Discorsi: The Other Strategy Guide Edit
|Author's note: This is an attempt at writing a different and (hopefully) entertaining strategy guide: A fictional dialog and discussion (thus, discorsi) between the protagonist, Scarlett, and a fictional Venetian Citizen, who has his own links to the plot.
Since there are many different ways to play this game (after all, it is a roleplaying game), the decisions that Scarlett makes in this walkthrough lead to the "good" ending. Not all side quests are described. Specific pages on this Wiki (especially for the quests) provide additional detail information.
If you enjoy it, if you find it useful, let me know. Let me know your opinion -- positive or negative, for example in a message, the blog or at the Watercooler.
Part 1: San Pasquale Edit
"Teach me Strategic Skills!"
I was about to mock her, this young girl standing in front of me, dressed in – what? – a nightgown? Possibly, and bloodstained and singed to boot. And, ridiculous enough, a rusty fireplace poker dangling from her belt. Yet there was something tough and demanding in her tone that made me hesitate. She looked like she meant it, a mix of anger and despair. I eyed her more closely –
"You lost somebody last night, right?"
She just nodded, almost teared up. So much for the toughness. But her anguish was real. Maybe, just maybe I should reconsider. Maybe.
"Maybe, girl, but n...”
“Right. Scarlett. But not the way you are dressed. See Tinker snickering behind your back?"
She glanced sideways past me. Tinker turned quickly around. I pressed on:
"Get some comfortable clothes, something that does not tear apart when you swing a blade. And speaking of which, go and pay Brawler a visit. Maybe he has some idea about that ...ahh... weapon you are carrying? Come back when you are done and I'll consider your question again"
She seemed to be staring at a far-away point, then snapped back and, with a curt “goodbye” started to walk away. I called after her,
“Oh, and those assassins you annoyed with your poker yesterday, you sure checked their bodies for anything valuable, yes?”
She briefly turned around, a hint of a smile on her face: “Yes, they had twenty ducats. Had – past tense.”
Next day she was back. She was now wearing a casual dress – not much better for fighting than the tattered nightgown, but at least it wouldn't rip, at least not until the first real fight. She had traded her poker for a wicked-looking, serrated blade. This was good. She must have gotten it from Brawler as an endorsement. Even better.
The demanding and resolute tone again. Time to test how well she understands what she's gotten into.
“Well then. Tell me, what is your first overarching goal? Your first major step?"
“I need to get to Venice.”
No hesitation. Also good. Did she know that the Assassins were still out there?
“Right. And what stands between you and Venice?”
“I need to find some.. some...” – I nodded at her encouragingly – “some mythical weapon. Something called a Moonblade.”
Yes, she was aware of the dangers: “You know about the monsters in the gorge, then. They say those cannot be killed with any weapon. But you know that you can kill them – with the Moonblade.”
A long pause, long hesitation. I repeated my question: “What else stands between you and Venice?”
She was deep in thought, and I believe I heard her mutter, “Death did not mention anything”.
“Oh, nothing... Honestly, I don't know”.
“Now, this should be obvious. You can bet the Assassins came from Venice. Clearly, they are patrolling the road. They'll be looking for you.”
I pressed on, “So, let's look at the strategic situation. The road to Venice starts right here, next to the Smithy and just below the old, abandoned entrance to the mines. This is natural for a trade route. If you follow the road, it merges with the path from the lower village entrance at a crossroads. The path continues to the left past some ruins and into the high mountains. The crossroads is a good place for an ambush, as you can see, because you have to pass this point from either village exit.”
She nodded, asking me to go on.
“The path continues south, then curves east to the Gorge. At that corner, you have the stairs that descend into Ivy Creek and lead to the active mine entrance. This is where you need to go to find clues about the Moonblade. Be assured, you'll also find some Assassins there.”
“Do you know what has happened in the mine?”
“No, nobody told me. Mattheo mentioned that the miners could give me information.”
“Don't bet on it. The Assassins would have shut down the mine to prevent anybody from hiding in there. Who knows what roams in there now? Would you be confident to take on any brute or beast in there?”
She shook her head, downcast, looking forlorn again.
“You say no? Good for you, because this means you'll live longer than any of us would have expected. Now... let's return to the strategy. What you need most importantly is experience. Nothing gives you experience as consistently as beating up an Assassin or two. With enough experience – you can measure your experience in points – you may learn new skills, and your fighting becomes stronger. For our village, as you saw yesterday, only a dead Assassin is a good Assassin, and beating one gives you 25 points of experience. With luck, you might even find Leon. With the additional 200 points of experience for rescuing Leon, you may actually reach a new level. Each time you reach a new level, you can go to Brawler and learn new fighting skills.”
There was another long pause, while she contemplated what I told her. After a while, she nodded ever so slightly, so I went on: “You need to be as well-prepared for Venice as you can. This means as much experience as you can get. Also, a better weapon. Armor, if you can get it. And money, of course. Probably lots of it. We need to talk about this part of your strategy once you are a bit more advanced.” I paused for effect.
"While you are down at Ivy Creek, see if you can find anything useful. Pick up copper ore, you can trade it. Also pick any mushrooms as they usually have some healing power.
“Well then, let's put you to the test. Go down the road to Venice. Any foes you encounter, take them on, but only one by one, and never, ever, let them encircle you – this would be a mistake you make only once.”
Now she actually looked at me with a triumphant grin, almost as if death did not apply to her.
“Oh, right. You only live twice, I guess. Don't become overconfident – if you really are in trouble, I'd rather like you to break off and return to the village. The guards at the village entrance will help you, and you can tend to your wounds and live to fight another day. Now go. Return if you reached a new level. Or if too much trouble found you.”
A bit of her angry expression returned as she drew her blade and walked past the bridge onto the road to Venice.
* * *
Not long after that, I heard an agonized scream – did she fail her first test? Did she run in to the trap set by the Petrono Brothers? It sounded bad. I thought about going after her, but even while I contemplated it, the Petronos appeared, their faces greenish-white, their bodies shaking with shock and fear, as if they had seen a ghost. They disappeared past the village, and I think nobody ever saw them again.
Evidently, Scarlett passed her first test.
Later, I thought I heard the clanging of metal hitting metal.
Much later, it was almost dark by now, Scarlett returned, her half-brother Leon in tow. Leon looked fuming mad. But why actually? He was unhurt, while Scarlett had several cuts and bruises, blood oozing from some of them. Her dress, amazingly, fared better. It probably needed only a few stitches. She smiled proudly and showed me her experience points. Level 2, all right.
“Scarlett, great work. Now, get some rest and tend to your scratches. See you tomorrow, and we'll discuss what training you need.”
* * *
Next morning, she appeared early at the village center. The sun had not yet risen. Scarlett looked much better than yesterday. Her wounds seemed to have healed, and her dress was mended. She looked like was eager to learn, and I started right away.
“Today, you'll have to make some important decisions. Decisions that you can't undo. You will have to brave the copper mine, nothing is going to change that. However, you can prepare yourself better for whatever lurks in the mines.”
She interrupted me: “What makes you so sure there is something in the mines?”
“Have you heard the term horror vacui? Nature abhors the vacuum, the emptiness. Mines are dark places, they attract evil. When the Assassins have left the mine, something else – and worse – will have crept in to fill the emptiness. So be prepared.” Again, I looked at her sternly to let that sink in.
“Now, the Assassins are dumb brutes. They rely on their intimidating looks to drive fear into their victims before they strike. This makes theirs an easy job, but anybody not easily intimidated has a fair chance against them. However, they always have a hideout somewhere: A place that serves as their headquarters, a place where you find their leader. This is usually a Dervish Master, and he has real fighting skills. He is also better equipped. If you dot the Master on the head with your blade, he might be willing to part with his blade and armor. And I'd take any bet that it's the ancient ruins where they hide.”
“All right, so what is that decision I need to make?”
“Isn't that obvious? You can venture into the mines now, or you can try to smoke out their headquarters first. The latter option is dangerous as you have to face a Master Assassin with his bodyguards, but if you win that fight, you get your first armor and likely a better blade. You also reach a new experience level and can improve your fighting skills. So these are your choices: Go down to Ivy Creek. Find out about the Moonblade. Search the copper mine. If you intend do that, you should first consider talking to Lilia about that Imperial Sword of hers, it is a bit stronger that the Assassin's blade you have.”
“And the alternative?”
“I suspect the Assassin's lair is in the old ruins east of the village where you get from the first crossroads. Go there and pick off the canheads one by one, then convince their leader to part with his possessions – this won't be easy with your current strength, but if you prevail, you'll have armor and a blade that is even better than the Imperial Sword. Let Mattheo customize your armor – you should have enough ducats for that, since you don't need to buy the Imperial Sword. After that, you'll have armor, which makes your survival in the mines much more likely.”
She didn't speak for a long time. Probably pondering the alternatives. Sword or armor? Brute or beasts? Finally, she looked up, but I still had more to impart.
“Wait. Another thing. You need to see Brawler, because you now have the experience to learn new fighting skills. And you need to decide what to learn.”
“Brawler trains the guards. Yet this is only a small village, and Brawler's knowledge is limited. He can teach you how to chain more sword moves or how to block. Or, he can teach you how to gut beasts. I suspect that beast knowledge comes in handy in the mines as it translates directly into ducats. On the other hand, that skill does not increase your strength. Whether you prefer sword mastery or blocking skills depends purely on your fighting preferences. Right now, you can only choose two skills. Go now, visit Brawler, but come back as I need to tell you one last thing.”
With her curt trademark “goodbye”, she took off. However, it didn't take long and she was back, smiling. Apparently, her encounter with Brawler went well. I was curious: “So what did you choose?”
“Sword mastery. I'll go for the Assassins lair. He showed me how I can hammer those guys with chains of sword moves.”
“Ah, so you know about that now. When you attack, the enemy is stunned for a moment, and this gives you time to drive home another strike. Of course, when the enemy hits you, you will be paralyzed and slow to retaliate, and the enemy can hit you again. Very unhealthy. Anyway, this is your decision. Now... about that last piece of advice. With your new level, you also have three attribute points that you can use to enhance your strength, health, or mental power. At this stage of your journey, you have no use for mental power. In fact, it will be some time before you can learn your first mental skills. I suggest you use those points to give more power to your strikes.”
What difference one night could make. She looked more confident. Stronger. More self-assured. She nodded to me, “I'll return with that armor”, and left the village.
* * *
And so she did. It was already dark when she returned. She walked straight up to me and smiled, “Your advice was good. I lured them down the stairs, one by one, then duelled them at the crossroads where I had enough space to move around. The last was the Dervish master. He was so absorbed by ranting about his Assassins' failures that he didn't notice his audience thinning. And I got this.”
She pulled a shapeless bundle of leather pieces from the cloth bag she was carrying. “Mattheo demands 500 ducats. This is an outrage, but he does this for a living, of course. I think that I have enough ore and even some valuables from the Assassins that I can trade to scrape together those ducats. I need to wait for Lilia, though. Well, I'd better get some rest.”
With that, she started up the hill to the remains of her old home. After a few steps, she turned around with a wide smile, “Oh, and I am at level three now. Brawler will be delighted.”
“So am I... so am I.”
* * *
The next morning, she was busy with preparations. I saw her occasionally talking with Lilia or Mattheo. Late morning, she disappeared. I suspect that she received training in fighting techniques from Brawler and left the village via the lower exit. Later this afternoon Don and Nesto arrived at the village, Nesto smiling from ear to ear as if he had won the lottery. Nesto held up a scroll. “See here, my dear uncle just left me his forest hut. Luck is on my side again."
“How so?”, I replied, “yesterday it looked as if you two were trying to get into a major fight over it. Did you just give up, Don?”
“No. Well, it's this girl. She came down to the hut and helped us find the will. Mysterious person, if you ask me. Even more with her armor and sword... So I tested her fighting skills. She was good, even picked up some tricks real fast when I showed her how to dodge and roll. I haven't seen her since, though, although we all agreed to travel to Venice together.”
Nesto added, “don't forget that unusual scythe she found in the basement. Real strange blade. Even stranger, it was mentioned in the will, as if uncle Tarka knew she'd be one day searching for it.”
“She might have scouted out the mines – she went in that direction. In either case, she wanted to show the blade to Mattheo, because it looked somewhat worn. She'll show up sooner or later”
“Unless”, interjected Nesto, “she gets in trouble in the mines.”
I couldn't keep my curiosity: “What about the mines? Are they really shut down?”
“Yes. The Assassins killed some of the workers, the others managed to flee. When the mine tunnels were empty, the delvers claimed them as their territory.”
“Delvers," spat Nesto, "I wouldn't go in there if my life depended on it... Not that the outcome would be any different.”
* * *
Scarlett returned the following day, dragging a bundle of delver skins behind her. Clearly, she learned Beast Knowledge from Brawler at some point. While Mattheo was working on repairing the Moonblade, Scarlett brought me up to date.
“Your advice was good. Brute or beast, never let more than one attack. With chained sword moves, I was able to kill a delver in three strikes. There was one miner left, he thanked me for clearing the mines and even gave me a lamp, which I had originally planned to buy from Lilia. I am at Experience Level 5, which is probably about as high as I get with the quests in San Pasquale. And most importantly, I found the ore needed to repair the blade.”
I had the impression that she was not telling me the whole story. “The ore – how?”
“Well, it was strange. Almost like I entered another world. I found that I can go there at will. Actually, I discovered two rooms here in the village that I can only enter with the passage into this … twilight world.” She pointed in the direction of the ruined church.
The next day, Mattheo had the Moonblade ready. He did not charge any money for the repair, because doing so, he said, would be inviting bad luck. Eventually, Scarlett, Don and Nesto were ready for the trip to Venice, and it was time to say good-bye.
“So, Scarlett. Your first trip out of the Mountains. But you have grown stronger. Remember, there will be more Assassins on the way. Expect an ambush or two, so be careful. Also, keep in mind that the gorge is not passable – people died there, but your Moonblade will make all the difference.”
As the three moved out of the village, Scarlett turned around a final time to give me a wave.
“Scarlett, good luck. I'll catch up with you in Venice, maybe I'll even run into you at the Windmill Tavern, depending on how long you stay there. Maybe I can give you some more advice – if you still need it, that is."
* * *
Continued in Part 2 -- Southern Shore