The Diary of Clarisse Vorak
by Rick T, last updated on 1/12/02
Preface & Spoiler Alert
This is the diary of a character playing through the game Arcanum. As such, it is one long spoiler; it even includes some dialog from the game. So if you haven't played Arcanum and are going to, definitely don't read this, as it will spoil your fun.
If you are thinking of playing Arcanum but aren't convinced you want to, and don't mind spoilers from the earliest part of the game, you could read the first chapter or two. Perhaps it will give you a flavor of why I think Arcanum is such a great game. Arcanum excels at the aspect of RPG's that I enjoy the most; role playing. Most of the NPCs are rude to my character because she is a half-orc. Their attitudes changes in accordance with her actions, and it varies from location to location and even individual to individual. If you play a different character, the world will respond to you differently depending upon who you are and what you do. The game world is delightfully detailed and interesting. There is so much going on beyond your character and his or her immediate surroundings. I spend plenty of time just reading the books and newspapers within the game world.
I found that my enjoyment of the game was increased substantially by writing a fictionalized diary for my character. It's not an original character. Clarisse Vorak is one of the prefabricated characters you can start the game with. I played her as is, except I quickly dumped her auto-leveling scheme and starting spending her character points manually.
So the following is Miss Vorak's private diary, her personal account of and commentary upon the extraordinary events she is swept up into. Although it is, as such, one long spoiler, it is not a walk-thru. I am writing it for my own enjoyment, so if a quest doesn't interest me, I don't write about it. I sometimes alter or embellish events in the game, if I think it improves the story. Still, it is overall a fairly literal telling of the events of the game I'm currently playing.
Miss Vorak wrote the diary as a series of entries, beginning each one with the date and location where she made the entry. The division into chapters with headings is my own doing, and she is not responsible for them. This is a lady's private diary, and as such Miss Vorak gives free reign to her opinions and her rather acerbic sense of humor, something she does not normally do in public.
This is a work in progress. I find writing the diary takes more time than playing the game, but for me it makes a great game even more pleasurable. I have released it to the public in the hopes it might help others to more thoroughly enjoy the delights of the Arcanum world.
Reborn on Wings of Fire
January 1, 1885
In a Valley somewhere in the Stonewall Mountains, Evening
"My dearest Jared, I'm aboard the IFS Zephyr, speeding on my way to see you again. My breath catches when I think that in two short weeks I shall be your wife. That is correct, my dear, I am accepting your proposal! I hope thoughts of me warm your heart on your long days and nights guarding Vermillion Station from the half-orc looters you mentioned.
Love always, Wilhemina"
--from a letter I found on the body of a young lady, a fellow passenger on the IFS Zephyr
It appears I am the sole survivor of the crash of the IFS Zephyr. The remains of the dirigible are strewn across this wide valley. Virgil and I have been searching for hours. We have found refuse, equipment, and many bodies, but no other survivors. We did find the wreckage of one of the strange flying machines that attacked the Zephyr. The body of it's pilot, an ogre, was nearby. I cannot imagine who would have committed such a heinous act of sabotage against a defenseless passenger ship, or what possible motivation they might have had. The ogre wore an amulet engraved with a strange symbol on its face: an eye within a hexagram. The flying machine bore a plaque: "Maxim's Machinery, Caladon."
The trip had been uneventful. I had spent my time keeping to myself, alternately reading and looking out the windows at the amazing view from the sky. I was looking down upon the mountain ranges when out of the sun flew two small flying objects, noisy machines each about the size of a large wagon, with propellers and wide fixed structures that resembled a bird's wings. Their engines roared as they circled our ship and fired their artillery. The blimp quickly ignited, and soon the whole craft caught fire. Smoke and flames were all I could see. I felt like I was choking to death as the dirigible lurched sickeningly downwards.
The next thing I remember, I was getting up from the ground with the burning remains of the dirigible all around me. I have no idea how I survived. Hearing a voice crying out for help from underneath a part of the burning ship, I pulled away some metal plates to uncover a well dressed gnome. He was grateful for my assistance, but mortally hurt. Either he didn't notice I was a half-orc, or in his desperate state he didn't care. He pushed a ring into my hands and pleaded with me to "find the boy, he'll know what to do." He said something about escaping from somewhere. I don't remember it too well, as at the time I was entirely concerned with trying to staunch his wounds. He was obviously delirious, and he died as I tried to help him. I learned from his passport that his name was Preston Radcliffe; he had a matchbook from the Roseborough Inn in his pocket. The ring he gave me looks old, made of fine silver. The initials G.B. are set in relief upon its face, and the words "P. Schuyler and Sons" are inscribed inside the band. If I can ever find his family, or the "boy" he spoke of (G.B.?), I will return it.
As if all of this wasn't strange enough, in the midst of the smoke and ruin, a crazy man in monks robes walked up to me. Completely befuddled after witnessing the crash, he insisted I was the "living one." Through a confusing conversation, I eventually learned that my emergence from the wreckage of the dirigible corresponded in his mind to some legend of the Panarii religion, to which he is a recent convert. On that basis he was convinced that I, a half-orc woman, was the reincarnation of some elvish hero of old, and I could not persuade him otherwise.
I called Virgil crazy above, but that is not fair or kind. He has some odd ideas, but they are the ideas of his religion, and he seems fully conscious of how odd they must appear to me. Sometimes it seems he can scarcely believe them himself. He really is a recent convert: he couldn't even remember the name of the elf I'm supposed to be a reincarnation of. As misguided as it was, I am touched that he didn't hesitate for a moment to identify me as the reincarnation of this heroic figure, the founder of his religion. He is the first human I have met since my orcish heritage has become undeniable who has not looked at me with contempt. He has been unfailingly polite, and has offered his companionship and protection in this dangerous wilderness, where we have already been beset by wolves. He wants me to meet his teacher, the elder Joachim, a man he holds in very high regard. I see no reason not to, though I fear he will be disappointed by the result.
As I wrote above, we have been searching the wreckage for some hours. Almost all of my possessions are gone, including my medical books and my diary. I have recovered a few items from the dead, which I will keep in hopes of eventually returning to their families. There is the ring I have already mentioned. There is what looks like a camera broken in the crash, a fascinating device. There is a letter that was on the body of a young lady addressed to her fiancée. It broke my heart to read it. I have reproduced it above. Really, as dismal as things seem, I am lucky to be alive.
January 2, 1885
In the Valley of the Crash Site, Late Morning
Now I have met a ghost.
At the base of the mountains delimiting this valley, we found a cave filled with supplies: a pistol, ammunition, explosives. There was a cot in the back room, and beside it a dead body. As we approached the corpse, a spectral form arose. Virgil could not see it, and for a moment I doubted my senses, but its reality was undeniable. It spoke to me, beseeching me to free it from its damnation. In life, the ghost had been a man called Charles Brehgo. He and his friend had been monks who had taken vows of poverty. They had begged for food from a priest, and instead of giving them food, the evil priest cursed them both. The curse caused Mr. Brehgo's friend to kill him, and Mr. Brehgo was cursed to remain a haunted spirit forever. He implored me to find the evil priest Arbalah and to kill him. Only then would he be freed from the torment the evil priest had condemned him to.
Or at least that's what the spirit said; I don't trust it for a second. One minute he claimed to have been an impoverished soul who had been begging for food, the next he was promising to tell me where I might find hidden treasure if only I would release him. He swore that in life he had been a generous soul who always preached love and tolerance towards those of orcish blood (hah!), yet his body lay in a cave stocked with arms and ammunition.
Well, something did happen here, and I am far to curious to find out what just to leave. Besides, no spirit deserves this fate, tormented as he obviously is. Virgil has reluctantly agreed that we should detour to find this Father Arbalah and see what we can do.
January 2, 1885
On the Road in the Wilderness, Afternoon
"And the spirit of Nasrudin shall be reborn on wings of fire in hills shrouded in fog, and fight the last battle with the evil one."
--Written on an altar at the entrance to the valley
Nasrudin is the name of the figure that Virgil imagines me to be the reincarnation of. He has no idea who the evil one I'm supposed to fight is.
As we left the valley, we were threatened by a strange elf walking towards the crash site. I do believe he might have done us some violence, but Virgil intimidated him and the elf slunk away. I was astonished. Virgil apologetically said he had dealt with men like this before, but wouldn't explain further. It seems there is more to my monkish companion than I imagined.
January 2, 1885
By the Fire in the Cottage of Father Arbalah, After Dark
"Jamilah, Beloved Wife and Mother"
"Saif, Beloved Son"
--Inscribed on tombstones over two graves next to Father Arbalah's house
I am not generally a religious person, but even I could recognize Father Arbalah as a deeply holy man. He has welcomed us into his home, shared his supper with us, and insisted we stay the night, all the while treating us more like a long lost son and daughter than the suspicious strangers we must appear. And he has done all of this even though he is obviously in the midst of great personal pain. Charles Brehgo and his partner Simon Fahrkus, after taking advantage of his hospitality, looted his house and killed his wife and son. Their fresh drug graves are outside his cottage. Completely helpless, Father Arbalah retaliated in the only manner he could. He cursed the pair, and when Fahrkus murdered Brehgo to take the holy artifact they had stolen for himself, Brehgo became the haunted spirit that I discovered.
Father Arbalah was intrigued the ghost had spoken to me, and humbly entreated us to return to the cave to see if we could somehow find the holy artifact that was stolen. The old man apologetically explained he had nothing to give us in return. The holy artifact was the only thing he had ever had of value, and without it he could not speak to his god. This didn't make sense to me. Any god who would not listen to such a holy man without some gross vessel intervening could not be a god of much worth, in my opinion. But I did not care. "Of course we will search for your artifact," I said. "It's the least we can do." I believe I would have done anything for him.
January 3, 1885
In the of Valley of the Stonewall Mountains, Late Evening
I found the spirit of Charles Bregho just as we had left him. I demanded to know where his partner was, but he wouldn't tell me. Finally, I promised him that I would convince Arbalah to release him from his doom, if only he would tell me how to find the artifact. That persuaded him, and he told me where his partner lived. As I turned to leave, I hesitated. After what he had done, I could not resist twisting the knife. I looked over my shoulder, and said, "By the way, I lied when I said I would convince Arbalah to release you. May you rot in this foul cave forever." I fled with his curses ringing in my ears. It was a foolish thing to do, and I am not normally so vindictive. But if he really does remain an accursed spirit for eternity in that cave, it will be no less than he deserves.
January 5, 1885
By the Fire in the Cottage of Father Arbalah, After Dark
January 5, 1885
We found the shack of Simon Fahrkus exactly where Bregho said it would be, a half days travel south of Father Arbalah's house. I had no clear idea how we would recover the priest's artifact from a cut throat murderer, but I was going to try, even as Virgil protested. We entered the shack. "What are you doing here, half-orc?" he leered. I attempted to deceive him as I had Bregho. I meekly told him of the curse, and how he could avoid it by giving the artifact to me, but he was not so easily fooled as his friend. I grew angry as I saw he would not yield. Before I realized what I was doing, I had grabbed him, bared my teeth, and growled "Give me the priest's artifact or I'll rip out your throat!" Miraculously he turned pale, pushed the artifact into my hands, and begged me to leave! Looking back, I can scarcely believe I am still alive. I can only imagine that he didn't see a young woman barely trained in the use of the small knife she carried, but a brutish monster that could have easily torn him apart.
We returned to the cottage of Father Arbalah the next day. He was there just as we had left him, and it melted my heart just to see him again. As I gave him the artifact, he placed his hands on my head. "I thank you, daughter," he said softly. "And I lied before, I do have something to give you. I bestow my blessing upon you. Now everyone you meet will react more favorably to you than perhaps they did in the past." I have never been blessed before. As I said, I'm not generally a religious person, and I have no idea if his blessing can do what he promised. But I surely hope so. I desperately need it now.
January 6, 1885
On the road to Shrouded Hills, Late Afternoon
January 5, 1885
So, after our detour, we are finally on our way to the village Virgil told me about. We have stopped to rest and enjoy some of the wine and victuals we recovered from the dirigible and should arrive at our destination by evening.
Now may be as appropriate a time as any to write out a sketch of my life before the dirigible crash. The diary I had kept for years is gone, no doubt consumed in the flames of the IFS Zephyr. I have little wish to revisit that part of my life, but I feel the obligation of writing a few explanatory notes. It is possible that some stranger may eventually read this diary after I am gone. If you are reading this, sir or madam, then you are probably rather confused by this point. What was a half-orc doing flying in a dirigible carrying medical textbooks to Tarant? It is for your sake, confused but gentle reader, that I will take the time to briefly summarize the part of my life that is now over forever.
I was born the daughter of half-orcs in a village of orcs and half-orcs. From a young age I showed a quick intelligence, an unusually gentle disposition for my kind, and a naïve wish to be a doctor. My mother, determined that I would have a better future than her own and seeing it to be impossible if I stayed where I was, somehow managed to have me sent to a boarding school in the city, where I eventually became apprenticed to a doctor. How she managed this, I do not know. Like myself, her features favored her human over her orcish lineage, and she could pass for human at times. Nonetheless, what she did was a minor miracle. The love she showed in giving me up never ceases to humble me, and I have no wish in this life but to fulfill the dreams she had for me.
So I have spent most of the years of my life as a half-orc living among humans, pretending to be a human. This is not as impossible as it sounds. The members of my race vary greatly in the degree to which they resemble either their orcish or their human lineage, and in myself, like my mother, the orcish features were unusually subtle. Also, many of the tell-tale signs of orcish blood only become fully apparent as one enters puberty. As a child, I was hardly distinguishable from a full-blooded human being. It helped that the city I was living in was a backwater. There were none of the slums and factories filled with orcs and half-orcs you would find in the cities of the new world. Most of my fellow citizens had never even seen a half-orc, and had nothing to compare me with. Though I do have the hot temper of my race, I have never been prone to violence, and the constant fear of discovery together with my urgent desire to win as many friends as possible trained me to suppress my temper so that now it scarcely plagues me.
Of course the fear of discovery was never far from my consciousness. I was forever a stranger in a strange world, harboring a secret that would destroy me if it were ever to be discovered. After my mother died, I never went back to the village where I was born. I worked hard to fit into the human world, hiding my differences and trying to cultivate as many friends as I could. If I were ever to be discovered, I felt if I only had enough friends, they would protect me. In this I could not have been more mistaken.
My eventual discovery was inevitable. The brutish features of my race began to reveal themselves as I entered adulthood. After a while, people began whispering and looking at me strangely. Eventually, the good doctor I had apprenticed myself to took me aside to talk about the suspicions people had about my ancestry. He told me gently that that if I only told him the truth, everything would be alright; he would protect me. Like a fool I believed him, and that was the end of that.
The kindest of my friends abandoned me completely. Of the others I will not write. I was evicted, my apprenticeship was abruptly terminated without recompense, suffice it to say there was no future for me anymore in that city. I do not give up easily. If I could not fulfill my ambitions there, I would go elsewhere. Things would be different in a big cosmopolitan city of the new world, a city where humans might have begun to move beyond their ancient fears. In Tarant I would discover a way to continue my aborted education, to fulfill my mother's dream. Not easily perhaps, not right away, but I would make it happen. I was not going back to live in an orcish village or to work in the factories, that was certain. So that is how I came to be a passenger on the dirigible that was fated to be shot down over the Stonewall mountains.
January 7, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Early Morning
I assume you are not alone. As you can see, there are people in Shrouded Hills looking for me. Luckily for me, these fellows were easily dispatched. Do not speak with anyone about the zeppelin crash, or your new companion's involvement with it. When you are able to make your way to Tarant, check the telegram office there. I will leave a message telling you where to contact me.
We arrived in Shrouded Hills last night after dark. Virgil took us to the to the room in the Inn where Joachim was staying. He was not there. Instead we found the bodies of two dead men. On the bed was a note addressed to Virgil from Joachim. I have reproduced it above.
As you may imagine, I was terribly disturbed. Who were these men who lay dead before us? They wore the same sort of amulet as the ogre pilot, engraved with an eye within a hexagram. Were they in league with those who had shot down the Zephyr, and with the elf who had threatened us as we left the valley? And what sort of a man was this Joachim? How did he know about the "zeppelin crash " or about Virgil's "new companion".
I was thinking pensively about all this, not really paying attention, when I absent mindedly asked the Inn keeper for a room for the night. "We don't serve your kind here, half-orc," he said. "Remove yourself from the premises or I shall be forced to call the guard."
I was livid with rage. I didn't dare speak; it took all my will just to stand there like an idiot. Virgil, bless his heart, intervened. I can't even remember what he said, but he made up some story, and we were allowed to stay. Paying twice what the rooms were worth of course, and with a warning we'd be thrown out as soon as he caught me stealing something. I was completely useless after that. I went into my room, locked the door, waited for the rage to pass, and slept fitfully until this morning.
Really, I thought I was beyond that kind of reaction by now. If I let some fool inn keeper get under my skin so easily, there's no hope for me in this world. This is my life now, and I had better learn to accept it.
January 7, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, After Breakfast
I persuaded Virgil to tell me a little more about Joachim this morning. "Joachim helped me when I was down on my luck," Virgil said, alluding once again to his mysterious past. "He showed me that you don't always have to take what life gives you. There's always a better path, and it's always your choice to travel it." I'm not a religious sort, but I can't find anything wrong in that. It is pretty much what I live by now.
We agreed we should leave for Tarant as soon as possible. After being threatened by an elf and finding two dead bodies in Joachim's room, it makes little sense to stay in this village any longer than we have to. I must find the constable and tell him about the accident, and we must buy supplies for the journey. Then we will leave.
I suppose Virgil and I will go our separate ways when we reach Tarant. I am grateful for his help, but I'm not the figure he thinks I am, and I have my own life to lead. Somehow I will find a way to continue my studies, either as a Doctor's apprentice or perhaps as a medical student at the University of Tarant. At least I will give everything to trying. What other course is open to me now?
January 7, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Afternoon
It appears we will be staying in this charming little village longer than we thought. The bridge out of Shrouded Hills is held by bandits who demand a ridiculously high toll from anyone who tries to leave, and the local constable is too much of a coward to do anything about it. They are constructing a new bridge to the south of the original. I suppose we might leave when it is finished. Or when the winter comes and the river has frozen over! The local constable has offered us the princely sum of 50 gold if the pair of us would only rid the village of its problem.
As if to make things worse, I believe I have been threatened by another mysterious figure. Either that, or I have mortally offended the brother of Preston Radcliffe. I was approached by a gnome who overheard me talking to the local constable about the Zephyr. He said his name was William Radcliffe, and that his brother had been a passenger aboard the dirigible. He asked hopefully if his brother was still alive. I sadly told him of Preston Radcliffe's passing, and was about to give him the ring, but something didn't seem right. I casually asked to see his identification before surrendering the ring. He turned red, and said he had lost his passport. I asked if he could at least describe the ring in detail. He cursed at me, accused me of being a greedy half-orc, and demanded to know how much I wanted for his brother's ring. When I protested that I did not want his money, and was only trying to do the right thing, he threatened to call the constable.
I wasn't much afraid of Constable Owen, who as I mentioned above was too much of a coward even to take care of the thieves at the bridge. Indeed, perhaps the constable really could sort things out. "Ok," I said, "he's over their by the well. Let's go speak with him."
Mr. Radcliffe, if indeed that is his name, became very angry. I thought for a moment he might even attack me then and there, but instead he just said, "Very well madam. Have it your way. You're making a big mistake. I'll have that ring one way or another." With that he walked off.
January 7, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, After Dark
Perhaps our enforced stay in Shrouded Hills is a blessing in disguise. I'm beginning to think that our original intention to leave as soon as possible was ill-conceived. After all, we've been threatened with violence twice, and may expect to be threatened again on our journey. We should take the time to do whatever we can to better defend ourselves on the road. The constable has persuaded one of his officers to allow himself to be hired by me for melee training. I hope I don't have to use my dagger to fend off more than wolves, but it is best to be prepared. In addition, we are keeping an eye out for possible companions on our journey.
There is a half-ogre, Sog Mead Mug, who seems to live at the bar here in town. I've chatted with him a bit; buy him a drink and he's quite amiable. He's a drunk, but assassins would think twice about attacking us if they saw a giant like him in our party. Like us, he wants to leave Shrouded Hills, but can't cross the bridge on account of the thieves. He's not ready to join with us just yet, though.
I do have an idea of how we might get past the thieves at the bridge. It involves the elixir of persuasion, one of the most basic recipes in the discipline of therapeutics. My education was terminated before I was fully educated in its preparation, but I believe I might be able to remember enough to create it. I have set up a little laboratory in my room and begun experimenting. Unfortunately the inn keeper has complained of the smell from the burner, and I shall have to find a better place for it tomorrow. I do wish I had not lost my medical texts.
The elixir of Persuasion, so I am told, has a relaxing effect upon the nervous system, much like that of alcohol but without the deleterious effects of inebriation. The result is that under its influence, even the most self-conscious individual gains the facility to lie without any tell-tale stuttering or hesitation. It frees one from inhibition and gives wing to ones power of invention. In short, it might even turn a tongue-tied woman like myself into a glib persuader and deceiver. Virgil and I had a quick look at the thieves guarding the bridge; a scurrilous looking fellow shadowed by a huge pair of half-ogres. I doubt we can get by them using force, but perhaps persuasion will serve our goals.
On my expeditions to find equipment for my miniature laboratory and otherwise prepare for our journey, I have gotten to speak with many of the local townsfolk. Virgil has been with me for some of this, and he was appalled to see the sort of abuse I have to put up with. He even offered to go out for me, as a lady like myself should not have to endure such treatment. It was sweet, but the sooner I learn to live as a half-orc, the better.
On a positive note, I discovered that Mr. Lloyd Gurloes, the local blacksmith, is a gentleman. I went to see if I could afford to purchase a sword for Virgil from him. As I approached, he said, "Go away half-orc, I have no time for you." When I protested, something like, "Sir, can't we at least speak civilly together," he stopped, looked at me, and actually apologized! I was so delightfully astonished I could hardly think what to say. No one back in the city I came from ever did such a thing. He was most courteous after that, and we have gotten along nicely since then.
The local importer Ristezze, a man with the bizarre habit of constantly referring to himself in the third person, was another matter. I went to see if he could identify the maker of the gnome's ring. At first he wouldn't even speak to me. When he discovered that I was a survivor of the Zephyr, he immediately inquired if I might have pilfered any items from the bodies of my fellow passengers that he could purchase. I was genuinely shocked at the suggestion. He did recognize the name "P. Schuyler and Sons" which is inscribed in Preston Radcliffe's ring, and offered to direct me to them if I would find something of value in return for him.
Looking for supplies for my little lab, I visited the local alchemist, a halfling named Jongle Dunne. He was rude at first, but when I wouldn't stand for it, he relented somewhat. He then asked hopefully if I might participate in a bit of sabotage against the town steam engine. It seems the engine is interfering with his magic, and he promised me a reward if I would destroy it. I politely told him I was not interested.
I went looking for ingredients for my experiments from the local herbalist. It turns out she is an elf from a long line of healers named Gaylin. I can't imagine what someone like her is doing in a town like Shrouded Hills. I was also surprised to discover she is an expert in herbology and therapeutics. I would have assumed that an elvish healer would have specialized exclusively in the magical avenues of healing.
Of course she was very unpleasant towards me. If anything, elves have even more contempt for those of orcish blood than humans do. In spite of that, I was on my very best behavior with her. After all, herbology and therapeutics were my area of study before my apprenticeship was abruptly terminated. It is almost unimaginable that an elf from a long line of healers would ever deign to apprentice a half-orc, but it is possible. I certainly can't afford to rule anything out.
I was relieved later to meet a local half-orc named Ben Jacobs. Here was someone I could relax with, or so I thought. The fool wanted me to join him in some half-baked scheme to rob the local bank. I pray he doesn't go through with it; idiots like him make things harder for the rest of us.
In just under a day, I have been asked to steal from the dead, rob a bank, and vandalize a steam engine. Two of these requests came from "honest" citizens. I'm afraid I'm getting to see a side of the world that was invisible to me when people mistook me for a human.
January 8, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, After Dark
Can you believe it? Virgil and I have found another ghost to investigate! Tomorrow morning we are making an expedition down into the local mine to search for the spirit that is said to haunt it.
It all began this morning with a conversation I had with Mr. Gurloes, the blacksmith. I didn't really have any business to conduct with Mr. Gurloes, but I make it a point to chat with him whenever I have the opportunity. It is always refreshing to have a conversation with someone that doesn't start along the lines of, "Get lost, half-breed. You're not wanted here."
So we were talking about his business, and he was telling me how hard-pressed he is because he cannot find any pure ore to work with. Indeed, he's so desperate that he offered to make a fine steel dagger for me if I should ever return with some pure ore for him from my travels. I asked him why it was so difficult to find good ore, and that's when he told me about the Bessie Toone.
The Bessie Toone is an old silver mine northwest of the town. The silver was exhausted years ago, and the iron ore that comes out of it now is all sour. Mr. Gurloes opined that no good ore would come out of that mine as long as the spirit of Bessie Toone was wandering through it. That last piqued my interest. After all, by now I am quite the expert in handling ghosts, and I immediately thought of offering my services to Percival Toone, the current owner of the mine. I found out where Percival lives from the constable, and Virgil and I immediately went to pay him a visit.
Percival was not exactly happy to see us. At first he thought I was an assassin sent to kill him! Evidently, he sold the mine to a rather unscrupulous "businessman," and now this "businessman" is very upset that all of the ore in the mine has gone bad. Percival blames the ghost of his mother, Bessie Toone, for this. He told me they were forced to sell the mine when the silver ran out. Afterwards, his mother fired all the employees, went down into the mine, and killed herself. Since that day, no untainted ore has come out of the Bessie Toone.
Percival offered us 500 gold if we would find some way to free his mother's ghost. I guess he must be pretty well off after selling the mine. I noticed he has enough money to hire a half-ogre body guard as well. I hope Bessie Toone turns out to be as easy to handle as Charles Brehgo was. We can certainly use the money right about now.
In the meantime, my experiments in therapeutics are proceeding nicely, and I hope to have something to show for them very soon. Jongle Dunne has allowed me to set up my miniature lab in a room in the back of his shop, so long as I stay out of sight of any customers. I think he's still hoping I'll sabotage that steam engine for him.
I told Gaylin about my plans to use the elixir of persuasion against the thieves blocking the bridge, and to my surprise, she offered to help me. As I mentioned before, she is exceptionally skilled in therapeutics, and her assistance has been invaluable, especially given the loss of my medical texts. She's still rude to me, though. Whenever I enter her shop , she has to say something like, "What do you want now, half-orc, can't you see I'm busy?" I can't quite put the two things together. I guess if you can get someone to talk with you about something they love, something they are deeply skilled in, they may forget your racial differences, if only temporarily.
I did ask Gaylin if she might have some odd jobs for me, as it looks like we will be staying in town for at least a couple more days. She said she had none, but then paused in thought. With a far away look in her eyes, she said if I were ever to come across an elven amulet engraved with the name N'Tala, she would reward me handsomely for its return. It was a family heirloom, she explained, stolen a generation ago. When I asked where it might be, she said she hadn't the slightest inkling. She shook her head, seemingly bemused that she had even mentioned it, and said perhaps the passing of years had confused her mind. I felt a sudden chill down my spine as I realized that the heirloom she was looking for must have been lost hundreds of years ago, if not a thousand.
January 9, 1885
Just Outside the Bessie Toone, Late Morning
We have just come out of the mines, and I have insisted to Virgil that we stop and rest in the sun and fresh air for a while before we make the trip back to town.
The mines have been abandoned for some time. They were over-run with rats and other vermin, and we did not dare venture deeper into them than we needed to. Fortunately, we didn't have to go very deep to find the ghost of Bessie Toone.
Both of us could see the spirit this time. She was completely oblivious to us as she paced back and forth. She glowed softly in the dark, and I did not need my lantern to see her features. Her face was drawn and haggard, and she had the most ghastly look in her eyes. I'm not sure why, but I was more afraid of her than I ever was of Brehgo. In a mournful voice, she kept saying, "Sarah, my dear Sarah..." over and over again. I couldn't get out of there quickly enough.
Who is Sarah? Percival never mentioned anyone named Sarah.
January 9, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Noon
Sarah Toone is Percival's sister. He hates her. He has hated her ever since she moved to Dernholm, abandoning him and his mother. When I pursued the matter, asking why she had moved and where I could find her, he got angry and clammed up. He obviously doesn't trust me anymore. He won't tell me where to find Sarah. He won't tell me where to find the current owners of the mine. He won't tell me anything that might help to us to investigate this matter further. It's a dead end.
I did get Ristezze to tell me about P. Schuyler and Sons. He had said before that he wanted an article, any article, that had belonged to Bessie Toone. I gave him a boot of hers that we had found in the mines. I felt queasy about doing it, but it was just an old boot, and we needed that information. So it turns out P. Schuyler and Sons is a well respected jewelery company in Tarant. "A strange family," said Ristezze, "but they always do good business." Great. I could have found them without his help.
January 9, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Evening
This afternoon, Virgil and I made a short expedition into what used to be a local Panarii temple. It was abandoned years ago. The constable has put the town's steam engine inside it, and the building is filled with noise and stink and vermin. I wonder why it was abandoned?
January 9, 1885
Jongle Dunne's Shop, After Dark
Tonight I synthesized three doses of the elixir of persuasion and took a test dose. I think it's working. I feel relaxed, a little dizzy, almost giddy. Like being drunk, except I still feel I have my wits. I must wait 16 hours before I can safely take another dose. Then we shall test it in the field.
January 10, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Evening
Late this afternoon, we made our foray against the thieves blocking the bridge. There were three of them: a human flanked by two huge half-ogres. Half-ogres are reputed to be none-to-bright; that meant I could focus my energy on the human, who was obviously the leader. I took a deep breath, swallowed the elixir, and together Virgil and I approached him.
He called himself Lukan the Witless. No, I am not making that up. He had the most extraordinary command of the language, and thought that "witless" was a compliment. You know, "without wit", "without humor," "serious." He thought himself a most erudite rogue, but he was constantly misusing words or making up new ones, and at first it was all I could do not to dissolve into laughter.
I began by flattering him, telling him how I had long admired him, begging him to tell me of his exploits. My patronizing seemed painfully obvious to me, but he ate it up. He quickly forgave me for being a half-orc and began regaling us with tales of his adventures as I listened with rapt attention and feigned awe.
As the elixir of persuasion took hold, I had the weird sensation of being separated from my body. I seemed to look down at myself from a distance, first in fascination, then in growing horror as my lips moved on their own and the most fanciful inventions started to come out of them.
"I can't tell you how long I've admired you Lukan. I dream of someday being half the thief you are."
"That's right. We share a common bond, you and I. I'm a thief myself."
"The clothes? Oh, we're, uh, working undercover. Virgil here makes a pretty convincing monk, don't you think?"
"Yes, we're operatives actually. For the guild, you understand. The thieves' guild of Tarant."
"Why are we here? We're here for a very good reason. We're here because, because, .... Alright Lukan, I can't lie to you. I'm not supposed to tell you this, but we're here because of you. The guild has heard about your activities here they and sent us to investigate. It's a territorial matter, Lukan. Do you understand me? A territorial matter."
"That's right, Shrouded Hills is guild territory. You've stepped on some toes, Lukan, some mighty big toes. Of course I know it was a mistake. I know the thief I've idolized all these years would never knowingly cross the guild. But I don't make the rules, and believe me, Lukan, the guild won't be so understanding when they hear my report. We have a situation here, Lukan, and I need you to tell me, what are you going to do about it?"
Lukan grew quiet, and I could not guess what he was thinking. I waited patiently, fully expecting to be pounded into jelly by the half-ogres staring down at me from just a few feet away.
Lukan was horrified. His lifelong ambition to be the most famous and admired of thieves in Arcanum was in mortal danger. The last thing he wanted to do was to offend the Tarantian thieves' guild. He offered to withdraw immediately. He offered to make reparations. I decided to go easy on him. After all, he was my hero, and it was obviously all an innocent mistake. I assured him I could convince the guild to overlook his transgression if he disappeared immediately and never came back, and 200 gold would do much to insure against any remaining ill feelings. He was most grateful for my patience and understanding in the matter.
The funny thing is I had never heard of the thieves' guild of Tarant before today. But I was listening intently to everything Lukan said, and under the influence of the drug I found myself picking up on subtle emotional cues. His fears and desires were laid bare before me, and it became possible, even easy, to manipulate him through them. It was Lukan who told me of the Tarantian thieves' guild, though I'm sure he doesn't remember doing so. I have heard of sham fortune tellers who use these techniques to convince people they can read minds, but I never imagined I would be doing such a thing myself.
Lukan and his half-ogres were franticly packing as we walked back down the road to Shrouded Hills.
January 10, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Late at Night
I cannot sleep. Did it really work? They were such obvious lies. I keep expecting a half-ogre to burst through my door and for Lukan to appear demanding his gold back. Surely the truth will dawn on him, and we will be back where we started. We shall see if they are still there in the morning.
January 10, 1885
The Inn at Shrouded Hills, Late Morning
They are gone. Virgil and I went to the bridge this morning. There is no sign of Lukan the Witless or his band. I guess it never occurred to Lukan that a half-orc might have had the intelligence to outwit him. Actually, I think a cricket might have had the intelligence to outwit him. No man was ever more worthy of his sobriquet.
I have packed my dress and put on pilgrim's robes we found in the abandoned Panarii temple. You can hardly see my features with the hood drawn about my face. Hopefully, any assassins or bandits will mistake us for a pair of penniless monks traveling through the woods.
Sog Mead Mug, alas, is still not interested in traveling with us. I'm afraid it's just Virgil and me. We are packed. I have said my goodbyes. At last, it's on to Tarant!
January 10, 1885
Somewhere in the Wilderness, Afternoon
"The IFS Zephyr has crashed just outside Shrouded Hills. Kill "Radcliffe" if he's still alive. As we don't know who he's spoken to, kill any other survivors.
--found on the body of the gnome who called himself "William Radcliffe," after I killed him
The gnome who called himself William Radcliffe was waiting for us as just outside Shrouded Hills. He demanded that I give him the ring. I refused. He pulled out a knife and attacked us. I was terrified, of course, but he was no match for the two of us. As he fended off a blow from Virgil's staff, I caught him in the belly with my dagger and he quickly bled to death.
I'm still a bit of a wreck. I've never killed anyone before. Virgil, who seemed to know what one does in this sort of situation, quickly took charge. We hid the gnome's body in the woods, and Virgil assured me there was nothing to worry about. Even if the constable finds the body, he will not care about a suspicious outsider who has been murdered; he will assume that Lukan was to blame, and leave it at that.
We found a note on the body of the gnome, and I have copied it above. If I had any lingering doubt before, none remains. Preston Radcliffe was not delirious. He really did escape from somewhere, and there really is a conspiracy to kill him. Him and anyone who talked to him. I have been desperately wracking my brain, trying to remember what he said to me before he died. Something about building something? "Almost finished." I think he said, "almost finished." What else? I have looked back to the very first entry of my diary...
"Find the boy, he'll know what to do."
"He forced us to do it."
"There are so few of us left."
"He's going to kill everything."
Around the neck of the dead gnome we found another medallion engraved with an eye inside a hexagram.
~ to be continued...