Golems Gone Wild
|«Shades of Shatotto|
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Ah, Forename. Good. For better or for worse, it would seem Shatotto is still enjoying herself a peaceful slumber. In the meantime, my study of the Books of Nald'thal has proven rather enlightening.
In particular, I was surprised to learn that while the statue in Nald's Reflection is a relatively recent construction─in historical terms, of course─the goblet it holds in its hands is quite ancient. It would appear that it was within that vessel Mistress Shatotto's soul was sealed away.
Master's record goes on to state that the inner surface of the goblet is inscribed with a message in the glyphs of ancient Mhach. It reads─ah yes, here it is.
“The power of destruction did rend the baleful star, and peace doth reign near and afar. Yet twenty-three centuries hence shall it come anew, and certain doom is sure to ensue.” A prophecy of sorts, it would seem.
It has been roughly twenty-three hundred years since Shatotto founded black magic, which means it is entirely possible she herself left the inscription. But whatever sort of doom could the prophecy be referring to? I fear it is all rather cryptic...
Lalai! And Forename as well! I would speak with the both of you at once.
...Ahem. While I would like nothing more than to catch up on old times, I come bearing grave tidings. My friends, pray lend me your aid.
Well, if it isn't our favorite goobbue-headed Hearer. I would have thought the seventh hell would freeze over before you cast your lot with purveyors of destruction. What have we done to deserve the honor of your groveling?
This is no time for jest, Lalai! The situation is most dire. Why, a veritable horde of crazed golems has burst forth from the Lost City, and is wreaking havoc on the Twelveswood even as we speak!
Whatever foul sorcery led them to abandon their orders and run rampant, we cannot say. But one thing is certain: if we do not deal with them─and do so swiftly─there is no telling what damage they might inflict upon our forest home.
That does sound like cause for concern. Very well. I suppose it would not kill us to put the matter of Shatotto aside for the moment and...hm?
...Wait, no! Not now! Unggghhhhhh...!
I say, how can the girl think straight with this ungodsly fool's cap weighing her down? Or perhaps she can't, and that is why─but of course, it all makes perfect sense!
Oh, hello there. Did you miss me and my prodigious intellect? Of course you did! Now, look—we haven't much time, so do try to keep pace.
This surge of aether! Just who─or what─are you?
Yes, yes, I'm sure there's so much you'd like to know. But where would that get us? I've already heard all I need to know through the girl's ears. We are needed in the South Shroud, yes? Rampaging golems, was it?
Er, indeed... I have tasked a Wailer named Alphene with looking into the matter. With any luck, he has gleaned some knowledge which might avail us in plotting a suitable course of action.
Alphene. South Shroud. Yes, I believe the great Shatotto has all she needs. Well, come now, no point in standing around like gawping goobbues when there's work to be done, right? Right!
Shatotto...? Forename. I am most grateful for your aid, do not get me wrong. But if there is anything that you and Lalai have been keeping from me, mark my words─I will hear of it in full when our task is done.
Ah, it's so much easier to think without that excess bulk weighing on my brain. For the life of me, I'll never understand people's obsession with extravagant headgear.
The sheer aetheric energy I feel exuding from the girl is nothing short of astounding. Could it be that cap was reining in her true power all this time?
Welcome, friends. You come seeking news of the golems, yes? Would that I had any to give─I fear not a single one of the creatures has manifested itself before mine eyes.
So you say, my good man, but it is possible that you do not see the trees for the forest? Sometimes that which we seek is right before us, and we need only attune our vision...
Why, is it just me, or do I spy a number of curious stone structures peeking out from the brush? Yes, I have an inkling that our foe may be hiding in plain sight.
But just how is one to distinguish living stone from the more ordinary type? Why, I do believe the former would take far less kindly to being scorched with a burst of hellsfire. So, the plan is clear, yes? Let's get blasting!
If I understand the woman correctly, the golems have disguised themselves as ordinary stone─and she means to unmask them by haphazardly incinerating every rock in the woods. Well, I suppose 'tis as good a plan as any...
There is a calmness in the air─yes, I do believe the danger has passed. I thank you, friend.
Is our friend quite well? I only saw her from afar, but it was as if the girl took some perverse pleasure in causing as much destruction as she could muster.
That was fun, wasn't it? Now, while I'm not wont to repeat myself, it seems I should make an exception for the slower members of our band. You have the privilege of standing before the archmage Shatotto─or rather, a memory of the same which has awakened after years of slumber to rescue your realm from a fate most dire.
Slower...? Ahem! Lady Shatotto─if that is truly who you are─I cannot deny your arcane prowess. And yet there is much about this matter that does not sit well with me. Pray explain yourself, what is this dire fate of which you speak?
Oh dear, you really aren't very smart. Very well, I shall begin from the very─er, beginning. Dear me, did I almost rhyme? Who does that, anyway? Anyhow, the tale begins some two millennia ago, when the great civilization of Mhach was still in its infancy.
Our scholars ascertained that a mighty comet─awash with unspeakable aetherial energy─was on course to strike our fair home and reduce it to so much rubble. And so I thought to rectify the situation the only way I knew how─by blasting the foul rock out of the sky with the most powerful destructive magic our realm had ever seen.
This, more than anything, was what spurred me to developing the art of black magic as it is known today. Needless to say, my plan was a remarkable success. A massive chunk of the comet was shattered, knocking it clear off its path and sending it spinning harmlessly off into the heavens.
The story, however, does not end there. Fragments of the meteor hurtled to and embedded themselves in the earth. While small enough that their impact caused no significant damage, they remained beneath the surface, brimming with aetheric energies just waiting to be unearthed.
Needless to say, these otherworldly stones drew the attention of mages far and wide, who sought to claim their powers for their own. These are the stones that gave the golems their souls─by whose powers many a city–state flourished.
And yet, these stones held yet further secrets. When two of them were brought together, they would call out to one another, aether reacting to aether to augment their mutual powers to still greater heights.
Mind you, the power of mere fragments─even in a heightened state─would be far too meager to be cause for concern. One threat, however, still lingered: what if the comet─the motherstone as it were─were to return, its circuitous orbit bringing it in shouting distance of our world once more? Would not its remnants─its children─summon it hither in all its destructive glory?
Preposterous! Did your vaunted black magic not knock the comet clear across the skies? Why, it is simply inconceivable that its new path would bring it around back in our direction.
Inconceivable to feebler minds, mayhap, but not my own. In fact, I posit that the comet is drawing nearer every moment─and it is for this very reason that the golems are now running amok.
If left unattended, the implications for this world would be calamitous indeed. Fortunately, you have an ally in the impending battle─a prodigy who foresaw the danger that was to come, and sent her memory into the future that she might return to save the day.
Do you mean to say that you predicted that this threat would come─over two thousand years ago, mind you─and devised an incantation for the sole purpose of allowing you to return to us in our time of need?
I do believe I've already said precisely that. Of course, I did not do it entirely on my own. The spell would have been lost to history if crazy old Ququruka hadn't dug it up when he did and recorded it for posterity.
Dear little Lalai and Forename also played their parts as well. Oh, how wonderful it is when one's followers─against their natural tendencies, perhaps─manage not to make an utter mess of things.
I must admit, the whole story still strikes me as a bit far-fetched. I mistrust neither your motives nor your skill, Lady Shatotto, but as a Hearer charged with the protection of this wood, I cannot leave this matter to you alone.
I will accompany you and offer what aid I can. But first, let us return to Ul'dah. I would hear more of the plan you propose before we take action.
Must you? Very well─just promise you will not get in our way. Now come along, my puppets─I have a realm to save, and you're going to help me.
It does not appear the sorceress means us ill, but I still do not feel entirely safe in her presence. And whatever has she done with Lalai...?
The Hearer assures me that there have been no golem uprisings elsewhere, and since he clearly is too thick to tell a convincing lie, I am inclined to believe him. This means that we still have time to form a plan of attack.
Ahem! I do pride myself on my honesty, and so I will be honest with you when I say this. Your art is─to put it kindly─not looked fondly upon in our day and age, and your story stretches the limits of believability.
We cannot stave off this calamity alone, but any entreaties you might make are not like to find a receptive audience. I, on the other hand, have friends in positions of some prominence. I shall reach out to them and see what aid they are willing to offer.
How charming─he actually thinks he might prove himself useful! In your spare time, might you not ask your astrologian friends if they have any recent calculations on the comet's path? I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of my own, of course, but I was working off two-millennia-old data.
...As you wish. Forgive me for being forward, but might I inquire as to the well-being of our mutual friend Lalai? She is still...in there somewhere, yes?
Oh, she most certainly is. Worry not, the girl's consciousness is just enjoying a short respite. Which reminds me, I really am due for a nap myself! Be a dear and do try not to let things go to hells in my absence, will you?
Shatotto...mother of the art that brought the great floods upon us. Has she truly returned to deliver us from doom?
The progenitor of our esteemed art has chosen me as her vessel in hopes of saving our world from a falling star? I can scarce imagine a greater honor. Come, Forename─we must put our minds together and figure out how we might best do her bidding.
...Wait, Lalai. If we take her words at face value, Shatotto has only the realm's best interests at heart. And yet I, for one, remain skeptical.
Which is not to say I doubt her intentions─or yours, for that matter. And yet, we speak of the founder of the very art which gave rise to the War of the Magi and the Sixth Umbral Calamity. Could it not be that even in seeking to save our realm, she is like as not to destroy it?
Blasphemy! Why, Lady Shatotto had long since passed when the war broke out! Only a blind, blustering half-wit would even think to hold her responsible for─though when I put it that way...
I...I understand this. And that is why I begrudge neither you nor her my aid, such as it will serve to protect the realm's peace. At the same time, I intend to keep close watch on her. One can never be too wary, after all...
In any event, I will gather what knowledge I can of the threat we face, and I would be most grateful if you could do the same. Might I suggest speaking with your beastman allies─if the idea has not already occurred to you, that is.
I swear, that man's head is made of harder stone than any golem.
Still, at least he is cooperating with us, which is progress of some sort. In any event, I will reach out to our beastman friends. I encourage you to return to your studies in the meantime─if one thing is clear, it is that the task ahead will test us to our very limits.