Part 9: Underground Fort"Sounds like we'd better go stage a daring rescue operation. Let me take the lead on this one, okay?"
"Fine by me. Now where's that fort...?"
"I don't think this is it."
"No...but on the other hand, didn't we pick up a job from the job board to disperse a hostile nephil camp? I think that's this."
"Well, then let's get to it, lads."
Oh geeze, this is seriously unwise. Seven Nephil Warriors, six Nephil Archers, two Nephil Spiritists (shamans), and a Nephil Chieftan. We could maybe take a group half this size. No way can we fight the full group, though. The problem is one of damage output, or alternatively one of hitpoints -- they can kill us a lot faster than we can kill them. Unless we cheat.
Kane and One-Eye each use one of these, and the battlefield looks like this:
I wish in my previous playthroughs I'd been more willing to use those things. They have absurd range and the damage is pretty great for this stage of the game. The only guy left standing is the Nephil Chieftan, and he falls to a firebolt from Byff.
The Chieftan drops a gold necklace, we get 300 coins straight from the camp, we get some miscellaneous equipment to sell from all the dead nephils, and finally this sword:
It's an easy upgrade over the broadsword Kane's using, as its "cleave" ability rarely procs anyway.
Alas, this isn't the encampment that the job board quest was for. That encampment of hostile nephilim is closer to Cotra, and more northerly.
"Poor things. You really can't stay here! It's only a matter of time before the army hunts you down. You should leave while you can."
"We've dispersed that camp you were worried about, sir! They shouldn't bother you any more."
Easy money. You can fight them instead, of course, but as implied there's not much of any reward for doing so. You monster.
Near their camp is a maze of stalactite walls:
This was difficult to navigate in previous versions, where it was more labyrinthine and you had to do your own navigation. In the reremake you can just click somewhere on the map and the computer will calculate a path for you. The ultimate goal is to reach a "secret" passage along the rock wall to our south:
"Hold up, gang, there's something interesting somewhere around here."
"You feel it too? It's...jarring. Like an out-of-tune piano."
"We must track down those crystals!"
"And what will that accomplish?"
"It should fix this place. And then we can use its energies."
"To do what?"
"Hell, I dunno. But there's a lot of power here; it must be useful for something."
Further northeast, actually just a bit west of the
"This is probably significant. If only we knew more about the caves!"
We'll get there eventually, Byff, not to worry.
This throws us into a fight with some Giant Lizards, which are easily dispatched.
Finally, we find the third lake in the sequence, and the one that actually has nephilim.
"Hm. Two camps of guards, one with archers, one with a shaman. And we don't want to fight either of them if possible. Fortunately they're too far out from the fortress; looks like we can sneak around behind them."
Indeed, you can just walk right past the guards as long as you don't step next to them.
"Let's not charge right up the middle, hm?"
"And you think there's a better option?"
"Naturally. These forts always have boltholes."
"Which is dumb, because they're obvious security holes."
"Figures that when we put you in charge you lead us right into the trash heap."
"Hey, would you rather fight cats on steroids?"
"Looks like we're fighting septic rats instead."
Nothing we haven't seen before though. I've switched One-Eye from a spear to a bow for general combat; he brings the javelins out for high-value targets.
"Okay, boys, I think it's time I tought you some basic holy magic."
"What? Byff's assistance isn't enough?"
"Byff may be a bit too busy casting spells to heal you. And my own attentions may be divided as well."
"I don't want to get any more involved with this Word stuff than I have to be."
"You don't have to be at all. The rituals are the same regardless of your faith; it's the power source that changes. Drive your prayers from whatever you believe in."
"...the rule of law?"
"You're the worst priest ever."
"And I think my sect might get into a holy war with yours."
Everyone's set to level up, so Kane and One-Eye each get a single point in Priest Spells. They may have abysmal Intelligence scores, but they get 75 spellpoints to play with and Minor Heal only costs 3. Kane and One-Eye are now basically self-sufficient as long as they don't need mid-combat healing; Elly and Byff can save their spellpoints for casting the big spells.
"This tunnel goes a long way."
"I bet it wraps all the way around to the back of the fort. So if they're being driven back from the gates, they can still escape, or make a pincer attack."
"How'd you learn so much about fortress design anyway?"
"That would be telling."
"Hello! An Avernite soldier!"
"We're 10% done with our mission!"
"What are you still doing here? Why haven't you escaped yet?"
"Don't worry about your mates; we've been assigned to get them out."
"Where are they?"
"Any ideas how to get past the guards?"
"Great. A crypt. Where is it?"
"What do you know about the guards? If we happened to get into a fight, how badly would we die?"
"Okay, stay put for now. We'll let you know when it's safe to flee."
"Why can't he get out now?"
"Can't risk raising the alarm too soon. If those guards outside spotted him getting out, it could jeopardize the rest of the mission."
The aforementioned portcullis is just down the corridor from Renn. It's apparently unguarded, so we can walk right past it. Past the portcullis...
"Bones, broken weapons, a badly-spelled warning. I don't suppose this is the crypt he mentioned?"
"Academic, anyway; this lock's a bit beyond my skills at the moment. We'll have to come back later."
Oh thank god.
"So, what, just head in and find the prisoners?"
"Let's try to be a bit more subtle. Renn mentioned a secret way, which is less likely to be guarded."
"I don't see any guards here."
"What, and guards have to be posted in highly-visible positions?"
Back up the corridor before Renn is the secret in question.
"Some secret! Damn it all, Renn!"
That Nephar Warrior is disturbingly durable, and there's some archers in the back that tack on extra damage onto Kane (and their shots can also cause entanglement). Fortunately, he's gotten pretty durable too, so he can handle it. One-Eye switches to javelins, Byff dazes and firebolts, and Elly keeps Kane up.
Fortunately, once the warrior and archer are down, the remaining basic Nephar aren't too threatening.
"Phew. No alarm raised. They're stupid, or drunk, or both."
"I found the pantry. It has teeth."
The other southern door has a bedroom with some minor loot, like an Emerald (nominal value 200 gold).
"I'm starting to get the impression we should have taken the portcullis route."
"It's not my fault my intel was faulty!"
More like it's my fault I misunderstood what Renn actually said. I confess I don't really understand why there's a secret passage leading smack into a pack of nephar. What would you use it for?
Oddly enough, this is a smaller fight than the one we just did, though it takes place in more open terrain. Careful play can kill these guys without aggroing the rest of the fort.
"Okay, whatever you do, do not head south to the entrance! I saw some guards there, but fortunately they didn't notice me."
"Heck, the way things are going we might as well just kill them too."
"I knew it."
"Patience. At the very least we should divide and conquer. No sense bringing the entire fort down on our heads."
"Are you guys the prisoners? No? Dang."
The Nephar Spiritists in this shrine puts a War Chant on their buddies, and then summon a Ghast. Unpleasant.
"Kane, I think now would be a good time for those wands we found."
"Okay, if you say so.
"Now how do I use this thing?"
"If it's made according to spec, you point it at your target and say ''Bippity Boppity Boo.''"
"Look, magic is weird, okay?"
"If you say so."
Unfortunately, nephar all have pretty good fire resistance, especially the spiritists, so this isn't a win button like those Radiate Ice scrolls were. It still helps immensely.
One-Eye follows up by hitting the Ghast with a Flawless Shot, ensnaring it. Hopefully by the time it reaches melee range most of the enemies will be dead (in actuality, the ensnaring lasts for 1 turn...meaning the Ghast recovers when its turn comes around and it's able to move freely ). Byff then lands a masterstroke by managing to Daze one of the spiritists, taking him out of the fight for four whole turns. And Elly puts up Protection to limit the damage we take a bit.
This is still a tough fight, though.
"Guys? Could I suggest running the hell away?"
"Kane, get your ass back here! Why am I on the front lines? And Elly, I could use some help with this poison!"
"Well damn. We really need One-Eye's help. Fall back!"
"I'll hold them off; get out of here!"
"Don't have to tell me twice!"
"Oh no, not again."
"You bastards are gonna rue this day! Don't you know I'm a law--"
"Guess it's back to Fort Duvno for us, then?"
"Oh, no, Cotra will do fine. And thank goodness for that."
This was a combination of bad tactics and really awful luck. First, we got One-Eye stranded in the room, where he got surrounded and chopped to pieces. Second, the spiritists got some awful summons in the form of a Ghast (hits can stun (forced turn loss) and slow (random AP loss), costing targets many turns) and a Cave Widow (whose melee deals really nasty poison damage, and they have an AOE poison spit attack too).
Back in Cotra...
"Let's take the portcullis this time."
"And you take point."
"I hope they've forgotten about our little fight."
"This wheel must control the portcullis. Too bad we can't jam it open."
"Hold it. This brick looks weird."
And this was the secret Renn was talking about.
"Between them and Renn, that's only five soldiers. They didn't mention any others; I guess half of them got killed."
"Let's go tell Renn to flee, while he can!"
You get experience and a reputation boost for letting Renn flee; the mayor doesn't care about him, just the other prisoners. And yes, if you don't go back and talk to him, he'll stick around in the fort forever.
And now for Spectacularly Ill-Advised Theatre.
"Hey guys, you remind me of some assholes who just killed me! So I'm back to return the favor!"
"Got some work to do on your one-liners there, chum."
This time we form up outside the door and force their melee units to come after us one at a time. Doesn't help with the archer and spiritists, of course, who are happy to hang back and pepper us with projectiles, but it takes some of the heat off.
Once the fighters are dead, we step away from the doorway so we can't see inside. This lures out the ranged enemies.
Unfortunately, the Nephar Spiritists summoned an Ogre, which we can barely hit. Then, when one of them charges out, he hits us with a really nasty spell, which does this:
Acid Spray. We only get a single-target version (and not for a bit yet), but he doused almost our entire party. We'll be eating nasty acid damage every turn until it wears off. Kane's fine, but as soon as any of the others gets a turn, they're liable to die from acid damage. Time to break out a Group Healing scroll!
Much better: turned a guaranteed party wipe into something we might just survive. We cure the acid, heal up, kill the ogre, and get the spiritist out where we can dogpile him. Eat battle disciplines!
(The poison is from our Cloak of Curses)
He responds by summoning an Experimental Rat, giving Kane a momentary case of the jitters. But then he dies, and the rat alone is easily dealt with.
"Yeah! That's what you get! That's what you get for killing Old One-Eye!"
"Dude, keep your voice down! There's still more of them out there!"
"Oh. Oh yeah, oops."
"And you keep trying to give us lessons on being stealthy."
I could have sworn there was another spiritist. No idea where it went.
"Hey, there's something on the altar."
"Touching that is a seriously bad idea."
"Why? What would happen?"
"Looks like...a group of cave demons gets summoned while we all get put under a time dilation spell."
Yep, partywide Slow effect combined with three Cave Demons, whose melee can hit multiple targets. Not really survivable without a lot of luck right now. Which is a pity, as the reward is pretty decent:
But I guess we can't get it right now.
"Okay, let's attack the main group from the cells! They'll never expect it!"
"And will surprising them actually help in any way?"
"The way things have been going on this mission? Probably not."
"Can I interest you folks in purchasing some life insurance? It'll pay off real soon, I promise."
"You don't get to give me advice on my one-liners."
A bunch of basic nephars, a Nephar Warrior, and Chief Arr'Eh.
We pull Kane back to the doorway, creating a nice killbox where only one or two enemies can fight us at a time. They didn't bring any ranged fighters, the fools.
...except that Arr'Eh has the same Acid Shower ability that that spiritist did. I think it's an item they can use, though, so at least he should only have the one shot of it. We spend two turns curing and healing, get everyone back to full, and
He gets more than one shot of that thing. I don't like this fight, mommy. We pull everyone back so the chief can't keep nuking us.
"Hey, where's Byff?"
"Lying on the ground, over there...missing his face. Oh dear."
In the confusion, I failed to realize that Byff was still being dissolved, failed to cure him, and he died. Oops. Oh well; he'll keep.
"Alright, chief, all your underlings are dead. Now fight us properly!"
"Mrrr. You mean fourrrr against one?"
"Well, three now."
"And soon it will be two!"
The chief is a beast, with enough base AP to get two actions per turn. He can cast Call Beast, which just creates chaff enemies, or he can attack twice per turn. He's also very hard to hit and damage. Fortunately he doesn't re-use the Acid Shower effect. Unfortunately, he gets two criticals in a single turn, and kills Kane...from full health.
Meanwhile, he still has easily 2/3rds of his health remaining. We're not doing that with only two characters.
"I propose a partnership."
"You grab Byff's corpse, I grab Kane's gear, and we get the hell away from here."
"You're going to strip Kane's corpse in the middle of combat?"
"Mm, you have a point. Just grab the whole thing then, I guess."
"How can a single nephar be so damned strong?"
"Good food and exercise?"
"Wait, what happened?"
"I carried you back this time."
"Wait, that means One-Eye carried me? And I still have all my stuff?"
"Don't get used to it."
"Ready for the rematch, chief?"
"Mmmwarr! But I killed you! I removed your filthy head with my own claws!"
"I got better."
He gets his Acid Shower uses back. I move One-Eye into melee range in an attempt to distribute the chief's melee damage more evenly and avoid one-shots, only to discover that the chief's melee attacks always cleave. Also he has combat disciplines; he hits us with a Blade Sweep, which does AoE damage and kills One-Eye...so we try again.
In our third attempt, we get the chief stuck next to a table, and hide everyone as best we can from his Acid Showers:
Then it's just a matter of keeping Kane healed and protected, playing cautiously, and hoping the chief doesn't get lucky with critical hits. And he doesn't.
"Ha! Human stubbornness triumphs again!"
"Also human access to mysterious sources of resurrection."
"Hey, the Way of the Word doesn't discriminate against nephilim! All are welcome to learn the path and gain its benefits."
The chief has a platinum ring (vendor trash, nominal value 500 gold), and some nice gauntlets.
"I believe the word is ''yoink''."
"You want to get hit in the face by an angry cat-man over and over again? You can have the gauntlets."
Amusingly, if we then walk out of the dinner hall, we trigger an event that's kind of irrelevant now:
It's irrelevant because we killed all the nepharim that would notice us. They're dead. They're all dead.
Well, except for the gate guards, and a few rooms around the outside. So we get to killing them too.
"I am getting the worst feeling of deja vu."
This is a problematic room. It has Vk'Arr Split-Tail and Herrrm Split-Tail, two spiritists. Kane's new gauntlets are not enough of an edge. And like seemingly everyone else in this damned fortress, they can cause Acid Showers.
So it's back to LOS trickery to keep them from casting spells at all while we chew up their guards, and then spreading out to avoid getting everyone blasted when they decide to pour acid all over us. Fortunately they're very eager to use that acid attack, so we can use Kane (who will most likely survive it) to bait them out and eat the attack, after which the rest of the party is safe-ish.
"Why are we even still here? We've done the job, we should be getting out of here!"
"If we can't handle these guys, then I don't think we can handle sliths. So this is practice."
Our loot is worthwhile, though:
Basically a better version of the Radiate Ice scrolls we've been abusing.
The spiritist brothers were also guarding a book.
We're still holding off. Curing isn't that important anyway.
All that's left now is the gate guards, and while they're tough cookies, they don't have ridiculous acid AOE attacks, so we chop them down in fairly short order.
"May I never see a bipedal feline again."
"In the name of all that is holy, let's get out of here."
"What could possibly be holy to you?"
"Getting out of here."
"Okay, team, let's go, then. We're done."
Until we have to return for the crypt, anyway. Note the map: tunnel along the east wall, Renn was in the northeast nook, !s are, east to west, the unholy altar, the prisoner room, and the crypt. The chief was just west of the prisoners, and the spiritist twins were in the larger of the western rooms.
"Back at Cotra. Time to report to his Mayorness."
"Sir, we freed the prisoners...or what was left of them, anyway. And then we destroyed the fort for good measure."
An easy upgrade for One-Eye, who is still using just a Fine Cloak.
"Okay. We've proven we can deal with nepharim, if only through sheer bloody-mindedness. Time to go check on the sliths."