I return to the guild by Cullis gate. Once I finish my dry heaving, I stagger to the map room to find the guildmaster and tell him that Jack of Blades has the key now, and we are all screwed.
He tells me that all the guild’s Heroes have gone to defend the focus sites. I need to join them. The battle’s just a teleport away.
Alright Cullis gate. You don’t like me and I don’t like you.
I emerge in Witchwood. The sky is blood red and I hear sounds of battle. Briar Rose is there to greet me, curiously unengaged with the fight.
Wow, look everybody, it’s the famous Hero who won glory and wealth in the Arena! And Briar Rose too.
Just stay out of my way.
We make our way through the melee. I try to avoid engaging as much as possible because I want to get to and secure the focus sites.
It’s all-out war here! There are as many as three or four NPCs on screen at a time!
“YOU shove over! I was here first!”
“Piss off, I’m the one that’s got destiny tattooed on my ass!”
We reach the focus site too late. Jack is already there.
Buddy, Maze couldn’t even hold a tune.
That’s funny, I was thinking the same thing about Briar Rose here.
The big stone sphere that previously sat inert for centuries is now floating in the air, glowing with ominous runes. I’m not 100% clear what that means but I presume it’s bad for me.
Let’s see, it’s been a few years since Ominous Runes 401, but it looks like this says, “Spec wuz here.”
He teleports away. The portal remains open behind him though.
Ugh. Gonna be a Cullis heavy day, I can already tell.
I land in Orchard Farm. The nausea passes faster this time; maybe I’m getting the hang of this. Hold on. Hyuuegh. Huuuggggh. Nope. Nevermind.
If I never see Orchard Farm again after this it will still be too soon.
Once again I book it through the melee being fought between Bowerstone guards and Heroes on one side and Jack’s minions and undead on the other. I reach Greatwood Lake and see the focus site I’ve walked past hundreds of times before. It’s still just sitting there, looking like a great stone nipple.
Looks like I made it in time!
Well, so much for that.
Since there seems to be nothing for me to accomplish here, maybe I should just skip the next one
I get the strong impression that Jack is just taunting me here. He seems to be waiting until I arrive to activate these things, just to taunt me.
You see what I’m talking about with this guy?
Just have to listen to this blowhard monologue at me twice more.
Next I arrive in a cave. At first I’m disoriented, but the presence of Hobbes triggers my memory.
Hey, I remember this place. I sacrificed a bandit to a cave nymph here. Good times.
As I run for the third focus site, I cross paths with Thunder, possibly the last Hero I’d expect to fight beside.
Oh, hey Thunder. You still pretending to be a Hero? Right on.
Nevertheless, we put our history behind us and hurry on to Jack’s next taunting.
Oh no. We are too late. Etc.
Jack starts in on another one of his tirades. Honestly, by this point I’m not listening anymore.
He’s going to be talking for a while, you want to go grab a beer or something?
…So then I said, “Hold that thought, I have some evidence to turn over to the chief of police.” Boy was she mad.
Eventually Jack runs out of steam and teleports away. Thunder hasn’t been to two of these already so he’s not as prepared for it as I am.
Look man, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. Certainly not at me, I didn’t script this stupid sequence.
Headsman’s Hill, why does that sound so familiar? Did I maybe fight somebody there one time? I can’t even remember anymore, it must not have been much of a fight.
It’s perhaps a little late for this idea, but I’m forced to wonder why I bothered following Jack through his chain of Cullis portals, perpetually snapping at his heels. After all, he needed all four focus sites to claim the sword so we only needed to stop him from getting one, right? Why didn’t I just teleport to Headsman’s Hill first?
Oh. Yeah, sure buddy. You go lie down and have a rest or whatever. I got this. Don’t worry about it.
This portal lands me just outside Bowerstone. As before, I weave through the battle because I have places to be and shit to do.
Can’t stop, don’t want to miss Jack’s next monologue!
I think it’s gonna be a real good one! Good luck, everybody else!
I reach the last focus site.
Did I make it?
Oh good, it’s just starting.
This time Jack isn’t alone. He has my mother held at swordpoint.
Get your hands off my mom!
I’d just like to stop and take a moment here to appreciate the absurdity of this situation. My mother was a great Hero who conquered the Arena. At the age where the most ferocious beast I had faced was a chicken, she slew a balverine. Yet my mom’s entire presence so far in this story has been as a damsel in distress. It took me three years to break out of the prison that somehow held her for twenty and she was recaptured by mooks later the same day. Am I crazy or is this some bullshit?
I get the feeling you’re expecting me to say “no”, but actually…
Nothing to do now but follow him.
Alright but this is the LAST ONE.
I materialize in the Heroes Guild great hall, which is on fire. This whole place is burning. I run toward the library, thinking I should save all the precious book from the flames. Instead I find the guildmaster.
Guildmaster, NOOOOOOOOOOO! Wait, I forgot, I never liked you.
I have a feeling that the boss battle which is about to commence will render this statement pretty ridiculous in retrospect.
Well, let’s not be overdramatic. Theresa wouldn’t be a HUGE loss.
Oh yes, he has my mother and sister. Because Lady Heroes, amirite fellas?
There is nothing particularly interesting going on in this picture, I just wanted to call attention to the minimap in the top right corner. The bridge I’m standing on, which spans the gap between those two circular gray icons, is the only walkable space. I cannot fathom the reason this map is its own separate game space.
I enter the Chamber of Fate. Years ago, I received my guild seal here. Now, instead of a cheering assembly, it’s just Jack, my mother and my sister.
All that badass backstory with the prophecy and the bandits, all cryptic mystique, just to be damselled at the end? I’m disappointed in your writers, sis.
There was a two-for-one special at Lazy Story Cliche Emporium.
I know what’s about to happen a split second before it does, but I still can’t make my body move fast enough to stop him.
Oh come on! They threw a Refrigerator Special on top of everything else?
Well there goes three years of my life down the drain.
This is some serious bullshit here.
Just like that, he murders my mother. My dreams of a reconciled family are shattered in an instant. Every parent or surrogate figure in my life is dead because of this man. And I’m going to shoot him right in his conspicuous crotch gap for it.
Jack, you just killed the only woman character in this game who wasn’t a huge asshole to me. You’re going to die now.
I howl in rage and grief, but Jack’s paying no attention to me now. He has a new toy and he’s eager to play with it.
Kind of unimpressive looking, for all its been built up
You just fridged my mom, dude. I’ve got my Vengeful Male buff on, I’m pretty much narratively invincible from this point on.
Jack summons his minions into the room, the coward.
You’re holding the most powerful sword in the universe and you still feel the need to call for backup?
Before I went into prison, I recall these creatures being real bastards in a fight. But with my honed will abilities I make short work of them. They aren’t threats; they’re just in my way.
Let’s move this along, I’m in a hurry to kill your boss.
With the minions dealt with, it’s just me and Jack.
Alright, Jackass, we’re alone now. How about you show me what that letter opener can do.
Oh, it makes little will-o-wisps? That’s adorable.
Alright, I’ll stop making fun of the stupid sword. Arrow, go kill.
I wound him, this self-styled god of destruction wielding the awesome power of the Sword of Aeons. But his pride is too great for him to admit defeat so easily.
He does the thing where he rises up into the air surrounded by red swirls of energy. I’m sure it’s meant to be very intimidating.
Seen this trick before.
So… apart from the ranged lightning attacks, does that fancy sword give you ANY new tricks?
To be fair, he does have a new move to show off, one where he raises his sword to the sky and I get assaulted by blinding light. But it’s a channelled spell and I have this bow here.
For future reference, hovering in the air completely stationary is not a great defense against an archer.
My arrow flies straight and true. Right to the conspicuous gap in his armor.
So that was kind of an unimpressive reign of terror, as such things go.
Jack falls from the air like a wounded bird and lands on the stone dais with a sound like clattering pots and pans. It’s basically the least dignified end to an aspiring demigod’s dominion you can imagine.
Better stick him, just to be sure. I’ve seen too many supposedly victorious heroes turn their backs on fallen villains to fall for this old trick.
On second thought, he’s probably good and dead now.
To my shock, Jack’s body is consumed by flames of some sort of abyss that opens beneath him. It’s like Skorm opened a little portal to hell just for Jack. That’s the kind of personal service that your genuine A-list villains warrant.
Theresa speaks up, reminding me that she, too, is in this scene.
I forgot you were even here. What happened to that convenient “dispel magic cage” power you had a little while ago?
Still stuck by what a cool character design was wasted on you, sis.
Refresh my memory, you say a lot of cryptic shit.
Theresa offers me an odd choice:
- Take up the Sword of Aeons and strike her dead, thereby becoming the living god that Jack sought to become. (I guess it doesn’t count until you kill TWO members of this family with it?)
- Toss the sword into the fiery vortex that Jack just went into, which will certainly destroy it for good because reasons.
Not gonna lie. I’m not crazy about this choice. Couldn’t I just take the Sword of Aeons and not kill Theresa? I mean, maybe it wouldn’t make me a super powerful god, but it’s still a sword that shoots lightning. And why should we think that the vortex is the safest place to toss this thing? Do we know what it is? Who or what created it and why? How can we be absolutely certain that Jack is actually dead and not just, say, gathering his strength for an even bigger boss battle in the expansion pack?
I’m not gonna lie. I thought about it.
But no, damn it, I can’t. I’m a good guy now. I hope you’re watching this, you stupid demon door.
Despite my doubts, I’m not really going to kill Theresa. She’s the world’s worst sister but she’s still family. I have to destroy the sword.
This had better work, know-it-all.
If I see this thing show up on ebay in a week I will know who to blame.
It’s done. The sword is gone, hopefully forever. And so is Jack. Never gonna see that guy again. No sir.
The pointlessness of this whole bloody business settles on my mind. The Oakvale raid and my father’s murder. The hard life Theresa had with the bandits. My years of training here at the Heroes Guild. My imprisonment in Bargate and subsequent escape with our mother. Her death at Jack’s hand. All of this for a sword that I just destroyed. So much suffering and loss, pain and loneliness. And all of it for nothing.
Mom’s dead, by the way. I don’t know if you caught that while you were reading your book or whatever the hell kept you busy while I was fighting the most powerful and dangerous man in the world alone.
No argument here.
And then Theresa leaves. For good, this time.
So long, I guess? Have fun luring orphans to their deaths in the sequel, you monster.
Standing there at the edge of the abyss, I ruminate on the path I’ve taken through this life. So much of it has been dictated by the ripples from this sword nonsense; so much time and effort to reach this point, and so little to show for it. Yet I also think back to the experiences that were of my own making, untouched by Jack’s machinations or Maze’s obscure agenda. Things like Orchard Farm, the Arena, and meeting Myra. And I find a measure of peace with this.
She seemed nice, I’m glad our paths crossed.
Sod this Hero business. I’m going home to my wife to see if The Naughty Hero Likes to Be Spanked is still playing.
Next time on The Actually Pretty Heroic Adventures of Hood…
Hood returns home to live happily ever after. It goes about as well as you probably expect by now.