Raiders of the Lost Yolk!
You arrive at the side of the road, where Valencia, Grumbugly and Truffle await.
Valencia: Well, if it isn't <<You>>! What brings you out of your busy schedule and into my corner of town?
<<You>>: About a half dozen identical letters with the most menacing use of little hearts that I've ever seen.
Valencia: You can't argue with style. And it got you here! Now then, about that ruin I found a lead on. I'll have to handle rewarding-
<<You>> (Simultaneously): I'm in.
Valencia (Simultaneously): -you myself, because... Wait, you are? Just like that?
<<You>>: Last year, you told me all about why Grenwog is so special to you. And if you think you've found THE temple that your parents' excavation was meant to unearth, of course I'm helping you.
<<You>>: But there are some details I'm curious about. This is more expedition than treasure hunt material. So wouldn't you need a major excavation team, and more time to prepare?
Valencia: It's true, the Temple of the Covenant is huge and so ancient that it may be in need of a full crew's careful touch. This thing is older than the K'elds, after all.
Valencia: But I have a lot of reasons to want to rush over and have the first look myself. The shifting forests uncovered the suspected area very... noisily. Others might be on the way too.
Valencia: There's also at least one record from another civilization of that time about a fortress-monastery "nursing a living artifact of boundless potential".
<<You>>: ...Ah. And we don't want anyone to get their hands on that until we know exactly what it is. Anything else?
Valencia: I maaaay have been buying up the supply of genuine golden egg relics from the Taurisian civilization while they were dirt cheap, so this is a chance to secure the last source of supply and start selling dear.
<<You>>: ...I don't know if I should feel like we got back to our comfort zone, or we're at risk of getting back to the egg puns, so let's just supply up and get going.
Valencia and the player character enter the nocturnal forest scene.
Valencia: Not good. We've made a lot of headway very fast, but the amount of trails we've run into suggest a lot of traffic.
<<You>>: And the way the forest has been for some time now, maybe there were more trails that already got covered up. That suggests these tracks are recent - But they all end around here.
Valencia: What if the forest patches up from its depths and outward instead of evenly, though?
<<You>>: ...I didn't think of that. There's nothing to say it's not getting better at misdirection, and that would be the better way to cover up.
Valencia: Have you got enough steam left in you to push through the night?
<<You>>: I adventure by trade, I'm used to running on life-threateningly low amounts of sleep. It helps to sell the dunce act. A little too well sometimes.
Valencia: ...Maybe a short rest first, then. I don't want you too tired to handle delicate relics.
<<You>>: You just don't want me to find out if you snore.
Valencia: Keep teasing and I'll have to reconsider it having to be you that comes along for this.
<<You>>: Wait, it had to be me specifically? I thought it was because of last year, or because I was around town.
Valencia: Oh, look who's all eggscited now.
<<You>>: ...If I say I'm sorry, will you tell me instead of giving me the pun treatment?
Valencia: It's alright, I'm joking too. But the thing is - it's not just the temple itself that's special for me. The reason why I'm making the expedition in the first place... It was only right for it to be you.
<<You>>: Why is that?
Valencia: Clean slates.
Valencia: You've been called the hero of Battleon before all this divine business got you the "Chosen" title, but you always fought for everyone.
Valencia: And I don't know if you ever wavered, or how hard it's been to keep that up. I don't even know to what degree you really mean it
<<You>>: I don't-
Valencia: And I don't care. You are what you do. But you've met people who DID waver. Who completely lost their way and ruined legacies, lives... And you helped them turn around.
Valencia: So you could do that for the world's worst enemies. Will you do it for a friend?
<<You>>: Any time.
Valencia: Back when the Devourer approached, it was no secret that you had your own ambitions. Whether it was power, cruelty, or just having your own way of doing things that came before anyone's needs...
Valencia: ...I still don't know, to be honest. And I don't care. You are what you do, and your deeds speak for themselves nowadays.
<<You>>: And my turning of a new page is what makes me ideal for this mission?
Valencia: It's your skills that make you ideal for it. But for coming with me... Yes, it's just that. See, even if you were like that... You still fought for the world's survival.
Valencia: You had your priorities straight - Or at the very least, you were keeping things sustainable. You put yourself first, but had SOME limits. And I feel like that's where I am right now.
Valencia: I can't put my finger on what your turning point was, but I want this to be mine. And with you around, I'm sure I can do this right.
<<You>>: ...I had no idea that this was the real value of this expedition for you. You can count on me.
Valencia: You've been an interesting hero since long before this divine business had you start to get called the Chosen. But it's the way you were when your name started getting out there that's relevant.
<<You>>: I wouldn't say I've changed that much, but I've definitely grown over the years.
Valencia: You fought the Network wherever they struck, but it was more like you fought for anyone than fighting for everyone. In the good way, that is.
Valencia: You had your own way, and you understood that everyone else had theirs. You understood that to give your best, you have to BE at your best first.
<<You>>: It was a little... messier than that, but that's the gist of it.
Valencia: It was positively chaotic, if you don't mind being on the nose about it. But looking back, it was inspiring too.
Valencia: Just going on an adventure on a whim showed me there's so much more that I could be doing, that I LIKED doing, before I got so caught up in staying competitive as a businesswoman.
Valencia: Not that I can't handle it, I'm one of the best at what I do. And I do help out when I'm needed. But the thing is <<You>>... I'm not at my best right now.
Valencia: So if I want to start giving my best... I'd say you're the most useful example. So, what do you say?
<<You>>: I say you can count on me any time, Valencia.
Valencia: Maybe it's a difficult subject, or maybe you're over it, but it's definitely a complicated one. You'd done a fair amount of good even back then, but when the Network came...
<<You>>: ...Ah. That's what you were getting at.
Valencia: Yeah. You fought like they did. Heck, you even fought WITH them when the Devourer was almost here. A lot of us didn't know if you'd lost your way, if those were your true colors all along, or... worse.
<<You>>: I'm not particularly proud of those days, Valencia. But I also can't justify pretending I learned nothing during that time. I certainly learned FROM it.
Valencia: That's it! That's exactly why I need you here, <<You>>. I have pride as a businesswoman, but when I realize that I'm looking back at my dreams and not forward to them...
Valencia: ...Then I can't very well be proud of the time I've been going through, can I? And I want to, lords do I want to.
Valencia: Last year, just going on an adventure for the good of it made me think that I can change and still be true to myself.
Valencia: That maybe I *am* good enough to pull that off. That it's not because I'm not good enough that... Things didn't really work out for us Surehunters.
<<You>>: If what you're looking for is a second chance, Valencia... You don't have to compare yourself to my past to judge your worth, or your ability to pull it off.
<<You>>: Even if you THINK you're that bad... I have met far worse people than I ever was, people everyone thought could never be forgiven.
<<You>>: And even though changing doesn't undo all the harm, and doesn't give you some magical pass for forgiveness... They still managed it.
Valencia: Don't erase your own part in it. From what I gather, your example was very important. You HELPED people turn a new leaf, whether you realize it or not.
Valencia: So after helping former enemies, whether on purpose or not, turn a new leaf... How about doing it for a friend?
<<You>>: Valencia... Yeah. Any time.
Neutral on one or both:
Valencia: People thought very differently of you leading up to the Devourer's coming. Actually, everyone thought something different. It was very hard to tell where you stood sometimes.
Valencia: But it's not that you were doing nothing - you were doing your own thing, and a lot of good came of it most of the time.
<<You>>: It was very early in my career, for lack of a better word. I guess people didn't know me very well yet, or I hadn't had time to make a lasting impression.
<<You>>: I didn't have a solid path ahead of me, but I did have my own way of doing things. I didn't fit a quick mold.
Valencia: I wouldn't say you do now, as convenient as it is to just call you a hero and be done with it. But the relevant part is that you didn't stay there forever. You didn't carve out a niche and stay there.
Valencia: But... I'm afraid I did. I do love treasure hunting, but some time after the family broke apart, I got... comfortable.
<<You>>: ...That sounds rather unlike you.
Valencia: You'd think that, wouldn't you? I sure did. Yet somewhere along the way, I got the whole 'turning my passion into my business' backwards.
Valencia: And realizing that has left me looking back at my dreams, not looking forward to them... You could say I don't have a solid path ahead of me.
<<You>>: Oh... Valencia, I didn't know it was troubling you that much.
Valencia: And neither did I. Life's better when you're having fun, so it didn't matter as long as I was smiling. But if I pull this off, I'll have plenty of reasons to smile for real.
Valencia: So, what do you say? Care to come along while I try to pull a <<You>> and clear a new path?
<<You>>: Well, I can't very well turn around and walk all the way back now... But you bet, Valencia.
Regular dialogue continues:
Valencia: You're the best, you know. Now, don't go expecting me to magically turn into some great and charitable hero overnight.
Valencia: I do get that some things are delicate enough to belong on an exhibition, and maybe some remnants of history *are* invaluable... But I'm a treasure hunter by trade.
Valencia: And that's not changing. I'm not about to let Zephyros guilt me into sticking everything in a museum.
Valencia: But I've been needing a fresh start, to do what I love AND run a business, not only do what I love for the sake of business.
<<You>>: It's your life and your choice, Valencia. It wouldn't be right to expect you to be anything but yourself at the end of this. Now let's rest up for the last stretch.
The scene changes to the exterior of a fortified but now worn down temple, with parts of the stonework looking clearer and newer than the others. Despite the structure itself being overgrown, the surrounding earth has very dry soil.
Two battles against Dryads, followed by a two undead battles, fully healing every second battle. All undead enemies outside the temple have the Restless Soul effect (-END, +Init, +MRM), with the following description:
Something is affecting this minion's spirit, weakening its control but driving it into a mad rush!
An armored skeleton stands to the right side of the screen, watching over the opposite direction as Valencia knocks its skull off with a thrown dagger. The Chosen then enters the scene.
Valencia: Huh. I guess it was distracted. It usually takes a lot more punishment than that.
<<You>>: Undead fighting dryads... That's new. And there are an awful lot of both around here.
Valencia: It doesn't look like the Dryads are fighting them OFF, exactly, it's like the undead are swarming this place.
<<You>>: They're certainly not doing a very good job of it... Especially without any trees to get in the way.
<<You>>: You'd think they'd be less clumsy out in the open - it looks like every tree just uprooted and moved away.
A Dryad enters.
Dryad: That is precisely what has occurred. The forest has taken all that it needed from this place in order to recover. To draw on it further would be pointless excess.
<<You>>: What exactly has the forest taken?
Valencia: ...The Covenant. The legends were more literal than I assumed, then.
Dryad: Anima blossoms when it grows close enough to draw on this place. Once the forest began to live and dream, the remnant in turn began to soothe its pain.
Dryad: But we no longer require its power, and our withdrawal was exploited by those who crave it.
<<You>>: The living artifact you were talking about, then. Someone else must've had a good idea of how potent it was.
Valencia: The Covenant doesn't seem like something the shadier necromancers would be interested in, though. Just being near its temple seems like it's slowly taking their minions apart.
If the player's active class is Necromancer:
<<You>>: Someone could still learn a lot about spiritual restoration and empowerment from something like this. But more hostile peers...
<<You>>: Strengthening a creature before turning it, or just reverse engineering the enchantment, would be very appealing for them.
If the player's active class is Paladin:
<<You>>: I've met more and more non-hostile Necromancers over time, but the ones that DO need to be brought to justice would still be very interested in this.
<<You>>: Just getting rid of something that disrupts their minions would deny their enemies an important asset - or they could use it against rivals.
<<You>>: It's still better not to underestimate the creativity of someone determined to do harm.
<<You>>: Especially when I imagine many are still desperate to find shortcuts to recovering their lost power and prominence.
<<You>>: Although if it's someone like that, I'm curious about how they could be animating minions en masse.
<<You>>: If the dryads can keep fighting the minions so that they won't swarm in behind us, we should go in before they do too much damage.
Dryad: The forest does not need to assist you, but your enemies could eventually harm its creatures if left unchecked. I can convince my sisters to interfere with this blight.
Valencia: You lot seemed one-track, but you really aren't so single-minded after all. Alright, thank you. Let's go, <<You>>.
The scene changes to a temple hallway with clearer panels in the background walls, engraved with ideograms and an egg shape. Two undead battles ensue, followed by a full heal.
Starting from this scene transition, all undead enemies in the temple interior have the Disrupted Anima effect (-END, -BtH, increased outgoing damage), with the following description:
The temple's interior is interfering with this minion's manipulation, making it lash out desperately!
Valencia and the Chosen are talking in front of the inscribed wall.
Valencia: It looks like some of the weaker minions didn't even make it this far. Good, that'll make for fewer enemy reinforcements... And they haven't managed to damage the ritual walls!
Valencia walks up to the inscriptions.
<<You>>: You can read these?
Valencia: Not all of it, but I've studied enough to try and figure out what I don't get.
Valencia: Before one of the first elemental wars cut off records of their history, the Taurisians were at the end of an age.
Valencia: They were notorious fortress builders in spite of having very little territory, and called themselves guardians of dangerous magics.
Valencia: They were transitioning away from ideograms, but this is earlier than that. They still used the same symbol for 'Death' and 'Zero'...
Valencia: Actually, they had a very mathematical approach to life and the soul. They classified life according to what "Direction" it moved away from death.
<<You>>: That makes some sense. Paladins and Necromancers were starting to use similar concepts some time after the ley line broke.
Valencia: How very ahead of their time. They were also definitely more than just hoarders. It says here that they were specifically guarding their secrets while... Oof, this is tricky.
Valencia: Something about being... adopted? Joined? Part of something greater, but it doesn't carry any implication of being subsumed.
Valencia: And we had the name of this place wrong, too. It's more of a fortress than a temple - And it doesn't have a name of its own, it takes on that of the secret it guards.
Valencia: In this case, the Covenant of Boundless Life.
<<You>>: That does explain the confusion, though. With a name like that, defensive rituals, and such a peculiar form of seclusion, it makes sense for other civilizations to assume this is a temple.
Valencia: You're not so bad at this yourself, you know. I wish there was time to take a rubbing of this wall, but we have to move on.
The scene changes to a different stretch of the hallway with clearer-looking wall tiles bearing tube openings. A slightly darker tile stands out on the floor. After two more undead battles, the Chosen enters and walks over the tile.
DEX Check: ...Did you just feel your feet sink?
On success, you evade as large bolts shoot from past the Chosen. On failure, you take two hits with Earth and Harm damage respectively.
Two more undead battles take place in a stretch of the hallway with a slightly sunken area. After a full heal, Valencia and the Chosen enter.
Valencia: Something doesn't make sense. There isn't a single mention of Taurisians being trappers. A lot of these trapped areas cut off the historical records and defensive ritual instructions, too.
<<You>>: The stone looks different, too. It's all very worn down, but... Huh. If something went wrong and the natives left this place, maybe someone showed up later and dug up the space to add traps.
Valencia: Looking at some of these skeletons... The ones that still had flesh when they walked in, I mean, whoever did that sure got what they wanted.
Valencia: They kept people away for CENTURIES.
<<You>>: Still, that means the traps themselves are so old that the already broken space they filled in can't be very stable. We'll have to watch ... our...
Valencia: Uh oh.
A trap door opens in the darker floor under the Chosen, and the screen darkens..
An Earth impact sound plays, transitioning to a more worn down chamber with overgrowing roots.
<<You>>: Oof. That felt like falling on a giant pile of rotten noodles...
<<You>>: ...Hey, Valencia?
Valencia: Are you alright down there?
<<You>>: That depends. You said this is centuries old, right?
Valencia: For the sake of brevity, but yes. It's an understatement, this is actually-
<<You>>: Good! Good. So if I were to, say, fall on a pile of sneaks, there's no way they would be anything but long dead and dried up.
Valencia: Well... Yes. They kind of need to eat and breathe. But...
Valencia: We ARE chasing necromancers.
Two battles against Undead Sneak. Full heal afterwards.
At a dead end, a pedestal holds a large golden egg with an inscribed shell. Two strangers in Mysterious Necromancer robes, wearing gloves and a partial skull mask, stand by the right side wall, guarded by one minion.
Stranger: This must be it. I can't sense it through the golden shell, but I can barely infuse the resonant shadow into servants that fall apart here.
Stranger: We can study it at the archives, let's not linger here.
Valencia and the Chosen enter.
Stranger: The Chosen, too - Get that thing and run!
The skeletal minion hops on the pedestal, lifting the idol.
<<You>>: ...Er. Gold is a lot heavier than-
Valencia: Wait, no! That's probably trapped!
The idol rolls out of the skeleton's hands as the pedestal sends it flying.
Valencia: Uh oh.
Stranger: Wait, what?
The right end wall falls apart on top of the strangers.
Valencia: Watch out, <<You>>!
Multiple choice stat roll:: Something huge is tumbling toward you! Make a quick decision and play to your strengths!
STR roll. On success, the egg boulder stops. On failure, it rolls over the Chosen, dealing heavy damage and applying Daze.
DEX roll. On success, the egg boulder rolls past. On failure, it rolls over the Chosen, dealing heavy damage and applying Daze.
INT roll. On success, the egg boulder rolls past. On failure, it rolls over the Chosen, dealing heavy damage and applying Daze.
END roll. On success, the egg boulder stops. On failure, it rolls over the Chosen, dealing heavy damage and applying Daze.
CHA roll. On failure, the boulder hits the chosen for heavy damage and Daze. On success, play the following lines at the same time as the boulder stops:
<<You>>: STOP RIGHT THERE, MINERAL SCUM!
Valencia: ...Did that seriously just work, or is it stuck in the rubble?
<<You>>: Don't you dare ruin this for me.
Nah. I'm fine.
LUK roll. On success, the egg boulder rolls past. On failure, it rolls over the Chosen, dealing heavy damage and applying Daze.
Regardless of choice and outcome, close the scene with the next two lines:
Valencia: Yikes. Are you alright?
<<You>>: I'll be fine. Let's keep looking - This is nowhere near secure enough to be the real deal, and it was clearly one of the added traps.
Valencia: I am so coming back for this egg later.
Back in the temple hallway scenes, face four battles against ghost type and Darkness aligned undead.
The scene changes to a larger chamber. A large shrine formed out of roots, surrounded by livelier vegetation than the roots and moss, surrounds a much larger version of the golden egg idol. Four Strangers stand to its right, overlooking the artifact. One speaks:
Stranger: Too delicate, but so potent... The enchantment is definitely inscribed upon the shell itself, although somehow from *within*.
Stranger: That makes the container very valuable as well. If we can apply its base principle to subversion through resonance... Oh, but whatever it holds could make up for the loss of traditional fleshcraft.
Valencia and the Chosen enter.
Valencia: Hold it there, you ridiculous cultists! I don't care what plans you have for it, but that is an invaluable relic!
<<You>>: Wow, I did not see that coming.
Valencia: I know! Me either! I can really do this!
Stranger: ...Valencia Surehunter, have you gone soft? I'd have expected that opener, and perhaps a speech about history, from your rivals. Not from you.
Valencia: Soft? I HAD gone soft. But I've got a whole future to reclaim, a lot of history to rediscover, and a grand total of NO patience for any possibility that you might ruin this for me.
Stranger: Oh, but you'll find that we are fonder of history than you are. Devoted to it, even. We raise history itself and plumb its secrets directly, finding things you wouldn't dare touch...
<<You>>: Don't sit through the big, impractical speeches. They're not casting, but there's got to be something they're buying time for. Maybe they haven't figured out what to cast yet.
Stranger: For a mundane example: Friends, remember that pressure plate I told you to avoid on your way in? Someone kindly hit it.
One of the necromancers shoots a dark bolt the floor by Valencia and the Chosen, causing rumbling.
<<You>>: I'm beginning to develop an allergy to ominous rumbling.
A giant stone grenwog enters the scene at high speed, charging the Chosen.
BOSS FIGHT: Covenant Guardian
<<You>>: I could've sworn the Grenwog hadn't even been around that long.
Valencia: Now to give the boot to Tweedle-dee through Tweedle-Dumbest.
<<You>>: ...Been spending time at the Isle d'Oriens library?
Valencia: It'll be our secret.
Stranger: That wasn't enough time- Forget the shell, we'll have to settle for denying it to our foes! Seize the artifact!
<<You>>: As if I'm letting you open-
The talking necromancer casts a spell on the egg, blasting off the entire upper half. The interior looks pale green and rotten, radiating roiling green lines.
Stranger: Take it and run!
Valencia covers her mouth.
Valencia: ...<<You>>, cover your face. Don't breathe.
A green cloud emanates from the broken egg, engulfing the ritualists.
Stranger: ...Not like this...
All four ritualists fall over. The cloud wafts over Valencia and the Chosen before fading away.
Valencia: HA! I knew it. All of those traps kept people away for centuries, which meant nobody ever opened the artifact's shell.
Valencia So this 'living' artifact must have long since rotted away, but with a magical shell having such a potent effect on what they called positive life...
Valencia: I admit I wasn't completely sure, but... whew, good thing we covered up. Anyways... It's a crying shame about the shell, but we just had SUCH an adventure!
Valencia: There's a business side to it, but everything I studied paid off, and we're about to uncover so much lost history... This place could lead us to other huge findings!
Valencia: I'm so glad you stuck by my side for this, I don't know if I'd have trusted myself to do it without... Uh, <<You>>? You're awfully quiet. Are you okay?
<<You>>: ...I accidentally inhaled just a little of that and now I'm afraid that if I ever take another breath again, my stomach is going to fly away and I'll die for good. Wake me up when I have a nose again.
Fade to black as the death animation begins to play.
Valencia: ...<<You>>? <<You>>! Oh dear.