Part 5: GratogelPart 005: Gratogel
And so began the reign of King Tom the First. Impressed by his mighty grasp of legal theory and his strength of arms, the Iskai of Jirinaar begged him to lead them into a glorious future, and he magnanimously chose to enlighten them and bring unto them the gifts of civilization like guns, daytime television and social media.
Tom? Tom! Can you hear me?
Perhaps we should let him sleep.
It's been almost a week, I'm waking him now.
Aided by his war chief Drirr the Mighty who slew his foes without mercy, his jester Rainer the Fool who amused him in dark hours with quips, jests and pratfalls and his court magician Sira the Wise who protected him from evil warlocks, and smote armies with a flick of her wrist, conquest of the planet was a foregone matter. Soon, he stood before the landed Toronto and-
Wake up, you asshole!
Bwuh! Where are we? I was having the most beautiful dream.
...how did we end up at sea?
Convenient that you don't remember, Tom. It all started after the first time you saw Sira cast magic, you complained that she could, and I quote: "Only freeze one damn animal to a popsicle every day." And decided she needed a training course.
A smart decision, sounds like me.
I've never had so much exercise in such a short amount of time! Far more invigorating than simple Stiriik work, and still keeping the island safe for everyone!
Wise and benevolent, still sounds like me.
You had us running up and down the coastline from dusk till dawn for two weeks straight, making Sira blast everything that moved, even some poor herdsman's cattle. Anything she didn't freeze, you had Drirr hit until it keeled over.
...all that blood... all that blood...
Well, did it work?
You tell me, by the time we left, she could freeze an entire swarm of Warniaks into ice sculptures in one go. Of course, then the Sebainah heard about it... she wasn't very impressed with the damage we'd done to the local ecosystem.
Some people just don't appreciate when you do them a favour.
But you decided we still needed funding for the trip...
It's very easy to miss, but both Fasiir and Bradir will give you some items and money if you return to them after finishing the quest in Jirinaar but before setting out.
Tom, is this really virtuous?
By my advanced legal theories, yes, Drirr. You see, anyone could defraud this lovely, helpful and slightly senile healer of her entire inventory of medicine, therefore it is inevitable that someone will.
I'm following you so far.
Therefore it follows that it's inevitable her medicine will end up as evidence in a crime, and we are displaying forethought by securing this pre-evidence of pre-crime ahead of time, to make the investigation simpler down the road.
Now explain why you're selling it all for gold and spending that gold on weapons, Mr. Smart Guy.
I'm simply putting the evidence into the care of a trustworthy local, the weaponsmith, while also ensuring our survival so that we can return later and resolve the crime that we foresaw.
Then you drank two Zoomis before we set out and we had to cart you on to the boat before the Sebainah got word of your little trick with the healer, you've been out cold ever since.
Can't blame me for celebrating my own genius.
...anyway, Drirr's been teaching us the language of the humans living on the next island, a place called Gratogel.
Damn, are we picking up another language in less than a month?
Either we don't question it or Drirr will have to translate everything for us, so shush.
So behind the scenes, before setting out, I engaged in power-levelling Sira to level 9, a very important level for her to reach before leaving Jirinaar.
Firstly, as a member of the guild in Jirinaar, they will teach her spells for free if she satisfies the minimum level. Secondly, she needs to be level 9 to reach the apex of the "Frost" spells, "Frost Avalanche." Frost Splinter freezes one enemy, Frost Crystal freezes a line and Frost Avalance freezes every single enemy on the battlefield if they fail to completely resist it. Thirdly, her practice in using her spells matters a lot, the more often she uses a spell, up to a certain ceiling, the harder it will be to resist if it has an effect and the more damage/healing it will do. The difference between a trained and an untrained spell is HUGE.
I also had to earn some big bucks in Jirinaar for kitting out Drirr, as it'll be a bit before we're able to buy Iskai gear again. It's no surprise that the next island is wholly human, so we'll only find gear there for Tom and Rainer.
I'm going to feel real silly if the next island is perfectly peaceful. Speaking of!
Apparently not completely impossible, considering that we're looking at it.
Wasn't that the same word you used for my magic?
I still maintain that it could be a novel endothermic chemical reaction, but I'm not going to argue as long as it keeps me from getting my head staved in by the local wildlife.
Alright, team, let's question the locals! If the Toronto landed anywhere around here, someone's bound to have heard or seen it. It won't exactly have been subtle.
NAME, JOB and so forth.
I am a warrior for Tharnos and I have no other profession! Most weapon-bearing men are also craftsmen or even poets. I, on the other hand, am proud of the fact that I serve my king with weapons only.
A society with many poets? That sounds relaxing and peaceful compared to the last few weeks...
We hold poets in high regard. They are even feared by powerful warriors since a well-aimed satirical verse can damage a reputation as much as an inglorious defeat.
Right, but since we can't equip satirical verses as weapons, where can we get some gear so Rainer doesn't die so quickly and what do we pay you with?
Owning cattle is the basis of all wealth. Someone who has a high rank, usually owns cattle, part of which he leases to his ceile.
Tom, I'm warning you right now, I'll put up with carrying around ten kilos of gold, but I'm not herding cattle for you.
Ah, for the convenience of foreigners, our king, Tharnos, has standardized one head of cattle as being equivalent to one-hundred units of gold.
Really? That's surprisingly enlight-
It's because no one would put up with keeping track of multiple currencies while they still wanted deep world-building, Rainer. Try to keep up. Let's go see this Tharnos guy.
Ha, ha, ha, are you crazy? Pardon me, but I haven't heard such nonsense in a long time. You ought to turn yourself over to the Druids of Arjano for treatment.
I'm suddenly a lot more sympathetic towards the Celts of Gartogel. Who are the Druids of Arjano?
The Druids are our scholars. They know how to write, and they preserve and extend the knowledge of our forefathers. Their tasks are diverse: there are those who administer justice or teach children, and those who act as intermediaries between the gods and the people. There are healers and masters of the magical arts among them. The center of their school is Arjano, where the greatest Druids live and teach.
Obviously the Toronto hasn't set down here, we should sail on to the next island, what was it called?
Maini, Tom, both humans and Iskai live there, mostly in harmony.
If you'd bothered to ask for my backstory, you'd know I was born there.
Right, we need to go to Maine.
I don't know, Tom, maybe we should go visit the other villages on Gratogel first, they might make fun of you, too, that'd make this entire trip worth it.
So, you would like to leave Klouta? Garris, the fisherman, is an experienced sailor who could safely take you to Maini. But he, and therefore you, need my permission to do this. Now, naturally, I could grant you such approval, but there is a small matter you must handle for me. As strangers, you are better suited for it than someone from this area, since it requires great discretion. You would have to promise me to keep quiet about this conversation! This is what the situation is: we expect a king to have full mental and, especially, physical powers since otherwise he could bring misfortune to the Tuath. Now, my wife and I have been wanting children for a long time. We, and the weapon-bearing men, are becoming impatient. Therefore, I would like to get an amulet from the Druids in Arjano which could reinforce my virility. I'm sure that you understand that I do not want to entrust this order to one of my men, or go to Arjano myself. Go to Bero, the Druid, and ask him for a strengthening amulet. Bring it to me and I will grant your travels.
...so to continue this journey we're going to need to find you magic viagra.
That's about the long and short of it.
At least this way we don't have to trick you into going to Arjano.
...didn't the villagers say Arjano was to the east?
Tom has problems with directions.
I am sure that Tom is merely ensuring there's nothing interesting in the wrong directions first!
Yuk it up, for your information I know exactly where I'm going, and I'm taking the long way around to Arjano to annoy you.
Either that or you've realized you don't have a gracious way of backing down.
You'll never know.
At least we can enjoy the views on the way. The tinkling of the rivers and the wind through the trees.
The calming sounds of the sea.
The aggressive local wildlife.
The discordant echoes as a half-dozen frozen Warniaks crash to the ground and I kick their splintered remains into a ditch.
Having Sira along trivializes most encounters, especially since the "windfall" from the healer back in Jirinaar resulted in a surplus of mana potions for her. Her inventory would make most pharmacists jealous. Much like Nakiiridaani, however, there isn't a lot to find outside of the inhabited parts of Gratogel, except for a lot of wild animals and some spare Triifalai seeds for Sira. Eventually I realize this, though I could swear there was some ruin down in the southeast of Gratogel that was worth looting, though I might have confused it for a later area.
You may also notice that Warniak 3's, the golden variant that can cause insanity, panic and illness(an over-time permanent stat drain, not to be fucked with), are now regular enemies. Extremely high-priority targets, but "pure" Warniak swarms are easily dealt with by Sira.
Okay, Tom, you've made your point! Now please! We've been in the woods for almost a week and you've got the compass!
Thank you, Rainer, now behold, civilization! Or at least one guy hanging out near a tree. Clearly, we were never lost.
Rainer, please just go hassle the man for the fine details of his culture.
The grove? I don't-
I am the guardian of the grove.
You mean literally this one tree? Technically-
Nothing defines how many trees are in a grove, besides, this is a very special tree.
Normally I'd say "it's just an oak," but considering that we're no longer on Earth, that does actually make it special.
I have ways and means of defending the grove against desecrations, even though I am alone here.
Have fun defending your tree from the animals, Frinos.
So, I haven't found anything in-game that tells you about this, but Frinos is real bored of his job and will reward you if you bring him a music crystal. Thankfully you can buy one on Gratogel, but it's twice as expensive as if you had saved the one from Jirinaar for him. The party's about to encounter a sudden windfall of money, though, that will make that cost increase irrelevant.
South of the Grove Man is the Mystical Hut of Arjano, and further south of that, the second town on Gratogel, Vanello. The first turn only had a place to buy food, but here there's an actual shop, as well as a local king.
No, I hate to disappoint you. I certainly would have heard about such an incident on Gratogel.
A question like that certainly sounds like lunatic rambling, doesn't it?
I'll say! Perhaps you should take your friends to the druids at Arjano to be examined.
If you didn't still have the gun, Rainer, I'd move you to the front of the combat formation.
If you somehow missed all of the very obvious human gear back on the last island, Tamno can help get you kitted out. As it is, though, nothing he has is actually better than what Tom currently has equipped, and I'm not wasting gear on putting Rainer in the front row since he'd just get his fragile ass kicked anyway.
Hey! I'm an old man!
Ha ha, even the narration is making fun of you. Anyway, there's one last village left, to the south. We'll visit that and then go fetch King Dork's viagra.
The ambient music is more or less completely drowned out by high wind sounds as you approach and enter the pass.
What a long pass, how strangely empty it is.
Almost like something's meant to happen here.
Oh I'm sure it's nothing, just scene dressing.
Fess up, Tom, what do you know that the rest of us don't?
Well, I talked to a few people back in Vanello and apparently there's a reason most of them don't travel through this pass.
It's haunted by the spirit of random encounters.
So every time you walk through the pass, there's a chance of getting a random bandit attack, slowly scaling up in power the more times you go through the pass and then abruptly stopping after you've killed enough bandits. The bandits hit reasonably hard, come in three difficulty flavours like most non-unique enemies do, have ranged attacks and the tier 3 kind can cast a spell that panics party members. They can actually be pretty dangerous, but there's a good reason to go fight them. Multiple good reasons, in fact.
Hot damn, they're carrying weapons! I can't wait to pawn those.
Goddess forgive me for using my magic against sentient creatures.
Just remember that they're criminals!
Exactly, we're fighting crime!
None of the gear they drop is actually useful to us, but it's valuable, we've got between 200 and 300 gold in each of the lower-tier encounters, and more than that once we get level 3 bandits.
At least when they're all frozen there isn't so much blood...
That's the spirit, Sira, you'll come around to enjoying this yet.
Huh, a queen, that's progressive.
Any giant spaceships happen to land or crash around here?
Are you serious? No, no one has reported such a wonder to me.
Son of a bitch, I guess we're stuck on ViagraQuest. Well, we may as well unload our loot and see what the locals have to say. Someone in the other villages told me they have a guy here-
You mean Rifrako? He is a trader, he lives southeast of Aballon. He is a little strange in the head, but he often manages to obtain really extraordinary goods.
...this doesn't look like a store, it looks like a garage sale.
Look, Tom, a whole Krondiir skull!
I'm not paying for that, Drirr, but I'll get you a fresh one on the way back to Arjano.
I don't know about "beautiful from far-away lands," but I did bring you a half-dozen suits of blood-soaked armor and some dented swords from the canyon up north.
Mmmm, yes, lets trade.
One thing I don't believe I've mentioned is that all merchants in Albion have limited inventory space, that is to say, they have limited space for buying goods from you, too. This increases the value of stackable items and also means there's a point to selling stuff to merchants who already trade the same type of item, even though the price they give you might be the same as any other merchant.
Rifrako has multiple interesting items. The music crystal for Frinos in the first row, as well as our only, limited, source of mana recharge potions on Gratogel. In the second row an amulet of protection and a magic shield, and in the third row an item of dubious use for detecting when you've alerted monsters. In dungeons any monster that's alerted is usually on your ass anyway, and in the wilderness you can more or less always see them as soon as they see you, so buying it is really just for the sake of completionism, though there is one late/mid-game area where it may be useful, though that depends on exactly how the game handles a certain mechanic. I'm going to grab it and we'll see when we get there.
...damn, not enough to buy everything.
Mmm, well, you know where to get more blood-soaked equipment for old Rifrako.
...Tom, please don't.
Sira, it would be neglecting my duty as an officer of the law not to deal with the bandits in the canyon.
If it's any consolation, you start getting numb to it after about the fiftieth time he makes you murder something in cold blood.
And so, the trip is back north, through another random bandit encounter, and also to pass Frinos the music crystal. On the north side of the pass, we sell stuff off to Tamno. Smart trading would have me trade it all to Rifrako, but I only have the carrying capacity for one bandit encounter worth of equipment, just about.
Giving Frinos the music crystal gets you a Crystal Axe. It does mediocre damage, but it's a ranged weapon with infinite ammo, and is thus ideal for slapping on Rainer, Sira or anyone else perpetually doomed to the back row so they have something to use when they're not directly in combat. In this case it goes on Rainer.
I then head back to the mountain pass to grind out the rest of the bandits for gold and XP, but it almost goes poorly. On the way back from Rifrako after emptying his inventory, the game bugs out and I get four bandit ambushes in a row, back to back, causing me to have to dump a lot of valuable gear. If I hadn't had Frost Avalanche at this point, it would definitely have been a TPK situation. In one fight the level 3 bandits scare off Rainer with magic and then manage to land a hit on Drirr before Sira can freeze them solid, chunking off half of his HP in a single swing.
But by the end of it I'm alive, and richer, and back at Arjano.
Alright, let's pop in, grab the druid viagra, and then move on to the next island. I'm sure there will be no complications whatsoever.
Literally 90% of the next update will be the dungeon known as Drinno, which is where the game really tries to kick your ass.
Next time: Complications and the longest dungeon crawl so far!