I always hoped it would be...
Now...? Now it's just ash. There's not even enough rubble left for us to scavenge through.
Sirus, why did you have to--...?
*sigh*... I'm sorry, Exile. I should be happy. I should be thanking you for your help. I should be focused on the future. But I don't even know where to begin. Oriath, and the people who were in it, are scattered to the wind. We'll just... keep going, I suppose. What else can we do? Perhaps we can settle here... Stay in one place for a change.
But at least you're done now, right, Exile? You'll leave the Atlas alone... right?
Baran did mention he had a brother who served on a distant deployment, a career military man. I'd like to think that Kirac could bring Baran back to reality, but I think he may be too far gone. I think they all might be.
While you've been pursuing the exiles, I've been tinkering with the map device. I've added some new functionality. I've set it up so you can try it out immediately, but after that you'll need to provide some reagents.
I'm sorry if I came across as harsh, but by entering the Atlas, you may have jeopardised all of humanity.
My name is Zana, and some time ago I took a group of exiles like yourself into the Atlas. Our task, to ensure a creature named the Elder never reached our world, was of immeasurable importance. Even though the exiles I recruited were adept combatants, the journey was difficult. Yet we succeeded. We defeated the Elder. Though we couldn't save--... we still succeeded.
I thought we were done, but... but my companions just kept... returning. Over and over again, they would enter the Atlas, wiping clean entire worlds. It wasn't about saving Oriath, or discovery, it was just... killing.
The Atlas does strange things to one's thought processes. I thought at first the madness was a symptom of the Elder, but now... it's the Atlas itself. I'm sure of it.
But these exiles are now so strong... I saw no other choice but to destroy our only way out. I sealed us all in and waited for death to find us.
When Baran fled, he left a stone behind. Superficially, it resembles a virtue gem, but I don't think that's quite what it is.
When we defeated the Elder, we didn't kill it. I don't think something like that can be killed. Instead, we sealed the Elder using a device designed by my father -- a design we salvaged from physical memories of his we found. When we sealed the demon, some of my father's memories were expelled, along with those of the Elder's countless other victims. They were muddled together, completely unparsable.
These stones are what's left of the Elder's victims from across aeons. Crystallised and concentrated, and drawing the latent energies of the Atlas towards them. To hold one is to hold countless lives in your hand, to fill your mind with a maddening mix of sounds and images and emotions.
I don't know if Baran knew what he had, but I think he knew what it did. They are intoxicatingly powerful. It took all my willpower to lift my hand from the stone and step away. I can't in good conscience let you take them, but that doesn't mean we can't use them in our fight against the Elderslayers.
Each Watchstone contains an immense amount of information from the earliest explorers of the Atlas. As the Exiles seek to hide from us, they will undoubtedly move into deeper territories, masking their paths. But these paths are known to the souls in these stones.
I know of places in the Atlas where these stones might be used to reveal those paths. Show me on the Atlas where you want to explore more deeply, and I can use the stones to reveal locations long-hidden. Be careful, though, for these Watchstones will empower everything near them, and are certain to draw our foes out of hiding.
I have some good news and some bad news. The Watchstones we placed in the Atlas have been captured by one of the Elderslayers. The good news is Kirac can now track the location of this Elderslayer. The bad news, they are not going to give up the stones without a fight.
I returned to Oriath with one of the early survivor fleets, excited to finally have the opportunity to put my knowledge to good use. During the rebuilding effort, we stumbled across the golden device -- a device I later learned once belonged to my father.
I'd hoped that it might be useful in the resettlement effort at first, but when we discovered the Elder, it became clear that what lay beyond the device's portals was more likely to harm than help. I assembled a team in absolute secrecy, comprised of exiles who had proved their combat know-how in Wraeclast, and set to work sealing the Elder away. We were successful. The relief I felt... it was indescribable. But...
The Atlas is a dangerous place. It assaults both body and mind. It makes Wraeclast seem positively tame. My team, my friends, they were deeply affected by the journey. The allure of power finally caused them to lose their grip on reality.
And it was only a matter of time until I joined them.
The map device Kirac assembled is very similar to the one Venarius had my father put together. My clever father managed to find a few optimisations he could make. I've taken the liberty of enhancing yours in the same way. It's nothing major, but it will help you scavenge a little more out of each map.
The Atlas contains many strange manifestations, the least of which are mirror-cultures of Wraeclast. I've come across a few groups of mercenaries that, if left alone, may become a real thorn in our sides. Exile, I need you to find and eliminate them.
There's a strange object of Wraeclast origin in this map, and as far as I can tell, it didn't come from myself or any of my previous companions. Can you track it down? I just need to ensure we don't have yet another eager explorer like yourself making a mess.
Something in this next map is exhibiting some extremely strange energies, but... It's immobilised. I'm worried about what could happen if someone else gets to it before we do. And if it poses a danger, well, you know what to do.
As if we didn't have enough problems already, there's something trying to tear a literal hole in the fabric of reality in this map. You need to stop it, or else I think our problems will continue to multiply.
This map contains certain inexplicable entities that we Elderslayers faced a few times. They appear to be the advance scouts of an invasion from some unknown realm. I strongly suggest you do not give them time to gain a foothold in the Atlas.
The area I'm sending you to was displaying some curious seismic activity. At first I thought it was a quirk of the location, but I could hear... movement... below my feet. Exile, please stabilise this location by destroying whatever it is that's causing those tremors.
I first started exploring the Atlas as a way to grow closer to my estranged father. I had no idea just how close I would get to him, though there was not much left of his mind by then...
Looking back, I think I was overly optimistic about what the Atlas could mean for... well, for everyone. Imagine limitless worlds, limitless resources, limitless open space in which to live.
But now I understand that it all comes at an insurmountable price. To dwell there is to leave yourself vulnerable to unspeakable madness. It's inescapable and insidious. It taps into your greatest desires, offering you a glimpse of what might be, and that temptation... it's all I could do to stop myself from falling into the same patterns as my friends...
The work we're doing is important, but it's also risky. Please, if you start to feel your sanity slip away, you need to tell me.
I long thought corruption a phenomenon unique to Wraeclast, but you need only a passing glance at any one of the lands in the Atlas to see that something frighteningly similar, if not identical, has taken hold there.
Is it the corruption that is unique to Wraeclast, or is it the apparent lack of corruption elsewhere that's truly the rarity? Instead of lamenting the cursed continent, perhaps we should be counting our uncorrupted blessings.
Thaumaturgically-charged Lodestones placed throughout this map were providing a stable footing for me and my former allies. They've since been knocked out of alignment. I don't think we need much guesswork to figure out who is behind it, but that's a matter for later. Right now, I need those Lodestones realigned.
In my attempts to evade capture by my former allies, I lost track of some maps I'd been working on. I believe at least one is in the area I'm sending you to. I don't need it back, but I do need it kept out of dangerous hands.
From time to time I'd come across items of curious origin. The Elderslayers were particularly interested in such finds, often adding them to their growing arsenal. There's one such item where I'm sending you, and I need you to get to it before they do.
The group of exiles that slew the Elder was, unfortunately, not the first group I'd enlisted. The rest went mad or were slain much more quickly, and yet even the dead ones are still rattling around out there. I don't think they will cause much of a problem for you, unless one of my former allies gets to them first.
The map I'm sending you to is infested with one of the Atlas' many strange manifestations -- this time, groups of corrupted monsters. It's not integral to our defense of Oriath, but ridding the Atlas of these fiends will make our efforts at least somewhat safer.
Strange anomalies spring up throughout the Atlas from time to time, tempting fools to their deaths. One such anomaly has appeared in the map I'm sending you to -- it's a gauntlet of deadly traps. I'm not sure what's at the end of it, but I don't want any of the Elderslayers getting there before you do.
Something on the other side of my map device has gotten ahold of a divination card, one that radiates with enough energy that I can detect it even from here. Find that card before any of our rivals do. I know they'll be hunting for it.
I've discovered the presence of a strange shrine in this map. Normally such things wouldn't concern me, but if one of my former allies were to discover it, it could pose a problem for us later. Get there before they do, and make sure they can't use it.
A group of fiends is putting out a strange energy -- the sort usually associated with monsters from beyond the Atlas. I'm worried they are trying to bring something into the map. Make sure whatever it is doesn't cause us trouble.
I've managed to track down a potent cache of goods that might help us. That was the easy part. Now I need you to do the hard part: securing it before someone else with more nefarious intentions does. Whatever is in there is yours, so long as you get there first.
I've discovered a location in the Atlas with some... unique properties. Even by Atlas standards, this place is strange. I want you to check it out. It could be nothing, but I'd feel better knowing either way.
You shouldn't be out here, exile. It's extraordinarily dangerous. Even the tiniest slip-up can get you killed. That said, you're here now, and I could use your help.
There's something out here, in the maps. Something that's... shaping things. I can't quite describe it, but the very fabric of reality ripples with its presence. I need to find the source of these harmful manifestations before they spill into Wraeclast. And since you're here, you get to help. Hopefully you won't go mad or missing like the last few exiles I tried to recruit.
At least you're relatively intact... physically, if not mentally. You'll need to be a little better prepared next time, yes? If our world is to survive, we need to work together successfully. Meet me in the Eternal Laboratory. I'd like to show you something.
Again, you prove yourself more than capable out in the atlas. I feel hopeful about this admittedly desperate alliance. I've got to take a closer look at a few of the strange corpses you left behind. I think they hold the key to what is happening.
Come find me later in the Eternal Laboratory. I've collected some maps that could be useful for you.
Bizarre. The more we uncover, the more questions are raised. I think we need to consider establishing some sort of base of operations. Look for me once you're back on familiar soil. I've got a proposal for you.
I've been thinking. We've been seeing a lot of strange things out there, and without a safe place to call home, it can all start to affect one's sanity. Fortunately, I have a nice little place that's out of the way, with enough room for the both of us... maybe more. Interested?
I've been thinking. We've been seeing a lot of strange things out there, and without a safe place to call home, it can all start to affect one's sanity. Your home here is... well, it's fine, but it never hurts to have options.
I have a nice little place that's out of the way, with enough room for the both of us... maybe more. Interested?
I don't presume to know your motivations for helping me. Honestly, it doesn't even matter, since if you didn't, there's a good chance we'd be wiped off the face of the continent. But I'm glad you're here anyway!
How fares your mind? Everything still intact? Good. Then there's something I need to show you. I've spent some time out there, exploring the maps, and despite their apparent randomness, there are threads that connect them. Threads we should follow.
The more we understand these connections, the more each of these maps can offer us, and the closer we'll be to finding out the secrets that twist them.
This is the Atlas of Worlds, and we can use it to track these connections; we can use it to chart a path.
These worlds, they've changed since last I remember. They've become darker, more... twisted in a way that betrays their true origin.
I no longer believe these are realms of chance, rather, they must have been formulated by a sentient mind... a designer or architect. Every shadow in this place creeps about with an unforeseen purpose.
Whatever is out there forming these worlds concerns me. We should find the source of the darkness and put an end to it before something leaks out into our reality.
I've not been entirely honest... I'd suspected my father was involved in all this, now this memory fragment proves his engagement in ways I hadn't anticipated... I'm sorry for keeping the truth from you. I was worried that, had you known the truth, you would not have followed me into this nightmare...
Let's start over. I need your help. My memory is cloudy, but I'll tell you all I can recall. When I was a child, my father and I, we were... separated. I was told he was lost to that unearthly realm when the Atlas closed, and the men who feared it took it apart. I spent my whole life trying to track down its pieces and repair his machine. A few years ago, I did just that. But now that we've found him, something is not right... My father was a kind, temperate man. A good person and a loving human being. Nothing like that... thing you just saw!
Please, take this. I found it while exploring. Hopefully it will help smooth things over... and if you continue to help me, I promise I'll find a way to make it all worth your while.
It's all a blur... My father was the chief Arkhon for High Templar Venarius - a cruel and pernicious ruler. Venarius wished to hold the world ransom with his occult relics from the rubble of Wraeclast, he believed they could venerate him even higher in his status.
My father was forced to experiment on the map device for him, in hopes that he would uncover some kind of weapon. I don't need to tell you that my father found something worthy of attention. And instead of handing it over, he made sure its power could not be misused, a surety that cost him his freedom and me... my childhood.
This... thing, it appears to have been feeding on my father's memories. Should it eat its fill, he will be merely a hollowed out husk... A wraith and nothing more. Unless... If we were to locate more of these memory fragments, then perhaps we could restore his mind to him and free him from this nightmare.
This other creature complicates things however... It is alien, yet to me, it seems somehow familiar, like a bad dream once forgotten. All I remember is a sense of malevolent dread...
It must be stopped, whatever it is. It seems to bleed Decay into the surrounding areas. If that voracious... mould that grows from its very shadow were to ever find its way into Oriath or Wraeclast... We cannot let that happen.
My father's memories litter this place, like the first leaves of autumn. They may very well be the last precious things I have from him. I've stored them for safe keeping in a Book Of Memories back in the Laboratory. That way, even if we fail in our quest, I shall always have a record of his last acts. Feel free to have a look through them, should you find yourself there.
I'm sure you've noticed as much as I have, exile, that you, me, and my father... we are not the first people to have set foot in this world. There are signs of the Elder's victims everywhere, as well as memories and references to those who first stood against it.
The Watchers of Decay. A sect we could perhaps learn a great deal from. While you've busied yourself cutting through the swarms of abominations, I took some time to explore my Father's Laboratory once more in search of any references he might have collected regarding these "Watchers." Though I couldn't ascertain anything relating to them in our modern age, there were some remaining scrolls hidden beneath the floorboards that detailed this group as having existed far back in the smoke of history.
The Watchers claim to have gotten their start when a nameless god of Wraeclast endowed an Azmeri mother with knowledge of the Elder's existence. She had lost her boy to it months before, you see, and sought revenge. Somehow the god saw it fit to help the woman in her quest. Perhaps he took pity on her? Or did he consider the knowledge a curse?
It appears my Father encountered this "Elder" sometime before his entrapment in its lair. Many of his most recent diaries make reference to the creature and his learnings around it. There wasn't much, just second-hand myths from the research journals of the Watchers of Decay.
One concept however, came up time and time again. This Elder is not a lord unto itself. It serves a greater master, or... a greater purpose... I'm unsure. It's confusing; both my father and the Watchers refer to the Elder as "coming from the nothing" while also being "a carrier for the nothing." There are also mentions of an unholy desire to spoil and decay... perhaps it all relates somehow to those fungal growths we've seen in the maps...
Exile, it is time to make our move. We must save my father. These memories were sundered from his mind in a moment of great violence. I fear only great violence will provide us the opportunity to return them.
I've scouted these worlds and I'm certain my father lies deep within the centre of the Atlas, but as suspected, he does not reside there unguarded. Four great brutes surround him, unpassable by me. If you were to go on ahead and remove those threats, then we will have a clear path to my father, and our little "operation" can begin.
I've been doing more research into the Elder and its battle with the Watchers of Decay. It's truly mortifying the things they've endured at the creature's hands.
These Watchers, they were all... parents. It seems the Elder prefers its prey young. These men and women fought tooth and nail to avenge their children, perhaps even succeeding for a time... But the Elder has been free for the better part of two decades. Its taste in food could explain the steady disappearance of children in the upper class of Oriath.
What if those children are still here, in this place? Twisted, tormented creatures, clinging to whatever fragments of happy memories they've left... We must alleviate their sufferings.
The way is clear. Though our agenda won't be without difficulty, exile. My father was a kind but stubborn man. If any of that stubbornness has survived, then restoring his memories will be no easy task.
We must enter this new realm of shadows at the centre of the Atlas and beat his madness into submission. Only then will his mind be pliable enough to remember these fragments as they are returned to his flesh.
I think I understand it now... This Atlas, these maps... they aren't so much worlds as they are like the performance stage in the Theopolis Amphitheatre. These worlds are merely disguises for what truly lies behind the curtain.
This place... this is the nexus of the Elder's worlds, the place from which all its hunting grounds are formed... We are close to the void from which it was birthed, yet my Father has chosen this as his home. Curious indeed. Hiding in plain sight perhaps? Though, what captain regularly frequents the bowels of his ship? Maybe the Elder rarely visits this place. It is busy, I suppose, hunting and feasting elsewhere in the maps...
Exile, I will ready my Father's memories. You go on ahead, scout this place, find my Father, but be wary of what horrors might lurk down here in the belly of this evil machine.
I think I understand now. This Atlas, these maps... they aren't so much worlds as they are like the performance stage in the Theopolis Amphitheatre. These worlds are merely disguises for what truly lies behind the curtain. And here we are, brave explorers, peeking backstage. What treasures might we find here? What horrors?
He's been forced back for now, but without all the fragments of my father's memories, he'll never free him from his mental prison. Exile, please, let's continue on this path. My father doesn't deserve this. He should be at peace.
His memories... of me... gone. Devoured by that abomination! Curse it! My Father will... he'll never know me again.
At least... At least I got to speak with him one last time. He recognized me. Did you see that, Exile? He knew my face! ...and now he's in torment once again.
If we cannot restore his memories, then we must free him from this prison. I can't believe I am to ask this of you, but we must defeat this Elder. Perhaps with it gone, my Father will give up his ghost and be finally laid to rest.
What did you discover, exile? Ah! The key to his private study back in Oriath! If what he said is true, then there must be some kind of weapon inside that can stop this "Elder". And stop it, we must.
I know I ask more than you've signed on for, but this creature - we've both seen the effects it has had on the maps. The Decay it spreads... that it births from its victims. If that Decay were to reach out of the maps, as I'm certain is its intention, all the world would be lost to those malignant spores!
Let us depart now, back to Theopolis and investigate this lead. Please, if there's decency in you exile, meet me there when you're ready and we shall begin to plot our attack.
You're fast on your feet exile. I'm glad you have decided to stick through this with me. Look, it seems my concerns were... justified. The Decay we've seen throughout the Atlas, it's here. Perhaps our activities in the Atlas might have weakened the barriers between this world and the maps. Without my Father's full strength to keep it at bay, the Elder's true master - Decay - is seeping through.
I promised you a reward for helping me find my father, well here it is - an item from my Father's secret study. Please, take it and stay on this journey with me - there is yet more we can accomplish together.
This is it. The device that can save us. "The Cosmic Arcana." With it, we can force the Elder from the maps and into the abstract of non-reality. The only catch? We must use it at the Atlas center. The nexus of worlds where the veil is the thinnest.
That's where you come in, Exile. I need you to lure the Elder into that place. I will use the weapon to remove it from our world. Keep your wits about you though, my father is still at large. He was weakened in that last battle, but knowing his current lunacy, I doubt he's stopped fighting against the Elder. We must conduct this final effort with considerable care...
I remember almost everything now about my Father's studies into the map device. I remember how he locked himself away to work on this weapon. I've managed to read his notes on the weapon while I was waiting for you to arrive. The science is... incomprehensible at best. Nearest I can tell, the Arcana exhibits a blast of wrath once it has been fully charged, and when directed at the Elder will force it to take on the form it held before it entered our dimension.
We know that form to be, as my father puts it, non-corporeal. In short - that which is not physical cannot exist in a dimension of physics. It will be forced out and back to where it belongs, hopefully unable to return. As I said, it is tenuous, but I trust my father, and this is the only hope we have.
It's happening, isn't it? The Elder is on its way. We are at the end of the road, Exile. Does it look off into success? Or does the horizon hold nothing but death and decay? I hope you're ready, my friend.
We need to weaken the creature before the Cosmic Arcana can do its job. I wish you luck, and should we not meet again... it's been an honour to fight by your side.
We did it... It's over... it's finally over. My father, wherever he is, I can sense him. He's at peace... Thank you, exile.
The Arcana! It worked! And I wasn't worried for a second! Though... The Elder and the Decay... Although we have banished them both, the encounter has... changed me somehow. I feel the creature, scratching at the skin between our dimensions. It's desperate. It's hungry. It's... trying to find a way back in.
I don't think I'll sleep again for a long while. I need to make sure we are prepared in case it returns. Perhaps I'll restore the Watchers of Decay to guard our world... This place - the Atlas, is of the Elder. With more research it could give us further clues to the exact nature of the Decay. If you wish to, you're free to study and explore these worlds alongside me. Perhaps you could still do some good in this place - the Elder's victims - all those children... there must be thousands of them, wandering these lands, twisted and corrupted, alone - perhaps even afraid. Like my Father, they beg to be set free from their torment. Killing them would be an act of mercy. You could be an agent of that mercy, my friend.
For now, I must leave you. I need to prepare for my next expedition.
Whatever is out in the Atlas changing and augmenting the land is extraordinarily dangerous, and it's got the potential to spill out into our home. We need to put a stop to it. Head out there and see what you can find.
My mother died not long after I was born, and my father, too, was gone only a handful of years later. Orphaned, my family's assets were seized and I was handed off to a series of well-off foster homes as an indentured servant.
But children are curious creatures, and even by those standards I was extremely curious indeed. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on, and questioning everything they tried to teach me. I was too smart for my own good, I suppose, because eventually, I started drawing the attention of the Templar.
Luckily for me, Dominus was much less subtle than the previous High Templars, so I managed to leave Oriath on my own terms, mostly, before my impending exile.
Do you remember when we first met? The godslayer, so full of confidence... But I wasn't sure you'd make it out there.
I thought I knew everything I would ever need to know. I thought I was ready to go out and make the world my playground, but living amongst my father's books and papers prepared me no more than someone who spent years gazing out a window. Knowledge can only be tested when it is put to use.
Thank you for helping me test my knowledge. I have learnt just how much there is left to learn.
I'd like to keep my map device here, if you'll allow me. I found designs for it in my father's belongings and I spent much of my youth working on it. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I let it be damaged somehow. Of course, you are welcome to use it as much as you like. And, I think it would look rather fetching sitting here.
I've seen men and women turn mad, but I've never seen a case like Niko... I think the ores and compounds he's been handling have been affecting his mind. He seems to be aware of it, too.
Can it really be called madness when it is of your own doing?
It's a shame. I'm sure we will encounter many subterranean environments where his expertise would be invaluable, but I simply can't risk our safety. The Atlas presents its own potential threats to sanity... putting additional pressure on Niko might send him right over the brink.
When I was a young girl I used to play with the neighbourhood stray cat, and one day it started bringing me mice. Einhar is that stray cat. Has he been trying to feed you raw meat too? I just don't have the heart to tell him how inedible it is.
The first time he handed me a big raw steak, I began to cook it over the fire, and he told me I was 'ruining all the good red.' Since then, I've just hidden it when he isn't looking. Sometimes I open up a map and hurl it in there. I know how irresponsible it is, but... Einhar's a sweetheart. I don't need to see under the mask to know how deeply he feels emotions, and I can't bear to hurt him.
Watch your step out there. You may land on some of my rotten scraps.
As a fellow explorer, I must admit admiration for Alva. Her motivations may not be as philanthropic as mine, but you can't deny that her methods get results. Do I wonder what kind of repercussions all her time travel is having on us? Of course! But we don't really know what the consequences of our travel through the Atlas are either, and I'm not interested in throwing stones while living in my own little glass house.
I do wish she'd look past profits, but we've all benefited from her finds in one way or another.
Navali's powers are impressive, yes, but they are not without their limits. It seems her knowledge of things to come is restricted to our realm, however broad that may be. When it comes to the Atlas, her predictions don't seem as reliable.
I wonder how much of this is due to the source of her powers... she claims to have been given the gift of second sight by the Karui goddess Hinekora, but since the gods returned I've heard nothing of Hinekora. Is Navali being misled by a deceptive entity? Or is Hinekora keeping a low profile? Perhaps the goddess simply has no interest in us, as she has her own flock to tend.
Regardless, it may be worth remembering that although Navali is a good friend to have, she has her own agenda like anyone else; an agenda she may have been given by her benefactor.
I've tried getting to know Jun, and maybe I'm reading into things a little bit here, but I don't think she likes me. Whenever I try to talk to her, she gets quiet and averts her eyes. I've seen her fight, so I don't think she's exactly shy... and I catch her staring at me every so often. Long stares. The kind you do when you're lost in thought.
I wonder what I did to offend her...
No matter! I'll just stay the course. I'm sure with a little more alone time we'll become fast friends.
What a strange entity you found, Exile. Completely devoid of memory, yet cognisant, and even driven... I hope to find the time to really get to know him, but I've been so caught up with the happenings out in the Atlas.
Perhaps I'll join you on one of your memory ventures soon.
Exile, did you know? No, of course not. I don't think Venarius even knew who he was, how could you? But he knows now, and it seems he may remember many other things as well.
If Venarius is capable of rewriting memories, he could plant very dangerous ideas into the minds of the vulnerable. We need to find those memories before he does. Don't worry, you're not alone in this. We are a team.
That was exhilarating, Exile! Like truly seeing the mind and heart of another person, living and breathing right here with me. Why was his memory so intense? I can still feel Victario, as if he has just left the room only now.
I don't know that we will ever be able to truly destroy Venarius, Exile, but we can prevent him from taking away people's autonomy. We didn't ask for this duty, but it is our duty all the same, for if we don't stop him, who will?
It's funny... I thought once we finally defeated Venarius I would feel happy... Instead I feel frustrated. Frustrated that a man like that was able to lead the Templar. Frustrated that he took my father from me. Frustrated that he released that entity into the Atlas... Frustrated that after all we've done, dangers still lurk out there. When will it stop, Exile? When will we finally be safe?
So that's what faith feels like... I'm no stranger to religion, but I never truly believed what the Templars taught us. I just had a brief glimpse into a life without doubt. I must say, I understand the allure.
Apologies for the intrusion, Exile, but when we found my father's memory fragment, I thought we could explore it with Cavas' help... Now I know what a mistake that would have been. Cavas has altered this memory and he has likely been altering many others.
I awake to the sound of screaming. My eyes and throat sting. Smoke billows into the hut from the outside. Something is terribly wrong. I dash outside and am confronted by a wall of heat. Smoke makes it difficult to see, but the village is in flames.
I flee from the smoke and, to my horror, realise we're trapped. A rival tribe stands at the only exit, cutting my brothers and sisters down as they flee. We've been ambushed. I run towards the flames and leap, praying to Valako for protection.
I see you. You are seeking answers, because you can find them only in the stories we will leave behind when Malachai and Voll cause our destruction. In this final hour, I entertain the notion that the words I write exist in some form beyond me. Do they go on as dreams? As memories?
I have the wildest notion that perhaps you will find a way to pick up scraps of memory, and you, whoever you are, will come across this one someday. If you do, I ask only this: slay Malachai. Slay him for yourself, or slay him for all the lost citizens of the Empire, but, most of all, slay him for Marylene.
The Courts are burning. Accusations fly. Sinner! Heretic! I am but an initiate, and my patron urges silence. We will keep our heads down while one High Templar supplants another. It's all about power, my patron whispers, and we have none.
Should an accusation fall our way, we shall be doomed to die with the other accused. Be unseen and unheard, he whispers. This is what happens when men who seek power refuse to wait. I learned a valuable lesson that day: Trust without leverage is vulnerability.
The sky grows red. I hear screaming from the village by the Crossroads, but I will not abandon my post. Master will return, and I will await him. No matter how long, I will wait for Maligaro's return...
Another child was taken last night, so tonight we wait, praying the demon does not return, but it does. It soars through the air and passes through the wall of the hut. We catch only a glimpse of its grey skin beneath the moonlight. We pursue the demon on foot to the edge of the woods. The child it carries does not cry out.
Anaris follows closely, but I hesitate out of fear. I gather my will and I leap into the shadows, tracking the demon by the tendrils left in its wake. But I am too late. The demon and child are gone, and Anaris stands frozen, pale as the moon. He whispers something I do not understand and falls, dead. I fear we will be hunted to extinction.
A man in uniform visits. He is from the Courts. He says the Templar have alms for widows like my mother, but she must collect it in person. We go to the church together, and I wait outside in the gardens. The sun is setting. I don't know how long I've been sitting here.
Mother comes from around the rear. She looks pale. Her eyes are red, and her clothes are torn. She doesn't look at me but she grabs my hand. We walk home in silence. I lay awake in bed. I hear her crying. The man comes over often after that, with toys and food, but I don't like him...
Help! Please, somebody, help me! I've fallen down here! I think I've hurt my leg! Hello?!... Stay calm. I'm sure someone will come soon. I'm so hungry... If I get desperate, maybe I can eat some of the mushrooms down here.
I feel strange. My head feels like it is filled with bubbles. Are the walls breathing? The colours here are so vibrant... oh... My stomach... I'm ill. The world is spinning and, oh, my gut! What did I eat? I feel--
She was perfectly preserved, but drained of her blood. We buried her, but within days the earth rejected her. Whatever killed her took root in that place. The earth soured and we had to move, abandoning her body.
Shavronne assures me that my process will be relatively painless, and that my duties as warden can continue unhindered, but as my flesh swells and ruptures, I realise I am just another test subject. At least I can fulfill my duties to the Empire before my mind--
People stream down the street towards Oriath Square. I hear their shouts and cheers, and when my mother isn't looking, sneak out to join the merry crowd. Just outside the pens, a Karui boy, no older than I, stands atop the gallows.
We knew of the gems, but we did not know of what Malachai called his 'muse.' The smugglers have returned with rubbings of the device they found. They call it 'miraculous.' I know a thing or two about miracles, so I will be the judge of that.
The stench convenes around me thicker than the press of the vagabonds themselves. Though starving, their strength while holding on to one another is surprising. I am trapped in a knot of ragged bodies, and the men of the Church clap me in irons despite my cries.
The shackles cut into my wrists and ankles. The guards are deaf to my pleading, but I am no murderer. If I am guilty of anything, it is falling in love with the wrong person. Ugh! Justice served, they claim.
This is not justice. Any chance of justice evaporated the moment I walked into the courtroom and saw her husband held the gavel. I'm just the scapegoat. It's easy to get away with murder when you're the judge.
I strike the earth once more as I have countless times, but my strike feels unfamiliar. Instead of the crack of stone, I am met with flexing sinew. I examine my pick axe. A dark red liquid froths on its tip.
Indexing artifact one-twelve in lot ten, an ancient jawbone. Carvings on the side attribute it to... Valako? This can't actually be the jawbone from the myth... and this... Tukohama's tooth? Hinekora's hair?
These were in the archives for centuries. Are these what those thieves were after? Who would want these relics except for... followers of Kitava? But that's absurd... best not to mention the robbery attempt.
I used to pride myself on taking care of these tomes, but the ancient treatises concerning the Vaal... should be burned. He's making me research for him, and the things I'm reading about concern the destruction of all mankind.
I come here on sunny days to get away from the squalor of the streets and alleyways around my home. It's not the cutpurses that bother me. It's the city guard. Even so, a legionnaire approaches me and asks me my intent in the fields.
The foreman is beginning to show signs of madness. He claims the walls, earth, and even his pick have become sticky as honey. I pray death comes for us soon, but I fear we will receive something far worse.
The last three weeks feel like they've passed in an instant. The atmosphere here since the High Templar's disappearance has been so relaxed, but, while enjoying the sun on my roof this morning, I saw the black smoke billowing from the Chamber of Innocence turn red.
The Seneschals have at last elected a new High Templar. Rumour has it they've sought young blood. Someone who can revitalise the Templar. Someone who can bring them into the modern age. Whoever it is, he can't be worse than the last one. Bastard set us back fifty years!
I feel a rush of excitement as I review the contents of the crate. The pieces, aged as they are, still hum with energy. I can feel its potential, and it fills me with hope and terror. I cannot assemble it, but I know who can. I need only apply a little pressure...
Malachai says he has perfected new techniques that will unlock the raw power hidden within the Virtue Gems. I have volunteered my body to the cause. I feel no fear, no hunger, no pleasure... nothing. I only hear his voice. I must obey...
We walk in absolute silence through the murk. It's after midnight, but the streets above are still abuzz with activity. Hours pass before the streets fall silent. We emerge one by one into a pitch-black room.
As I help our last out of the sewers, a flint is struck, and we are surrounded by light and gleaming imperial armour. There's a dagger at my throat. A setup! Dragged into a cell, the guards laughing. I still reek of the sewers...
I feel fear... and hatred. The Emperor stands before me, and I know this is my chance. I strike at him. I pierce his belly, but it is not immediately lethal. I lock eyes with the man. I watch him raise his axe...
The crowd begins to shiver and shake as I creep between their bound hands. Some moan for help. Others scream. As their bodies bubble, I realize I cannot help them. Tiny spiders pour out of open wounds.
Beneath the summer sun we follow Tarcus in search of the promised land. Before long, hunger grips our stomachs. The doomlands take their toll. Our numbers dwindle, and discord spreads amongst the tribesmen.
That's it. I'm out of here. Now which way did I come from? Was it this way? No. Must have been this way. Hmm... this doesn't look familiar either. None of this looks familiar, and I think I hear the wolves coming closer...
There are rumours that Lord Yriel's blood-fed crops have swelled, but the fruit they bear can send a man mad. We look to our children for the answer. A child cannot hunt, but it can still provide. The taste is hard to forget.
Everyone is dead and I am alone. The Karui swept through the watch so quickly, we didn't have a chance to flee. Men, women, even children, slaughtered. I'm lucky to be alive. But I cannot return home now. No.
I'd be branded a coward, imprisoned, and hung for desertion. I have no choice. I must make do out in the wilds. Perhaps a farmer will take pity on me. And if not, I have my blade. I will take what I need by force.
The walls of the cave we huddle in tremble. The screaming outside keeps us from fleeing into the open air. Life has gone mad, and the sky is burning. The children cry out for their mother, but I haven't the heart to tell them what she became in front of my eyes.
I feel very nervous. Am I sweating? I think I'm sweating. I hope she doesn't notice how much I'm sweating. Oh no, she looked at me. She can definitely see how sweaty I am. I should say something. Your face is good?! Why would you say that!?
She laughed at you. Now she's gonna tell all the women in Sarn how stupid and useless you are. You're gonna die alone. Wait... is she-- she's holding your hand! You did it! Your face is good! Classic line. Works every time.