The Awakening – Act V
Written by the EM Team
“Now, charge its left flank, and aim for the seams! Mages, lightning and energy bolts, but focus on keeping up our knights!” Dupre shouted out the orders from behind his plated helm, even as his cadre of knights swarmed one of the monstrosities that laired within Exodus dungeon. With the backup of the mages keeping them healed, they weren’t in any threat at the moment from the beast in front of them. Lord Dupre had heard the noises and gotten glimpses of things from inside what was left of Ver Lor Reg and it caused him quite a bit of worry. He’d been trying to devise tactics so that they could retake the city, but the creatures resisted quite a bit of force, and seemed to give up little in areas of weakness save for how well lightning worked against them. As he observed the knights, a noise from behind caught his attention, and he whirled while he drew the longsword at his side and lunged. His blade bit harshly into the seam of the floating menace, and he smashed it in harder by hammering the hilt with his plated gauntlet. With a squealing shriek of metal, the creature’s internal mechanisms chewed themselves to pieces on his sword before he drew it out and turned away, the creature exploding and peppering his armor with light shrapnel. He slashed the grease and oil clinging to his blade onto the floor of the dungeon as his knights finished slaying the much larger creature, and they retreated from the dungeon once more.
Lord Dupre had always loved the city, with its gentle ocean breeze cutting through the harsh heat of the nearby jungles. Trinsic felt like home, even after all these years…though the sandstone walls didn’t hold the same comfort they once had. In Felucca some of the structures still bore the scars from his campaign against Juo’nar and the fallen knights own siege of the city, but here in Trammel the same evidence was gone; He would never get used to that. He made his way to the weaponsmith, as was usual after these excursions…he’d yet to return without a blade in disrepair from using it against these metal monsters. From there he quickly made his way to the Keg and Anchor, and was going to sit at his favorite table when he noticed there was someone else in the spot he usually occupied. With a muttered grumble under his breath he made his way around the table and sat opposite the man, taking note of his wrinkled and rumpled clothes, and the way he clutched at something in his left hand, a glint of a dingy metal ball hanging off of it.
The waitress didn’t even need to come over to take his drink order; Dupre had been a regular since he’d trekked away from the lands of Felucca to Trammel, and in short order the staff had learned his patterns. She brought over a strong, aged honey whiskey and left him with a glass full and the bottle on the table. As he took a drink, he put it down with a start as the seemingly comatose man across from him had suddenly flung his open right hand out, clearly wanting the glass. Dupre’s face soured for a moment before he shook his head. “You’ll get nothing from begging, but if you’ve got news or information of worth, I’m not averse to sharing the drink then.”
This seemed to have animated the fellow, whose face lifted off the table to regard the knight, and he gave Dupre a crooked smile.
“I’ll tell you a story, my gleaming friend, and perhaps you might understand how this all began. But you’ll get nothing from me with my tongue this dry, so fill up my glass and we can see what you have yet to learn.”
Dupre looked down to see that as if by magic, an empty glass had appeared in the man’s hand, and he poured him half a glass full of the expensive drink.
“Now talk, and make sure it was worth the cost of that whiskey.”
The rough looking fellow winced as he drank practically half the drink at once, exhaling sharply as he pulled away, and leaned forward, as a spark of recognition passed between the knight and the jester. The jester laughed at the apparent shock that ran across Lord Dupre’s face, and he could smell the man’s foul breath accompanying that laugh.
“I was wondering if you’d recognize me, you old tin can. Can’t fault you for taste though, you always did know how to sweet talk these little waifs into giving you the best stock they had.” With that he raised his glass to Dupre and finished off what was left in it. “Of course, you probably either thought me dead and gone…or never bothered to spend a thought on an old jester, did you? I’ll tell you right now, what you’ve seen in our cities…it’s worse in Ter Mur. Apparently, those refugees out of Ver Lor Reg were carrying something with them, you see…something that doesn’t affect them but it sure does the Ter Mur gargoyles. They’re trying to keep it hushed up…but Zhah’s ferrying out the infected to that abandoned fishing village, keeping them quarantined…and the Ver Lor Reg gargoyles…I’m sure someone knows where they are. I don’t. That fishing village though…it belongs to the dead and the dying.”
Dupre’s mouth hung open at this stunning revelation, before he snapped it shut. The Jester held out his now empty glass, and flashed him a vicious grin, until the knight poured him another glass.
“You’re a regular saint, you old codger. Now I promised I’d tell you how it all began. Years ago, when my master was still with us, he’d managed to figure out that something was happening in Ilshenar, and it was centered around Exodus. He’d gathered what he could about the enemy, but it was at a turbulent time, and he doubted that he could get anyone to rally behind him. I wasn’t able to learn much personally, but I think he intended to destroy the machines that were empowering Exodus. Machines you might be familiar with by now.”
Dupre’s realization happened almost immediately, as he growled. “The nexus devices that everyone’s been collecting and building.”
The jester’s laugh had no mirth or lightness in it. “Isn’t it all such a grand, cruel joke? Our fate is being brought down on us by our own hands.” He paused to take another drink, shrugging as he did so and returning to his previous story. “He’d managed to get his hands onto some kind of scrolls he claimed were vital, but I never saw what was in them…all I ever saw were the two maps he had. One showed a passage into Exodus dungeon that went through Ver Lor Reg…that same map that was stolen the night of the riot and that that little fence made so many copies of. The other…”
He paused, taking a long drink and laid his head down, until finally Dupre broke the silence.
“And the other?”
The old jester looked up through bleary eyes.
“The other led him to the last place he ever walked as a man…but I’ll tell you this. Master always had a journal he kept with him that held more in it than anyone ever knew. If you can find that journal…maybe you can figure out what’s really going on. And I think that a knight as smart as yourself should know where it will be.”
Dupre’s face set with a grim bit of determination.
“Glad to see you can still use a bit of what’s left between your ears, you tin can.”
Dupre sighed as he poured them both a full glass once more. “Heckles, I think you may have given me the first thing I need to fight this enemy…and I’ll definitely drink to that.”