Guided by Crom: Ep. 1 - The Path to Khitai
I'll always remember my time in Tortage. With the flames and demons bending to my will, I thwarted a powerful sorceress, instigated a revolution, and felled an evil (and very ugly) despot, but my demonologist, Lichtor, had reached level-20. I had graduated from newb-school. It was time to move on to new lands and more exciting adventures.
Stygia is a marvelous nation, and Khemi an intriguing city, with it's grand temples and black-market backalleys. There's something alluring about a city in which the line between criminal and noble is so indistinguishable, and a culture that honors its citizenry by feeding them to snakes.
I had barely stepped foot in my sand-strewn homeland when I was faced with a life-altering decision. Do I follow the traditional routes that so many champions, villains, and miserable failures had already traversed, or do I leave my kinfolk yet again and forge a new path into the eastern reaches, to the land of Khitai?
Did the decision really matter? Regardless of which direction I traveled, it was all unknown to me. Surely the secrets of Khitai had already been unlocked and explored in full by others (during Rise of the Godslayer's beta). Even then, standing in front of the caravan-leader and weighing my options, people streamed into the horizon and off to new territories.
I wouldn't be the first to visit Khitai, and yet, there's an enveloping sense of mystique surrounding the new names and sights. In Stygia, I would be perpetually behind my peers, a lowly coat-tailer, but in Khitai, I had a chance to make a name for myself among pioneers.
I had a new choice in front of me; should I pay the caravan for safe and direct passage into the Khitai, or save the coin and lend my services as a guard along the path. The choice was obvious. I had visions of glory as I fended off onslaughts of bandits, braved pounding storms, and decimated feral packs of tigers. Instead, I found myself on a boat, surrounded by the stench of dysentary - not quite the illustrious image I had dreamed of.
We dropped anchor off the shore of a tropical island. We could go no further until the crew was cured, and you can guess who had to do the gruntwork. Collecting the ingredients for the cure was a simple task, but of course, the last ingredient was next to the cabin of a crazed hermit.
I had taken on a massive, mystical bat, roaming giants, and the most powerful warriors of Tortage. A frail man of even frailer sanity was no match. I returned to the boat, ingredients in hand, and tasked with mixing the concoction. The second batch worked perfectly, but the first... well, that's one more kid for the orphanage.
I'm not sure how many days or weeks we traveled, but the walls of Khitai loomed in the distance, ornate, meticulously textured barricades rising from the mountains. I welcomed the chance too relax, but by then, I should have known better. We were only at the border of Khitai, where Hyrkanian raiders terrorized the landscape. Another caravan was ahead, broken, burning, and in desperate need of help.
And I was so close. *sigh* Maybe I should have simply paid the man.