The Kartoss Gambit: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Trap

Chapter 5 (cont.)

Hellfire has left Danny a note at the site of the wolf pack’s destruction, explaining that he’s guessed that they’re Danny’s wolves, that Danny crafted the pawns of the legendary Chess set, and that Danny would come to see what happened to the wolves when he got the notification that the quest had ended. That’s some pretty good guessing. There is one clue in that the wolves don’t despawn after dying which means they’re quest-related, waiting for Danny to come and collect the tail of the Grey Death (which he does, because at this point, why not?), and Hel does know from Danny’s traitorous prison buddies that he has the ultra-rare Crafting stat. Still, this guy would be amazing at Codenames.

Despite his growing spite for Hellfire, Danny remains enthralled with Anastaria. This feels a lot like it’s headed for Danny defeating Hel to take over the bestest clan in the game and get married to the prettiest girl in all of Barliona, but that hasn’t actually happened yet, so I’ll reserve judgement. Danny calls in to Anastaria to report his run-in with the number two clan, and she lets him know that after finishing off the last squad in the area, she and every other person in the game except Danny was immediately required to leave the Krong Province. This is one of forty provinces for the entire Eurasian gaming population, and Danny now has it entirely to himself.

[“]So, Have Eric, Leite and Clutzer really been accepted into Phoenix?” I still had trouble believing that they ditched me. They just couldn’t have, whatever Hellfire may say.

“Yes, but not all. A few days ago we were approached by several beginner-level players who had First Kill. This really piqued my interest, so I personally oversaw their testing.”

“Testing? What’s that?”

“Identification of their abilities. Eric turned out to be an excellent tank and he’s already been sent for a leveling boost. Clutzer’s a decent DD. But Leite didn’t pass the trial. He makes a pretty average DD and we decided not to take him. Now we’re looking for Karachun to assess his abilities.”

“An item doesn’t make the person. If you have clumsy hands, no amount of gear will help. We gave Leite a chance, but he didn’t take it.”

“Fine, another question. What is a Phoenix Master?” I asked nonchalantly. You can relax, Oh Gorgeous One. This just made for another point against joining Phoenix. So I am supposed to think that Eric and Clutzer are now in the clan and even came out with a full report… Yeah, right, they just ran in and typed it all up, especially about the non-existent second place and Leite’s pauldrons. So, it looks like Karachun was the one you spoke to… But he doesn’t know about the fifth place or Leite’s sword.

This is pretty clever and I like it.

After the conversation, we get a timeskip which is notable mostly for this gem:

Four days flew by in what felt like an instant. When I handed in the wolf quest to the village Headman, I gained access to his other assignments. ‘There are no quests in Beatwick’ – yeah, right! You can fetch the water, gather wood from the forest or sweep the street. Just in the first day of doing quests I raised my reputation with the Krong province by 500.

Wow, what a shitty set of quests. Particularly since they don’t even appeal to my model train-style obsession with simulation, since they don’t seem to actually help Beatwick function. Players come to this neck of the woods so rarely that the wikis don’t even know these quests exist, but the town isn’t suffering some crippling labor shortage for a lack of players to run them.

If these quests were low-level gruntwork that also played a vital role in keeping the town running, that would still kind of suck to be the guy who actually has to do them, but at least there’s decent reputation rewards and there could be a decent metagame where there’s benefits to keeping towns and regions at a high level of maintenance for a long period of time, like a booming economy bringing prices on common gear down and making rare gear available for sale, so clans will try to make sure that the quests get done regularly. It’d still be better if a mechanic like that revolved more around subduing constantly resurgent bandits or hostile wildlife or something else fun rather than menial chores, but if you really want to justify the existence of menial chore quests in the game, having it be part of a larger metagame wouldn’t be the worst thing. That’s not actually what Barliona does, though, or at least not so far as this passage reveals (there is a mention that the NPCs notice the quests being completed at all, but not that it has any wider reaching effects than NPCs using happy emotes more often).

At the end of the time skip, Danny comes to talk to Tisha, the town princess.

“Hi, Tisha,” I sought out the Headman’s daughter after leaving the smithy.

“Hi, Mahan,” replied the pretty girl, fixing her hair. After Anastaria, who represented the real world, all NPC beauties seemed to pale in comparison.

By the time you get out of the Matrix, Danny, Anastaria’s looks will have faded anyway. Danny gets a bit of information from Tisha on who in the village ever travels to other villages. Apparently Danny is confident that 1) the coordinator of the Kartoss mobs visits Beatwick and 2) they also visit other towns nearby. I’m not sure why. The Kartoss forces are all hanging out in the hinterlands, so their coordinator could just as easily be lurking out in some centcom camp out there with them. Anastaria even mentioned earlier that they were able to quickly clear out all the goblin work camps because they looked so similar (they were all lumber or mining camps, which may also have been a reference to being predictably located next to certain resource spots, she didn’t specify). Something which didn’t fit the pattern could easily have flown under the radar until all ten camps were wrecked and everyone but Danny got kicked out.

Danny isn’t immediately following up on that lead, though, and instead is trying to capture the werewolf. He’s got a bunch of high level traps from Farstead, sets them down, and waits for the werewolf to show up. When it finally does, it doesn’t seem to want to play.

A humanoid dog was standing a couple of meters away from me, right opposite one of the traps. Just what the doctor ordered! If it went for me now, it would step straight into the trap. And in the morning we’ll see who’s been nimble enough to be running around Beatwick and causing all the mischief. One thing didn’t seem right – the Vagren was without the mist and I could see his properties without much trouble:

Vagren. Gender: Female. Level 95

So, it was Elizabeth, after all. Eh, my dear hostess… What would happen to your children if I hand you over to the priest? What would happen to Clouter? Damn! I even felt sorry for her. Was there perhaps a different way of solving this?

I find it weird that with three bits of information in the scan, gender made the cut. It crops up fairly often in video games, though, so I won’t complain that it happens in Barliona. It’s even plot-relevant, since it causes Danny to suspect (probably accurately) that his landlady Elizabeth is the werewolf (he caught her sneaking out for the night earlier, initially suspecting she was having an affair with the headman). He does not notice that this appears to be a different werewolf from the last one, nor has he yet managed to pick up that the headman’s long lost son is a very obvious suspect number one for the identity of the red-eyed werewolf that jacked him up.

When the actual night terror shows up, he’s able to get a better look at it as it casually wipes his trap out and murders him again. The werewolf gets herself caught in the second trap (Danny had one on either side of him to prevent himself being snuck up on, which is reasonably clever) while trying to save Danny from the mist monster.

Turns out Danny was wrong about Elizabeth, though. When he respawns 12 hours later (he’s unconscious for the respawn process), the priest informs him that Elizabeth has been fretting about the trap in the middle of her yard all morning. So, maybe it’s the village princess in there? The trap is apparently opaque, so who knows. When they arrive, the priest sets up a barrier that pegs him at minimum as level 100, which, whoa. Why hasn’t he taken care of the werewolf/mist/whatever problem already?

Once the barrier is up, Danny disables it.

The trap fell apart and there were sighs of surprise from everyone present.

“What on earth are you doing now? Not only did you fill my yard with junk, but put Tisha in a trap as well![“]

Danny claims that he trapped Tisha in a moment of heated passion, and the priest apparently doesn’t notice that Danny claimed to have first trapped Elizabeth and then to have trapped Tisha, which is a weird mistake to make unless the person he trapped was a werewolf.

Tisha decides Danny is the good guys and takes him to speak with her father about the forbidden lore of Bumfuck, Nebraska. The headman’s whole family are secret werewolves, and they’ve been hunting the secret mist monster, except for the eldest son, who joined “the enemy,” which sounds like it’s probably Kartoss, but they don’t say exactly.

[“]It turned out that the beast isn’t resting in the six days after it eats an animal. It raids the neighboring villages, appearing once a week in each of them. I made the decision that my family would destroy this monster. This is why my sons are hardly ever seen in Beatwick. They are travelling between the villages, hoping to catch or destroy the Night Terror’, as the Priest calls it.[“]

So the secret mist monster is wandering all through Krong province, apparently a prerequisite to being the Kartoss coordinator, although I’m still not sure why. Updated prediction, the eldest son is the actual night terror, not the werewolf that people think is the night terror, and also the coordinator of the Kartoss infiltration. Failing that, the priest is probably the night terror, which would explain why he’s so terribly eager to have anyone else but him fingered as the culprit, and is an ally of the eldest son.

Danny disagrees with my analysis:

The Merchant should be arriving soon enough too and I had to do some very thorough work on him. I had little doubt at this point that he was the Coordinator. Now I just had to prove it to the others.

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