Part 4: Fort Avernum
"All right. Now what?"
"We may as well stick together while we get oriented."
"Fine by me. Now where were those two? Tor and Thairl?"
"No idea. Ask for directions?
"Ma'am, would you direct us to Sage Thairl? We have important business with him!"
"Never mind him, I'm hungry and those mushrooms look delicious."
"Damn. Maybe you can cook it out? Fried with butter?"
"Ha. You're definitely a newcomer. I guarantee butter is outside your price range."
"Truly this place is hell. "
"This size cannot possibly be natural. How...?"
"Ahh, magi! I had heard that powerful mages had been exiled here. We must meet them and compare notes!"
"About what? Your venomous worm problem? Anyway, that'll happen faster if we know where in blazes we are. Ma'am, Sage Thairl?"
"Southwest of the stairs you came up from."
"Thank you, dear!"
"I am going to get out of here."
"Pardon me, sirs, and madam."
"I'm not interested in a beach house timeshare, sorry."
"Very funny. I'm talking about fighting, which you clearly know how to do."
"We do seem to have some talent in that area, don't we? All right, I'm listening."
"Meet a mayor, do them favors? I've had worse jobs."
"If you want to fight to live, then maybe you should talk to the soldiers in the barracks. I'm sure they'll have plenty of tales to tell."
"Or maybe not."
Generic "filler" NPCs have no dialog beyond a single line in the message log. Previous games would drop you into a dialog screen but have all of the generic characters have the same dialog. The new approach works a lot better.
"Not even anyone in the commander's office. Hmm...
"Strange...I get the feeling that taking these items would be a very bad idea."
"That's because that would be stealing."
"Well, yeah, but more importantly it's because that guard over there can see us."
Nobody can see you? Steal away! On the other hand, if people can see you, then the entire town goes hostile and you suffer a hit to your reputation.
Annoyingly, the reremake series has made theft a lot harder through the simple expedient of preventing you from closing doors. Still, if we wait a bit...
"All clear! Yoink."
"I can't believe you."
"Would an energy potion make you feel better?"
Energy potions, like the one we just liberated from that desk, restore spellpoints, which are the only practical limitation on how long you can stay out exploring without needing to retreat to town. They are therefore your most important non-renewable resource.
"All right, the sage! Perhaps he knows some spells!"
"Well aren't you a cheerful sort! It can't be all that bad, surely!"
"And they put you in charge of helping newcomers. Is this a punishment detail?"
"If it is, then someone has a subtle sense of humor."
"Well, might as well lay it on us then. What do you have to tell us?"
"Yeah, screw those other items. Where's the way out?"
"Still don't believe you."
He shrugs. "Fine, I don't care."
"These slithzerkai, what are they? I don't suppose by any possible chance they are allies?"
"It figures. Who's leading the war effort?"
"Someone tried to convince us to join the fight. I'm guessing he was talking about the sliths?"
"Oh, there's a lot more to fight than sliths, believe me. If you want to help, there's a couple of places you should check out."
"And that's all I've got. Now go away."
"Well, thank you for your time, sir."
"I'm not gonna go out fighting on an empty stomach. Let's get those supplies."
"Wonderful, lay it on us!"
"You may want to start dialing down your expectations, friend."
"Surely Avernum can afford better than this! Where'd this food come from anyway?"
"I must admit I wouldn't have expected the Empire to send anything of any value down here. What do they care about us?"
"It's a subject of some speculation among us here at Fort Avernum. If I knew I'd tell you."
"Can we at least get some better weapons? This stone dagger's falling apart!"
"Wait, magic weapons? Like, smiting evil, burning with eternal flame, turning blue in the presence of gremlins?"
"I can't help but feel that whatever else happens, my life isn't going to be peaceful from here on out."
"In that case, good hunting to you."
"Lagran mentioned the Abyss. Some kind of prison, perhaps?"
"Yep. Nasty place, full of criminals. You don't want to go there. Hiya, name's Dunbar."
"Hello Dunbar, my name's Elly. A pleasure to meet you. What do you do here?"
"How on earth are there plants here, anyway? There's no sunlight!"
"Magically-bred plants? And the magic breeds true? Incredible."
"I don't suppose you grow anything for food besides mushrooms?"
"Nope. You'll get sick of them before too long, but they're food, and that's what matters.
"I'm still hung up on the plants. I mean, trees? In a cave?"
"It's unbelievable, that's what it is."
"I have got to meet these mages. I mean, my own talents run towards the more...dynamic end of the spectrum, but I appreciate a good subtle magicking when I see it!"
"Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, dear! Good luck with the gardening!"
"Very kind of you, ma'am."
"Surface Goods Storage. Unauthorized Avernites Keep Out!"
"Ahh, now we're speaking my language."
"The language of the thief, you mean."
"Way I see it, I'm owed a thing or two for being chucked down here."
"May be, but it's not right to steal from your brethren! Steal from the Empire instead, if you must!"
"They're a little out of reach right now. I'm sure you understand."
"With the way that woman went on about the price of butter, I can't imagine sugar is cheap! Yoink."
"And if iron were easy to come by, they wouldn't have fobbed us off with some stone knives! Yoink again!"
"I wish you'd stop saying that word."
Unfortunately, the other storage room is locked, and requires our party to have a combined Tool Use skill of at least 5 to open. We have a big fat whopping 0 right now, so we'll have to come back later.
"Oh hey, cows!"
"I find your stories of bovine spycraft somewhat dubious."
"Hey, cows are smarter than you think!"
"Nonetheless, I refuse to believe that a herd of trained attack cows dressed in harem outfits were used to assassinate a minotaur lord, because firstly, minotaurs don't exist, and secondly, shut up."
"I dunno, sounds plausible enough to me."
"Let's...just let the poor cows be and move on, shall we?"
"Pardon us, honey, I'm just trying to get these three boys away from a silly argument. How are you doing?"
"Count them? Whatever for?"
"Ahh, the soldiers. Know anything about them?"
"Let me guess: the Slithzerkai?"
"I can't imagine kitties putting up much of a fight."
"Andrew didn't have to try to discourage us; Thairl did a perfectly good job of that himself, I don't mind telling you."
"Oh, he's worried about something? I thought he was just irritable."
"I repeat my prior statement. What possible threat could a bunch of cats be?"
"Anyway, where do you get your supplies from? We only have so much food with us; it'd be good to know where we can get more."
"That's...not as accessible a source as I was hoping for."
"Well, if you need more food, you can head south to Mertis. It's a farming town. Just watch out for the undead."
"Yep. Skeletons, ghouls, ghosts, maybe even a vampire. You know? Animated corpses filled with hatred towards all that lives? Glowing eyes, deathly cold claws, the works?"
"How does this place FUNCTION?"
"Going back a bit, why would the Empire ever want to help us? What do they care about us?"
"Can we go now? This is boring."
"Yes, please leave. I really need to finish inventory."
"You heard the lady."
Not shown: me spending a few hundred turns trying to shepherd her out of the room so I can loot it. I think the doorway is blocked to NPCs though because she wouldn't leave.
"I was hoping this was a tavern, but I'm not seeing any alcohol."
"Oh no, you don't think there's no booze down here, do you?"
"Have courage, my friend. If mages can make trees that grow in darkness, then they can make alcohol from...something. Lichen? Mushrooms?"
"He's right. You want to get drunk, you can get drunk. We're not animals."
"I see you're still a little tan. Haven't been here long? What'd they do you for?"
"Ahem. Sorry, my friend here let his curiosity get the better of his common sense. Apologies."
"Have you been here long? Any suggestions on where to go from here?"
"Well, we'll keep an eye out, and let you know if we find her."
"I think that's about all the stalling we can do. So now the big question: are we sticking together from here on out?"
"No offense, because you all seem like decent people...er, for the most part anyway...but if I'm going to travel with you I'd like to know more about you. I mean, we don't even know each others' names!"
"Fair enough. My name is Kane Orvat, Esquire. I am...was a public defender."
"And what's that?"
"A lawyer who defends people against the state."
"Wait, that was an option? Oh well, no wonder you ended up down here. Izzat how you learned to swordfight, too?"
"You'd be surprised at some of the laws on the books. Fighting skill comes in handy more often than you'd think. As I'm sure you can attest to."
"Yeah, yeah. Hey, call me One-Eye. I'm a, uh, gambler, I guess? Mostly made money by betting on dart games."
"And by stealing."
"Oh lay off it, lady! That's just supplemental income; a man's gotta eat, right? Anyway, stealing's not what I'm down here for."
"Whatever for then? Gambling's perfectly legal, as far as I'm aware."
"It's not my fault some dumbass mounted the dartboard on the front door! And that guard had such rotten timing!"
"...and opened the door right into a dart, oh dear. Died, did he?"
"Eventually. I'll say this, the Empire's training is amazing. He chased me around for a good thirty seconds with six inches of sharpened steel sticking out of his face. Managed to gouge out my left eye before finally eating it. Anyway, you don't last long up top if you kill a guard, accident or no. So here I am."
"And I suppose you're completely above-board."
"It's hardly my fault that the Empire doesn't tolerate freedom of religion!"
"What are you talking about? There's probably thousands of different faiths in the Empire. Nobody cares!"
"They care about The Way! They want nothing to do with us! But they will learn the error of their ways! We listen to the Words, and we recount them, and when we have found the correct speaking of them, we shall raise the Creator, who shall remake the world, and do it properly this time!"
"Yeah okay, now I'm the one that's uncomfortable. Lady --"
"Elly, if you please."
"Elly, whatever, people have no business trying to resurrect whopping great undead superbeings. There's a reason the Empire killed off all the dragons! Power doesn't care who it tramples, it just kills everyone!"
"Oh don't be silly, none of you will have anything to worry about. You'll be with me, after all, right?"
"I have serious reservations."
"So you're saying you'd rather travel without her magical help?"
"Hey, what about me? You just assume I'm along for the ride?"
"I'm rather assuming you don't want to go traveling, naked and alone, across an unknown hostile wilderness. Or do you have a dead god in your pocket too?"
"Nah. But more seriously, don't you want to hear my sad and tragic backstory?"
"Okay, sure. Shoot."
"Yeah, name's Byff, right? Pleased to meetcha, incidentally. So I was working on these potions one day, right? And I must've put a little too much glowing nettle into this one mix? Because it exploded in my face, yeah? And next thing I know all my clothes have dissolved. And when I went to put on my emergency backup pants, they dissolved too, just a bunch of little bits of thread. Same with my towel, my kitchen towel, my neighbor's laundry...yeah, pretty much everything."
"Anyways, I got arrested for public indecency and theft of laundry, and got thrown down here."
"Truly, a tale for the ages."
"So we're stuck with each other, right? Because frankly I don't see any of us except Kane managing to do any better."
"You do raise an excellent point. What's my motivation for sticking with you three, instead of finding a marginally more sane group to travel with? I'm sure with the way our beloved overlords behave there'll be one coming through within a few days at most."
"Easy answer. You're too curious to see what in blazes we'll do next."
"Ah. Well, there is that."
"So it's settled! Let's go!"
"Sure, but where to?"
"Oh, does it matter? Let's just go!"
"One aimless wandering through monster-infested wilderness coming up!"
"Wait, hang on a second..."
Now that we're done here, here's the maps of Fort Avernum. First, this is the underground, where we started:
The ! marks the stairs up; we started in the bottom-right corner.
Here's Fort Avernum itself:
The stairs down are in the northeast, with Tor and Thairl just southwest of them. Storerooms in the southeast, barracks and the monument in the northwest, and the small "tavern" is the western !