Here’s what Geneforge’s loading screen looks like if you wait a few seconds before selecting an option. Creations start coming out of the shaping platform on the lower left and they march across your screen. It’s pretty cute, actually.
A small sign by the roadside welcomes to you Vakkiri. The first things you see are fields. The crops are planted in a relatively orderly way, even though the servile guards insist on trampling through the rows.
Armed servile guards. The sight makes you shudder.
You hail one of the farming serviles instead. This servile is working hard to grow small, green vegetables. She seems to be doing very well considering her lack of supervision.
She bows. “Welcome to my humble plot of land, Shaper.”
“What are you raising?” It’s a stupid question, but you just can’t help yourself. It’s been a long day.
“Just simple vegetables. They aren’t a creation. Just ordinary food.”
You look closer and see that she is correct. “I am looking for information. Is there anyone here who can help me?”
“You should talk to Learned Pinner.” The farmer points to the northwest. “She lives in the building back there in the woods.”
“You can return to your work,” you say, attention already turned to the rest of Vakkiri. Looking past the trees, you see a settlement more substantial than you expected — and shockingly worthy of being called a village.
“Thank you, Shaper. You are very kind.”
As you head into Vakkiri, you meet one of Vakkiri’s guards- He is a servile, wielding an old, dented, but very sharp sword. The guard bows. He seems slightly nervous about your intentions. “Greetings, Shaper. How may I assist you?”
With a little revulsion, you ask, “What are you guarding against?”
“Rogue creatures are common in the woods north and east of here. We never know when some of them will stumble into Vakkiri and need to be dealt with.”
It makes sense, but you don’t think you will ever be able to fully suppress your disgust at seeing serviles with swords and armor. “Where can I find aid and information?” The guards probably report to someone, even if that person is not a Shaper.
“You should speak with Leader Khobar. He is in the feasting hall at the southwest corner of town.”
You nod to yourself now that your suspicion is confirmed. This Khobar might be useful. The guard bows once again and continues on his rounds, crushing some of the hapless farmer’s odd cabbage underfoot.
Vakkiri is full of serviles at work. The sounds of their labor are reassuring, even if the realities aren’t — half of that work appears to be armed serviles patrolling the paths. The other half is ordinary chores and agriculture. It takes a lot of food to sustain a settlement of this size.
Within the dining hall you find a couple of serviles and the smell of cooking food. Your empty stomach leads you to the servile working the spit. Roasted ornk…
Inerny wears the traditional long robes of the serviles, modeled after Shaper robes. However, her robes are covered with food stains of varying ages.
She is bustling around her kitchen, preparing all manner of foodstuffs to feed the serviles of this hall. As she moves, she says, “I am Inerny. Welcome to my kitchen. You look hungry.”
“I am hungry,” you admit. “Could I get some food?”
Surprisingly, Inerny doesn’t just give you what she has. The serviles here evidently believe in fair trades for all goods, even with Shapers. She shows you her best cuts of meat and her prettiest loaves of bread, though. It’s hard not to snatch up as much as your stomach demands, but you can’t shake the feeling of serviles watching your every move. You’re outnumbered and, though you hate to admit it, all those armed serviles could easily overpower you. You pay up.
“What do you serviles eat?” you ask. Surely all this meat and bread wasn’t for creations.
“What does anyone eat?” Inerny asks. “Mostly vegetables, grown here and foraged, some bread, and some meat from the ornks we raise. And all of it raised or found by us, with no Shaper help.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to give you an Awakened lecture there.” She laughs.
You chew over this and decide to offer your best neutral response. “It looks like you are hard at work.”
“Oh yes. I don’t cook for all of the serviles. But I cook for all who haven’t been mated. And that is enough to keep my days very busy.”
Inerny sighs and looks around. “It would be much easier if my best knife hadn’t been stolen. It was true steel, hardened by magic, a true Shaper artifact. I would pay well to have it back. But, oh well. A brigand probably took it.”
You make note of this, but since you haven’t seen it, there’s not much you can do. Shaper steel would be nice to have in your hand, though.
You sit at an empty table and eat. Nobody joins you. It’s not very surprising. No Shaper would break bread with a creation. When you have finished, you approach a servile who has been unobtrusively watching you since you entered the hall.
Unlike the others, this servile does not fear you. Or if he does, he does not show it. He is clearly sizing you up, trying to figure out whether you are a help or threat to the serviles under his care.
He bows to you, a very short, sharp motion, all the time keeping his eyes on you. Finally, he says, “Welcome to our home. I am Leader Khobar, proud Awakened and the chosen leader of the tribe of Vakkiri.”
Disappointment is a dull stab. You’d hoped to find that Khobar was a human. Instead, he’s just another servile.
“It is a pleasure to have the Shapers among us again at last.” You could not fail to notice the way Khobar emphasized the word Leader. Or the lack of enthusiasm he put into saying the last sentence. At least you’re both on the same footing.
“Tell me more of your village,” you say.
“After the Shapers abandoned us, we serviles struggled for survival. Most were unable to live without your guidance. Some of us were selected by cruel nature to be allowed to survive. We have formed three villages that I know of.”
“What are the other two villages?”
“To the east there is Pentil. They are a feckless, servile lot. You will like them. Past Pentil is Kazg. You may wish to avoid them. They are very martial, and they have little love for Shapers. They hate you, and even more, they are terrified of you. A volatile combination.”
You suppress a laugh. A servile calling serviles servile. The absurdity of it all! You’ve never heard such a terrible joke in your life. Almost as absurd as serviles hating Shapers. Somehow, though, you know this strange servile isn’t lying. “You don’t know of all the settlements on this island?”
“‘To the north is harsh wasteland, full of rogue clawbugs and vlish. There, we do not go. To the northeast are mountains, well protected by Shaper creations and traps. Beyond, we cannot go. In those places, you might find anything.”
“Hmm…” If anything includes boats or the means to craft them, you’re willing to gamble with clawbugs and even eerie vlish. The serviles would of course steer clear of such creations. Rogue or not, their presences always upset serviles.
Leader Khobar continues to watch you carefully, attempting to divine from small motions and expressions your true intentions. “It would be a pleasure to speak with you further, Shaper.”
“You said that you are Awakened. Tell me more about that.”
“All of us serviles have developed our own ways and beliefs to deal with the Shapers abandoning us. There are three sects: the Awakened, the Obeyers, and the Takers,” he says. “The Obeyers are the ones who wish to follow. They are the ones who worship your kind as gods. You will find them to the east, as obedient and pliable as you could possibly wish. We are not fond of them.”
Serviles who know their roles and respect the natural order of life may be of great use to you. You decide to reach Pentil as soon as you can. Perhaps from there you will be able to organize a craft to escape Sucia and reach the colony.
“What about the others?” you ask. “The Takers, for instance.”
“‘They are the mad ones, the Takers of Free. They have been warped by the cruelty of their time here. They were made by the Shapers, and now they wish to overthrow them. They wish to separate from the Shapers completely, and if the Shapers attempt to deal with them, they wish for combat. They are mad. We have no worship for the Shapers, but we do not hate them either. We wish to be equal, that is all.”
You keep your expression carefully neutral. Equality is as ludicrous as an overthrow. Either is rebellious. The serviles of Vakkiri are as rogue as the Takers of Kazg. The Shapers made the serviles — as creations, serviles owe all their loyalty to your kind. But it won’t do to say that now. You know Khobar is weighing your response to his words and that the other serviles are watching. It’s best to be conciliatory for now. You’re weak, and if not for the canisters, you wouldn’t have been able to make it this far at all. You won’t make the mistake of assuming that a little strange Shaper magic is enough to let you overcome this many rogues at once. Better to lull them into complacency and see if you can use them to accomplish your goals. After all, they’re only serviles. They can’t be that clever.
“Tell me of yourselves, of the Awakened,” you say. It’s best to know your enemies well, especially how they see themselves.
“All in this village are of the Awakened sect. We have been Awakened from the dark sleep of Shaper mastery. Our eyes are open. We wish to deal with the Shapers as equals, with friendship and gratitude. But we will not be slaves to you any longer.”
He looks you directly in the eyes without a hint of fear. “Be wary. If you anger the Awakened, this town will no longer be open to you.”
We could take the hardline approach and say, “I’m very amused by your aspirations, but I doubt we Shapers will be supportive.” But for the moment, we are taking a conciliatory approach.
“It sounds like a strange, new belief, but I hear some wisdom in it.” Somehow you don’t vomit while saying the words. At the same time, you almost believe what you’re saying. These serviles have organized their own governance and defense. The last time a Shaper was here was at least a century ago, if Tavit the servant mind was to be believed. You have no reason to doubt its estimate. Somehow the serviles have overcome the limits of their making and are fending for themselves.
Khobar looks, despite himself, relieved. “I am glad to hear it. We had expected instant opposition from your kind. But if we can convince you, there may be hope for peace.”
Your opinion doesn’t matter in the slightest, but you won’t tell him that. You haven’t even truly begun your apprenticeship. The Shaper Council would descend on Sucia Island and wipe out every last one of these serviles if they thought the threat was severe enough. Instead, the place was merely Barred. These serviles’ madness would remain quarantined as it should be.
In a way, their madness presents the opportunity for a truly grand experiment. Alas, you don’t have the time, and if you’re truly honest, the skill to do much with this research opportunity. It would certainly make a Shaper’s name in the literature, though.
“I wish to learn more of this island. When and why was it abandoned?” you ask.
“I deal with the now and the future. I leave it to others to worry about that past. You should talk to Learned Pinner. He points to the northwest. “She loves your kind more than is safe. She will gladly share all of her limited knowledge with you.
“I would like to help you, Shaper. But we are a trading people, and we require your help as well. There are ways you can assist us. Sometime, you should speak with me of the dangers we face.”
“What dangers do you mean?” You saw the rogue fyora outside the quarantine, but everything you’ve seen since passing the gate has been peaceful.
“Hunger. Cold. Rogue creations. All of the many perils you Shapers abandoned us to.” He pauses for a moment, thinking. Then Khobar says, “But you know something? We serviles are not as foolish as you think. We can plan, and we can trade. I can’t help but notice that you are lacking supplies. If you would use some of your awesome Shaper power to aid us instead of crush us, I could provide you with useful goods. A fair trade. Does that appeal to you?”
The sarcasm doesn’t — when did serviles master sarcasm? — but you do need supplies. Moreover, exterminating rogues is just, even if you’re exterminating some at the behest of others. “I will trade with you. What do you want?”
“The main road to the east passes south of Watchhill. It is the road to the fortress of Ellhrah, leader of the Awakened. And, recently, almost overnight the area has become infested with rogues. We suspect that something or someone is creating them. There are too many there to be accounted for by random migration. Go there and remove the source, and we will pay you.”
If something is creating them… It must be a Shaper. But why would a Shaper be hiding away instead of seizing control of these serviles? Baffling. Still, Khobar’s information represents hope. “I’ll take a look,” you say, then add, “if I have time.” It doesn’t do to appear too eager. “I was stranded here because a large ship destroyed my craft. Who might do such a thing?” Besides the Takers, but you doubt a group of mad, rogue serviles has the ability to field such a huge ship.
“I do not know. I can’t believe that anyone would attack a Shaper in such an open and foolish way. Only a mad one would attract the wrath of the Shapers. In this, I wish I could help you. Such provocations cannot be good for anyone. Not even the wild serviles of Kazg would do such a thing, I suspect. I do not think you will find the answer to that question here.”
You leave Khobar with your head spinning with all sorts of new information and thoughts. You are exhausted, but the reality of independent serviles has you too buzzing with fear and curiosity to sleep right away. You wander the village instead.
Not far from the hall, another extraordinarily odd servile approaches you. This servile woman looks up at you with interest. There is not so much of the usual awe and fear in her eyes. She looks at you as she does any other servile. It is very strange.
She says, “I am Sencia. Sencia of the Awakened. I welcome you to our humble home, Shaper.”
“You serviles all live here?” you ask.
“All of us of Vakkiri live in these old buildings. Many of us live in these barracks, and others, those of rank and stature, live in the private homes. I, however, choose to live here.” She indicates the barracks you’ve left behind. “I like to be close to my fellow serviles.” Of course. That was how serviles were shaped to be.
“You serviles speak very well. Who taught you to speak like that?”
Sencia looks slightly offended by the question. “Who taught us? We did. After the Shapers left our isle, we knew how they spoke, and we started to speak that way ourselves. We know that Shapers think very little of us. That is why I became one of the Awakened. Some of us, though, do not speak as well, and do not have such aspirations.”
“Who doesn’t speak well?” You decide not to point out that Sencia is performing the same kind of pointless judgement humans do by being prejudiced against a fellow servile for its manner of speaking.
“Do not give too much weight to what Clakkit says, or how he speaks. He is, well, he is one of us. But he is foolish, and he speaks foolishness. Do not judge me worse because of him.”
“You said that you were of the Awakened,” you say, redirecting her. “Tell me more?”
“We are a sect of serviles, led by the mighty Ellhrah, who believe that we serviles must stand up for ourselves, be proud, claim our intelligence and our birthright, and look to you Shapers as our equals. We know that many of you Shapers will not approve of this. We will take the consequences for this. If you would like to learn more, you should speak with Ellhrah.”
No matter what, no Shaper will ever look at a servile and see an equal. Even putting aside that your people created them, serviles have no power. They have no magic and no ability to Shape. Shapers don’t even regard ordinary people as equals; serviles certainly won’t receive that honor.
“Tell me about Ellhrah.” The ringleader of the Awakened is surely a rogue worth understanding. You know you’ll have to meet him. Foreknowledge is power.
“He is founder of the Awakened. He is our creator. He is old now, and he was the first one to stand up and tell us that we should look out for ourselves. He said that you Shapers have abandoned us, and that made us free. You should speak with him. He lives to the east, in the fortress past Watchhill.” Sencia speaks of Ellhrah as though he shaped the Awakened. It’s almost disturbing, but you’re starting to be numb to these rogues’ bizarre reasoning.
“And what is your job in Vakkiri?” you ask.
“Ellhrah asked me to stay here and look after the serviles here, to guide them. They are of the Awakened, but sometimes they return to their weak, old, Shaper.worshipping ways. Usually, it is simple, but sometimes there are difficulties.”
“Are you having difficulties now?”
Sencia sighs. “I suspect that there is a Taker spy in this village. The Takers are a dangerous rogue sect to the east, determined to foment rebellion against the Shapers. An ugly, pointless war. Sometimes, they attempt to stir up trouble here. If you found the spy and brought him to my attention, the Awakened would thank you.”
More rumors about these Takers. It’s amusing to hear these rogues describe other rogues as somehow more wrong. “I’ll let you know if I see anything,” you say, and you both know that won’t happen.
This servile is as muscular as a thahd. She is a massive creature, all the more remarkable when you consider that serviles were not made for feats of strength. She notices how surprised you are by her physique.
“I am Brodus. I am the Vakkiri Blade. I defend the serviles here from all threats.” She puts extra emphasis on the ‘all.’ “If you mean us peace, I welcome you on behalf of myself and the Awakened.”
“You are a Blade?” You notice that Brodus wears a massive steel sword at her side. It probably belonged to a Guardian once. It’s in beautiful condition. “What does that mean?”
“It means that I defend the serviles here from all threats. I am the leader of the guard, and the first to fight. And, with all the threats we have faced recently, I am kept very busy.”
“What sort of threats do you face?”
“There are the rogue creations. They are all around. They appeared recently, mysteriously, and they plague us. Leader Khobar can tell you more about them, if you are interested. There are also the bandits. They are extra weight in a load too heavy to bear.”
Bandits? Now you’re very interested. Come to think of it, the servile cook had mentioned brigands. “I can help you with your struggles.”
“We hoped that, when you Shapers returned, you could help us. But do not think your help will make us willingly return to servitude,” Brodus says. “There is a tribe of rogue servile bandits to the north. They are strong fighters, and cunning. They raid us and take our food and weapons and wealth. They do not kill, but they take our food. This, we do not need. End their raids. If you have to kill them all to do it, so much the better. I can’t spare the casualties, but you have the powers of a Shaper. You should be able to destroy them with no difficulties.”
You smile, not very reassuringly. Brodus seems to reevaluate whether she is actually pleased by the idea of unleashing a Shaper on fellow serviles, even thieves. “You defend against all threats? Even me?”
“I do not believe that you wish to threaten us. I am not some Taker, to believe that the Shapers are always evil. But be warned, if you threaten us, your powers will not dissuade us from acting against you.”
“You said you’re an Awakened. Tell me about it,” you say. Clearly they believe themselves to be equal to the Shapers. Each answer has added some detail to the portrait of what these serviles believe themselves to be, the story that they’ve told themselves during your people’s long absence.
“I should not. I believe it with all my heart, but that doesn’t mean that I am a good teacher of it.” She thinks. “Talk to Sencia. She is the best among us at explaining the path,” Brodus says.
There’s nothing else to say. The other serviles working just outside the hall are too awed or afraid to say anything useful to you. They’re cautious and shy — they still don’t know what to expect from a Shaper. You haven’t killed them all yet, nor could you, but they don’t know that.
You walk east and find quiet pastures. There is a small servile girl here, standing in the middle of what looks like a meeting place for the serviles. She has a stick in her hand, and she is watching a few fat ornks. She looks up at you curiously as you approach. She doesn’t seem to have any idea who or what you are.
She says, “Hello, stranger! I am Lietz.”
“Are you watching these ornks?”
“Yes. They keep me back here so that I don’t play too close to where monsters are. And they make me watch the ornks so I don’t get bored,” Lietz says.
You look at the creations’ tusks. “Aren’t the ornks dangerous?”
She whacks one with her stick. It makes an annoyed mooing noise and shuffles away. “Not to me.” Lietz neglects her ornk—watching duties, concentrating instead on staring at you.
You raise your eyebrows, not that she can really see your face beyond your hood. “Do you know what I am?”
She frowns. “Hmm. I don’t know. But I haven’t had much learning yet. I’m sorry.”
“I am a Shaper,” you say. You can’t resist what comes out of your mouth next. “We Shapers see and know everything.”
She suddenly looks extremely nervous. “That’s really… uhh… interesting.” Something is clearly worrying her.
As you watch her minute tics, you’re struck by a bolt of inspiration. “I am looking for a stolen knife. But I don’t think it was stolen. I think it was just lost, and I’ll find it on the ground any minute now.” You turn around and pretend to look at something. You turn back. Sure enough, there is a sharp steel knife on the ground. Lietz continues to tend to her ornks as if nothing has happened.
You pick it up. Sure enough, it’s a high quality, Shaper-made steel blade. You walk north through the meeting area and find more old, Shaper buildings, as well as another nosy servile.
This rough, dirty servile walks boldly right up to you. “I Clakkit. I glad see. Me know thing.” This is the sort of speech you have come to expect from serviles. This is how they usually talk.
“Why don’t you talk like the other serviles?” you ask, curious.
“I smart like them. I no dumb. I no talk Shaper. I no talk like you. I servile talk. Choice.”
“What sort of things do you know?”
“I travel. Listen. Talk. Learn lots. I want help. I know what servile think of you. I know you crime if you crime. I know secrets.”
“What do the serviles think of me?”
“Servile have little hope. Listen careful what you say and maybe think you maybe want let servile be little free.”
Bemused, you ask, “What sort of crimes have I committed?” You did pick up an apple earlier that didn’t strictly belong to you.
“I know that servile not know about you. They think you act like big clumsy Shaper but may not be all dangerous, so we wait and see.”
You aren’t sure how to parse that, but it seems like you don’t have to worry about the Vakkiri serviles too much for the time being. “What sort of secrets do you know?”
“You ask. I talk.” Of course it couldn’t be that easy. Clakkit seems smug.
“Where can I find a boat?” That’s really the only important question.
“Leader Khobar. He point right way,” Clakkit says. This is useless. Khobar could only tell you to speak with Ellhrah and Pinner. If they don’t have boats, there’s no point.
You sigh. “Why was this island Barred? And my craft was attacked. Who did it?” Somehow you don’t believe Clakkit knows as much as he thinks he does.
“Learned Pinner. He point where you go learn secret. There sinister outsiders on this isle. That what l know. Know no more than that. But secrets answered to east.”
Pinner, Khobar, and Ellhrah. Of them, you’ve already spoken to Khobar, and he wants you to slay rogues before he offers any help. Perhaps he was right; perhaps you will like the Obeyers of Pentil much more than these mercantile Awakened in Vakkiri. You wonder what Clakkit is getting in exchange for offering you information. “You know, Sencia said that I should ignore you.” The little jab is small punishment for irritating you, but you don’t doubt that it will get under Clakkit’s skin.
“Sencia think she all smart. But there many way be smart. I watch and listen. And this I know: Sencia need listen more. Her talk make her no listen,” Clakkit says, as smug as ever.
You’ve already given into heading east; now it’s just a matter of time. Secrets and outsiders… What kind of outsiders would be on a Barred island? Perhaps it has to do with the ship that attacked you.
You find a servile-run shop in one of the restored ruins. You are accustomed to seeing expressions of greed and cunning in the eyes of humans. To see such entrepreneurial zeal in the eyes of a servile is highly unnerving. It is not what you expected at all.
The servile walks up to you eagerly. Creator or no creator, this servile wants to make a trade. “Welcome, Shaper. I am Coale. Welcome to my trading post. I exchange goods with sentient beings all over Sucia Isle.”
“I have never met a servile shopkeeper before,” you say, perusing the wares in their orderly piles on the floor.
“Well, in the absence of the Shapers, we have had to fend for ourselves. And that means growing and making what we need to survive. And that means trade. I deal in both servile-made goods and Shaper artifacts. I know nothing about why the Shapers left us but, thankfully, they left much behind.”
“You trade with other servile settlements on Sucia?” That surprises you. The way the other serviles spoke, you thought that Vakkiri had little contact with the other sects.
“Yes, I had contacts in Pentil and even Kazg. But there have been many rogue creations wandering about. So I have lost contact with them. If you ever meet serviles named Pixley and Arth, or find out what I happened to them, please let me know. I have plenty of supplies, and | gladly pay for useful information.”
This is the shop screen. Prices are determined by your relationship with the shopkeeper’s faction, how much coin the shop has left, and occasionally by completing certain quests. For example, if you find Inerny’s knife and return it to her, part of your reward is that she’ll permanently lower her prices for you – that’s a 50% discount! …From 2 coins per item to 1 coin. The fact of the matter is that I’ll rarely buy anything from shops. Their main use is offloading vendor trash so you can rack up coins to spend at trainers. Otherwise, you might find yourself buying some rarer ammo or crystal types, or perhaps some living tools, but generally you won’t buy equipment, food, or consumables.
You’re broke and you’ve always been parsimonious at best, so after offloading some of the Shaper-made goods you collected along the way, you bid Coale farewell and continue exploring Vakkiri. There are plenty of small dwellings tucked away among the trees. In one of these you find a lone servile. You wonder what made him important enough to have his own private dwelling.
This short, pale servile is clean and quiet, but he doesn’t look like he has been out of this building for some time. He says, “Welcome, Shaper. I am Nabb. I have been waiting for you to come see me.”
You’re taken aback a little. No one has mentioned his name. “What are you doing back here?”
“I have been waiting for you to come back here and see me,” Nabb says. “I am giving much and risking much to speak with you and say what I have to say. I act without instructions from my sect because I believe it is worth the risk. I am of the Takers. I am a spy here, from the village of Kazg. I have come to see what the Awakeners are doing. I tell you this because we wish your alliance. Now, I only wait to see what you will do. I will risk my life to remain here and see if you can help the Takers. Do not listen to the lies of the Awakened and the Obeyers. Do not throw in your lot with them until you have been to Kazg and seen truth.”
A Shaper would never roll her eyes, so you don’t, either. This is the Taker spy Sencia wants to find. He doesn’t seem as rabid as the Awakened serviles described, but you find it funny that he’s willing to out himself to you for no reason. He must be suicidal. He certainly isn’t threatening, though, so you choose to humor him.
“Tell me about the Takers.”
“The Awakened here are on the right track, but we feel that there is no hope of true freedom and happiness for the servile race until we totally shed the influence of your kind.” Nabb glances past you, clearly anxious, but continues. “We will accept the support of your kind, though one day we must leave you behind. We hope you will help us. With you and our other allies, we may break free of the Shaper fist. We will do anything to bring this about.”
“Who are your other allies?” Perhaps Clakkit really did share a useful tidbit with you. Shapers wouldn’t aid the Takers… Unless perhaps they had a similar idea for research as you. But they wouldn’t be in a Barred place to begin with.
“I am forbidden to say. I can’t say anything about it. If I do, I will be punished harshly. Suffice it to say that there are powerful forces on this isle, and we are linked with them. Forces that may make even the Shapers tremble. Join us, help us, and you may share in those powers too.”
This is some of the most hilarious bullshit you’ve ever heard. “All right, Nabb. What sort of help do you want?”
“East of here, you can find the leader of the Awakened. His name is Ellhrah. He is powerful and smart. With his leadership, the Awakened may control all of Sucia. He is also well protected, but you are a Shaper. If you kill him, you will have the true gratitude of the Takers. If you do, we will see to it that you can draw from the true power we have uncovered. Whatever happens to me, this offer will still be open.”
“What will happen when Ellhrah is slain?” you ask. You’re not sure if you’re interested in taking on an assassination. The Takers sound more reasonable than the Awakened painted them as, but they are still rogues, and you can’t commit yourself to rogues.
Unless you were to play both sides against the middle. You ponder this as Nabb speaks.
“I would not return here. The wrath of the serviles here will be considerable. Instead, go east to Kazg. There, we will welcome you, and we will help you contact our allies, the ones with the incredible power.”
“I see… That’s all for now. Thanks.”
You follow a looping path back south to the kitchen and barracks. Inside, Inerny glances up to welcome you, but doesn’t stop her constant labor.
“I found your lost dagger,” you say, and hand it over. It’s of Shaper make, and probably more rightfully yours than a creation’s, but you don’t have much use for a knife.
Inerny takes the dagger eagerly. “I thank you, Shaper! I am surprised that you would be so kind! Many of us had our doubts. If you ever need food, come to me. I’ll give it to you cheaper than anyone else.”
Your wanderings take you to the west side of Vakkiri village, where you detect the signature smell of alchemy. Curious, you walk into a building with a shabby shingle that reads “APOTHECARY.”
This servile’s robe has been heavily stained. And, in places, dissolved. He is surrounded by the tools he uses to make useful potions and powders.
Even for this village, this is odd. These sort of magical workings are reserved for Shapers alone. The servile bows to you. He doesn’t seem ashamed or worried.
He says, “Welcome, Shaper. Welcome at last. I am Ham. Welcome to my home.”
“You know how to make potions? How?” You stare at his atelier and the wares laid out on a long, low table.
“Well, I am glad you asked. When you Shapers left, you left behind many things. This was long ago. We have had many years to study your writings and artifacts. We had no choice. It was a matter of survival, after all,” Ham says.
Grudgingly, you say, “You should be proud to have achieved so much.”
Ham beams with pride. “I am so grateful that you think so! Though I am Awakened, I still have a great deal of respect and admiration for your kind. Thank you for that respect.”
“Where do you find our artifacts?”
“Why, they’re all over.” Ham points to the box in the corner. “I found that in some ruins recently, but I can’t get the lock open.”
He thinks. “We Awakened believe in fair trades. If you can find a way to get that box open, l would gladly pay you for your time. I’m sure you could use more supplies.”
You inspect Ham’s mystery box, but the way to open it eludes you for the time being. With nothing else to do here, you head north to look for Learned Pinner.
You meet a very old servile, one of the oldest you’ve ever seen. They are made to live for a very long time, and this one is definitely trying to set a record. She is stooped and withered. She must be well over a hundred.
When she sees you, she has to exert a great effort to keep from breaking down. She is clearly overwhelmed with emotion. She stares up at you with awe, as if her god has stepped down to earth to face her. Maybe it has.
With a trembling voice, she says, “Welcome, Shaper. I am Learned Pinner. Welcome to my home. Welcome back, at last.”
You acknowledge her greeting with a nod. It’s still more respectful than most of the creations’ words here so far. This is more like the proper awe you expect from serviles. “Why do you have the word ‘Learned’ before your name?” you ask.
“It is a mark of respect for my people. I have been alive for many, many years, and I know much history. I will share it with you if you want. Your kind has been away for very long.”
You decide to take Learned Pinner at her word. “Why is Sucia Island Barred? Why was it abandoned?”
“‘We do not know. Your kind left two centuries behind. They left behind us serviles. They did not tell us why they left. I have an idea though, of where you might get a clue of why the isle was abandoned.”
“Tell me more. Where should I look?”
“To the north of here, there is a large ruin. I think it was once a school, where your kind learned their arts. Such a place would have had a servant mind, and that mind might have been told more of why Sucia was abandoned. Go there and see if you can learn anything from the servant mind. Be careful, though. There are rogue creations in there. If there weren’t, I could have gone and looked myself,” Pinner says.
Part of you suspects that this is either a trap or a way for the Vakkiri serviles to get you to clear out rogues and competitors for you, but your choices are limited. You can simply head east to Pentil, or you can take the time to learn more about why Sucia is a forbidden land and perhaps find more of those canisters.
Learned Pinner watches you carefully, eager to see what she can do to assist you. Sometimes, she looks around the ruins about her, self-conscious about their crumbling condition.
“Why is everyone so in awe of me?” you ask. Even Learned Pinner has that look, despite ostensibly being one of these very independently minded Awakened.
She seems confused. “You are one of our creators. You made us serviles, and you can make us disappear. All we have and are, we owe to you. Your disappearance has been difficult for us, and not all of us know how we should treat you.”
That’s almost gratifying to hear. “Well, it looks like you are doing very well for yourselves here. I have no plans to interfere.” Really, you just want a damned boat.
Learned Pinner looks very pleased. “I am sure many here will be relieved to see it. For some, your arrival has been the cause of fear. In addition to love, of course. You are very kind.” Everyone keeps saying that.
“I have found some very strange artifacts on this island. Do you know anything about them?”
“I think you mean the canisters? The large glass cylinders with the glowing matter inside? I have some of the fragments of them in a back room. They were created by the Shapers here before they left.”
“What are they for?” you ask. “I have never seen one before.” Perhaps you shouldn’t have omitted that, but Learned Pinner’s almost worshipful manner doesn’t change.
“We know that the Shapers made them here on this island. We serviles do not use them. To do so kills us instantly. We tend to fear your Shaper creations. We don’t do anything with them.”
“I have used one. It changed me. It made me more powerful. Are they dangerous?”
“To Shapers?” Learned Pinner shakes her head. “I do not know. I see nothing unusual about you. If you use more of them, I can look at you and see if I see a change.”
Another dead end. And though you know it’s hopeless, you ask her about boats anyway. As expected, Learned Pinner knows nothing about boats. She suggests that you speak to Leader Khobar, and that is the end of that.
“Who lives on this island?”
“We serviles occupy most of this island now. Our history is not an interesting one. We live. We grow our crops. It took many years and many great losses to learn how to live for ourselves. But we managed,” she says. “Lately, though, we have been joined on this isle by many rogue creations. We don’t know where they came from, but they make our lives very difficult and dangerous. Still, we are surviving.”
With Learned Pinner’s blessing, you investigate the rest of the Shaper hall. Pinner has her own modest possessions stashed away in one corner, near a trio of hefty, ancient books chained to equally ancient pedestals.
This is an old Shaper book. The serviles have very reverently placed it here and taken care of it for many years. The mere fact that it belonged to the Shapers makes it incredibly valuable to them.
They must not realize that it is just an old ledger. The records, budgets, and inventories within were probably useless even before the island was abandoned. It doesn’t matter, though. All that matters is that it belonged to the Shapers.
There’s little else here for you, so you leave Learned Pinner behind. Perhaps you will take a look at that abandoned Shaper school. They might have left behind some knowledge that will help you make your way off of Sucia Island. You are supposed to be heading to one such school now… If only.
You stumble upon a sizeable dwelling near the old Shaper hall. You had not thought that the Shapers had made serviles with the capability to be this overweight. Maybe this breed of servile is different. Either way, this servile really fills out her robe. When she bows to you, you notice that she wears gold rings on her fingers and a necklace around her neck. Clearly, some serviles are wealthier than others.
“Welcome, Shaper,” she says. “I am called Dreet of Vakkiri, recently of Pentil.” You wonder if she is an Obeyer.
“You are wealthy?” you ask, looking at her gaudy jewelry. The styles are foreign to you.
“What is wealth? None of us serviles are truly wealthy. All we have is what we can scavenge and what we grow. But, in the sense that l have more goods to trade for things I want, I suppose I am wealthy.”
“What sort of things do you own?” It’s a rude, even presumptuous thing to ask another person, but regardless of her pretenses, Dreet is a servile.
Anyway, she doesn’t seem to mind. She points at the door in the east wall. “Well, there is an artifact back there that we serviles can’t use. It would kill us. But I suspect that it would be useful to you. For three hundred pieces of gold, l would unlock the door for you.”
Three hundred? You have barely half that. You think about demanding that she unlock the door, but… Brodus’s fine sword gleams in your mind’s eye. “I’m not interested,” you say, though you desperately are.
“Fair enough. It’s not going anywhere.” She idly polishes her rings against the lapel of her robe.
You’re ready to change the subject. “You’re from Pentil?”
“Up until recently. Then I came here. I wished to join the Awakened. I was tired of the serviles of Pentil and their Obeyer gibberish. We were made to serve, but we will do so no longer,” Dreet says.
“Tell me about the Obeyers.”
“They believe that you Shapers are their true masters and that, to be happy, they must follow and obey you in all things. I came here to claim fealty to the Awakened. We believe that we must rise and face you Shapers as equals. We know that there is risk in this path, but we also know that it is what we must do.”
“You belong to the Awakened now?” You briefly wonder what changed Dreet’s mind.
“Yes. If you wish to learn more of the Awakened, find Sencia. She can teach you.” Every one of these damned serviles tells you to go talk to another one, as though it’s you and not they who should be trudging around the village.
“You don’t wish to serve. Why are you still called serviles?”
You expected Dreet to be irritated, but she answers with thoughtful sincerity. “It was a difficult decision. It is our name. We did not know whether we should keep it. Finally, we did. It reminds us of who we are and where we came from. But we on this isle? We will not be servants again.”
“That’s all for now. Thank you,” you say. It’s been a long day and your head is starting to throb.
You leave Dreet’s home. Sleeping in one of these patched ruins isn’t very appealing, but neither is sleeping outside in the open. You return to the Shapers’ hall. You will not lower yourself to sleeping in the barracks. Pinner can hardly refuse you the hospitality of a Shaper ruin, and though she’s embarrassed at the place’s condition, she is also overjoyed to host the first Shaper the island has seen in over a hundred years.
The weight of everything you’ve seen and done today hangs over your head, vast and dark. You’ve parleyed with rogue serviles and battled rogue fyora, learned Shaping, battle magic, and healing from strange canisters, and begun to suss out some of the mystery of Sucia Island.
In the morning, you have much more to do. You think you’ll look around that old school for starters…