Loren Story: Chapter III

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Chapter III: Trial by Fire


[edit] Tests of Leadership

In the Citadel, Loren attempts to supervise the human and elven leaders, but they are quick to disagree on every possible matter. In frustration, she scolds them and then puts herself forward as the best option to lead them all, to have the final say in their arguments. Both sides protest this, the Empire scorning the idea of being led by a woman, and Myrth saying the the elven Elders are unlikely to surrender control either.

It's decided that in order to further prove her worth, Loren must undertake two new trials. Once complete, she will have undisputed control over the combined armies.

[edit] Stop the Barbarian

In the plains surrounding Horus, a rogue Nomad named Krul has been assembling an army of orcs. Loren is charged with dispatching him and seeing off the orcs.

The party arrive at Horus to find it in flames. General Samael and a few Imperial soldiers are trying to organise a relief effort. He reveals that the culprits were an army of orcs, who'd been driven away for the moment, but were regrouping for another attack.

Myrth asks how that's possible, since orcs are tribal creatures like Nomads. All eyes turn to Amukiki. He explains that clans will unite under a single banner if a great hero presents himself. Samael replies that they are being led by a 'foul barbarian' who would probably fit the bill.

Dora looks worried, and asks if the man has a scar over one eye. When Samael confirms it, she turns away silently.

Loren draws her swords, and declares she will take the barbarian's head and scatter the orcs across the plains. Samael, however, recommends an alternate strategy, because the orcs are too numerous to attack head-on. Saren/Elenor determines to come up with a plan, and in the meantime they set to work aiding the town.

In the camp screen, all party members can now be interviewed for their thoughts on how to defeat the orcs.

Dora, after a great deal of persuasion, finally agrees to share how she knew about the scar over the barbarian's eye. She has encountered him in the past, when he passed through her family's village. Her family were the only ones to offer him shelter, but when they refused to give him her father's sword, he slew them all and took what he wanted. From this, Saren/Elenor concludes that Krul is a selfish and dishonest person.

Amukiki offers insight into nomadic culture, explaining that orcs live in groups, but don't have leaders besides an 'alpha' who gets his way. Multiple clans may fall under the rule of an alpha who is not only strong, but intelligent. Therefore, Krul must have both these qualities. But if the orcs could be convinced he wasn't so great, they would cease to follow him.

Rei reveals that he once encountered Krul, when they were both working as mercenaries escorting an elven caravan to Hammerhands. They were ambushed by bandits, but instead of defending the caravans, Krul chose to snatch an opportunity and switched sides. When the merchants tried to surrender their goods in exchange for their lives, Krul slew them anyway.

The other party members have little to contribute, though Draco's take on the situation is entertaining. Saren/Elenor then finds Loren to discuss what they'd learned, and together they formulate a plan of action.

Heading to the outskirts of Horus, they engage in battle with orcs - not taking on the entire horde, only enough to catch Krul's attention. But after the head of the hundredth orc flies from its body, Krul is still nowhere to be found. In frustration, Loren simply begins yelling his name, and it works. Krul strides into view, armed with a pair of massive warhammers.

Amukiki steps forward and spits at Krul's feet, and Apolimesho explains they're now engaging in a primitive ritual to arrange a duel. Some party members think this is a better idea, but others disagree. Dora is unhappy, knowing that Krul cannot be trusted. Amukiki returns to the group, declaring that either himself or Krul will die at dawn tomorrow. He declares that he wants a fair duel, with no tricks, even though his challenge was originally meant to just be a way of getting Krul alone. The party agrees to let him try.

They make camp, but during the night they're woken by Ramas, shouting Dora's name. She has disappeared. Myrth wonders if she was kidnapped, but Rei finds her tracks on the ground, and confirms that she simply walked away. Amukiki notes that she has headed in the direction of the orcs and Krul. Saren/Elenor says that they need to save her, as she's probably about to do something very stupid, but Loren points out that they need to settle the duel first.

They head to the location of the duel. Rei heads up to a nearby cliff, where he can take a shot if things go badly.

Krul is waiting impatiently at the head of the army, with a few decorated orc leaders by his side. Amukiki steps forwards, and their allies gather around them. Krul taunts Amukiki, claiming he looks like a Nomad but isn't one. The fight begins. Though Krul has more raw power, Amukiki is more skilled, and eventually disarms the other. Just as he's about to land the killing blow, Krul signals orcs to rush forward and swarm Amukiki. Saren/Elenor and Loren rush into the fray, but they cannot beat an entire army, and are now surrounded. Despite losing the duel, Krul claims the orcs still know he is the best warrior.

Suddenly an orc yelps and falls dead, with Dora's knife in its back. It appears she'd sneaked into their ranks in disguise. She says that Krul is no warrior, and runs forward to impale him. Krul looks down at the small knife and dismissively pulls it out, then picks Dora up and dangles her in the air. This enrages Ramas, who races to her defense. Meanwhile, Rei looses a crossbow bolt and finds a mark in Krul's neck, causing him to drop Dora. Amid this chaos, the orcs are screeching and becoming increasingly riled up. There are two choices presented: either fight Krul directly, or take some of the orcs hostage.

Fight Krul:

The entire party piles onto Krul, triggering a boss fight. Afterwards he complains that they cheat and have no honour. Loren orders him to be silent, and lands the killing blow.

Take orcs hostage:

Loren and Saren/Elenor charge forward and overpower the most decorated orcs, but don't kill them. The other orcs are filled with fear for their leaders. Krul, however, shows no interest at all, only concerned with how Rei shot him. He rips the crossbow bolt from his neck, and declares he will kill the 'arrow man'. The orcs whine in dismay at him.

Dora shouts at the orcs, convincing them of the truth that Krul doesn't care about them, only himself. Furious, the orcs turn on their former leader and strike him down, leaving the party free to recover from their ordeal.

Regardless of which solution is chosen, the orc army disbands, with leaders splitting off in separate directions, until only the dead orcs are left on the plains. Apolimesho confirms the party's success, and they head back to Horus to see General Samael.

In Horus, elven rangers are assisting the Empire soldiers in putting the city to rights again. Samael agrees to personally vouch for Loren's leadership to the Council. Meanwhile, the party lends a hand in clearing up the remaining damage and tending to the wounded. Saren/Elenor notes that outside of battle, Loren has a less obvious, charitable side to her personality, and these trials are making her an even better person.

[edit] Stop the Succubus

Jul has been stirring trouble on the outskirts of GrandTree. Loren must defeat her and stop her evil influence over the elves.

The party first heads to the Dark Elves Village, knowing only that a rogue demon is attempting to recruit them to Fost's side. In the middle of the village, the discover a strange scene: all of the dark elves are standing around as if entranced, while General Ashtran brandishes a sword at a blank-looking Tobaar. Myrth and Loren run to Ashtran, demanding to know what's happening, and he claims they have already chosen to side with the demons.

Myrth expresses disbelief, but Tobaar then signals several dark elves to attack them. Following the battle, Saren/Elenor feels guilty, knowing the elves had been bewitched. Ashtran appeals for Tobaar to stop, but despite some hesitation, Tobaar signals for another group of dark elves to attack. Using magic stronger than he'd seemed to possess before, Tobaar targets his old friend, but Loren intervenes and the party fight a boss battle against him.

Rei shoots a bolt through Tobaar's hand, but he doesn't show pain as a normal person would. Still, being injured and unable to cast further spells is enough to chase away the force possessing him. He slumps to the ground, unconscious.

Ashtran confirms that this mind-control was the work of a succubus, and she is likely to target the forest elves next. Meanwhile, the remaining dark elves will continue to stand around blankly until the spell on them is broken.

The group head to the forest outskirts, on alert for signs of demons. Myrth hesitates, explaining that the pain of having a demon in the forest is too much for her, and she needs to retreat. The remaining party members proceed deeper into the trees, noting how eerily quiet everything is. They encounter a group of elves who have fallen under the thrall of Jul's magic, and initially try to avoid harming them, but the elves attack and there is no choice but to kill them. All are distressed by this.

A giggle reaches their ears, and Jul suddenly appears in person. By her side is Meshpit, in his demonic form.

Apolimesho warns everyone not to look into her eyes, to avoid being possessed, but Jul simply laughs again. The party realise they cannot move, frozen in place by her magic. Still, Loren manages to draw the Hawk Blade/Ember Blade, and Jul hisses in repulsion at its glow. Loren then makes the mistake of meeting Jul's eyes in a glare, giving the demon's magic a further chance to work. Loren's arms drop to her sides, the urge to fight forgotten.

Jul begins to wander between the party members, weaving a spell of irresistible seduction over them. While doing so, she complains that they couldn't just shrivel up and die, and if they can't be killed then she'll instead use them like toys. Pausing in front of Draco, she asks if he wouldn't like to be her little toy... But unlike the others, Draco isn't under her spell at all, since he's not attracted to women. He cheerfully replies that he'd rather not be, and is glad she's not trying to brainwash them. Annoyed, Jul instead casts a curse to silence him. She begins to rant that nobody has a choice, and she always gets what she wants.

Loren interrupts, fighting against the magic to find her voice. She begins to growl, then shout a mighty war-cry, freeing herself by sheer strength of will and empowering the rest of the party to follow. Jul is forced back, realising she's lost the upper hand, and calls on Mesphit to attack them.

After being defeated, the party deliberate on whether or not to kill him. Saren/Elenor argues for his life, as he was only possessed and not acting on his own. Jul cries for Meshpit to get up and protect her, but when he stirs, he's back to his normal self and confused to find himself in the forest. Jul is instead forced to summon a new set of demons, causing the trees around them to shrivel and die, before engaging the party in another battle.

Jul shrieks and crumples to the ground, but before anyone can approach her body, it vanishes into thin air. The party are confused, but accept that perhaps it's the normal manner of death for demons of her type. Either way, her spell is broken, and the party rush back to see how the dark elves fare.

Upon reaching the village, they find the dark elves just emerging from their trance. Mesphit and Tobaar are reunited. Ashtran declares that now they can continue ridding the world of the remaining demons.

Rei declares that one still stands amongst them. Loren wonders if there is anything of the real Mesphit left beyond his demon pact, and though Tobaar urges Mesphit to defend himself, he says nothing. Instead he kneels and bows his head, inviting her to kill him. Loren is sympathetic, but knows that he poses a real threat.

Kill Mesphit:

Saren/Elenor does nothing to stop Loren. Mesphit only asks that it be quick. At the final moment, his inner demon takes hold in self-preservation, but it's not enough. Ashtran orders his soldiers to take care of Mesphit's remains, and tries to console Tobaar by saying that his son had already been gone.

Saren/Elenor and Loren agree that it had been the right thing to do, for the sake of Aravorn. Ashtran praises Loren for her decisiveness, and promises that he will commend her to the forest elders.

Let Mesphit live:

Saren/Elenor steps forward, and asks Loren to wait, pleading for his life. Karen agrees, saying that they have seen him overcome his demonic urges before. Loren concedes, but Saren/Elenor must be responsible for taking him down if he causes more trouble.

Tobaar thanks them for giving his son another chance. Ashtran praises Loren for her mercy, and both promise that they will commend her to the forest Elders. When they next turn to Mesphit, however, he has run off into the desert at unnatural speed.

With both trials complete, Loren journeys back to the Citadel to announce her success.

[edit] The Amazon Plague

As Loren and Karen march through the Citadel's gates, they are confronted by Breza, who pleads with them to go no further, as a mysterious plague has swept through the population. Amazons are laid out in the plaza, being tended to by healers. Karen claims that Amazons are above common sickness, but Saren/Elenor knows this isn't true, recalling how their previous mistress fell ill and died. If they have a background as a healer, they will add that while they worked in the clinic, there were few treatments for maladies, and many would stubbornly refuse to admit they were sick at all.

Breza reports that before the plague began, her scouts noticed strange women in the city, who have since disappeared. Loren suspects that the women were illusions, similar to those which attacked the human and elven cities, and tells Breza to consult with Myrth and Apolimesho for proof.

Later, Myrth and Apolimesho confirm Loren's theory. They add that the sickness is not only attacking the bodies of the Amazons, but their souls. This dark magic is outside their ability to cure, and the only one who might be able to help is Chambara.

If Chambara has not yet been recruited, the story will now demand it, and events play out the same as if you'd gathered her as an ally in Chapter II, requiring that you deal with the witch hunter Raven before she will offer her help.

Returning to her hut in the Unforgiving Swamp, Chambara locates her potion book and picks out a recipe that she believes will cure the plague. Loren is suspicious of being tricked by false 'potions' again, but Chambara insists it's really necessary this time. She will brew it, but the others have to collect the ingredients. However, the recipe is written as a riddle to confuse outsiders, and claims to require three essences: master, servant, and friend.

Essence I:

The clue for this is Take from the Master...trapped in the Under-Realm...release him.

The party conclude that this is speaking of a Death Knight, which of course they're not going to release, as they already have one to deal with. Raiding the tomb of an already-defeated Death Knight should be less of a problem, though.

The tomb is located in the bottom-left corner of the map. Although it's recommended to pick the corpse that most resembles whoever cast the magic, it doesn't actually seem to matter, as all choices will lead to battle with a Lich, and collecting the required essence.

Essence II:

The clue for this is Take from the Servant...wandering champion...flesh stained with the plains.

As the plains are green, the party don't have trouble figuring out what this creature will be.

Three different places marked Plains will appear on the map, but the target can be found in the one north of Lothark. The party encounter a goblin champion riding on a wolf, chasing a herd of deer. After defeating it, Loren orders Saren/Elenor to cut out its heart.

Essence III:

The clue for this is Take from the Friend...loyal to the end...waiting for the Master's return.

The party are unsure what creature this could mean, but suspect it will be found at Everburn.

The correct choice here is to battle Inferno Hounds. Afterwards, Saren/Elenor grabs a fang from one of the fallen, and they retreat.

With all three ingredients collected, the group return to Chambara, who completes her potion, and recommends it be added to the water supply in order to treat the entire Citadel. Saren/Elenor is sent off ahead of the others, to rush the potion to the Amazons as fast as possible. By the time Loren and the others catch up, it has begun to take effect, and the plague is subsiding.

Still, although the Amazons are recovering, they are not in a fit state to march on Everburn. Breza insists they will follow where they are commanded, but Loren is frustrated, knowing it would be wrong to force them. Just then, Generals Samael and Ashtran arrive. They announce that the Council have agreed to call Loren their Supreme Commander. Breza then adds that an elven ambassador had already visited, leaving behind a leaf-covered and jewelled wand. Myrth identifies it as the Scepter of the Weald, signifying that Loren leads the protectors of the forest and commands all elven troops.

With both armies under her command, Loren needs only pick the day when their assault on Everburn will begin.

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