Part 11: Upper Slith Temple
"This place has been here for centuries."
"All the better to have accumulated treasures! But hold up, there's a button here."
"They're doing this to taunt us. There's no other possible explanation."
"I'm with you: I think they put a spellbook back there! Who would lock away knowledge behind barriers?"
"Clearly only the most evil of degenerates, eh?"
"That's what I'm saying!"
"Oop, hold on a tick. Found the guards."
This is where Kane and One-Eye's mental resistances really start to break down. They have a pathetic 12% and 14% chance, respectively, to resist mental afflictions (like Daze and Fear), and slith shamans (shamen?) love to spam an area-effect fear spell. That kind of spell tends to be utterly useless in our hands due to enemy mental resistances being fairly high, but it's lethal in the hands of the enemy, as they can reliably take out your frontliners.
Basically what I'm saying is, Kane has had better days. Skull for fear, empty head for dazed, and the lasso for being immobilized by a slith combat discipline. The wolf head is War Blessing, shield is Protection, and weird blobby sail thing is Cloak of Curses (that permanent buff Byff can cast that causes our attacks to occasionally debuff our targets).
Still, we emerge victorious, just in time for Elly's spellpoints to run out and force a return to town.
"Whoops, starting to see the grabby hands and toothy walls. Shall we call a break?"
"Strange how so many of these coffins have been broken open."
"But I see one that's unpilfered!"
Some steel javelins, which have better damage than the longbow One-Eye's using right now, though the longbow has +5% accuracy.
"Why would the sliths raid their own tombs?"
"Retroactively disgraced ancestors, maybe?"
"Ha, yeah! This guy's kid probably placed dead-last in the baby-eating competition."
"Now now, you don't know they're gratuitously evil."
"After those magical barriers? They're evil. No question."
"Your code of ethics has some idiosyncracies."
"Anyway, if those were disgraced ancestors, then I'd expect some of these statues to be torn down as well."
"Oh hey, a body!"
"Keep those eyes on the prize, huh?"
It has a Fine Robe and an Ensnaring Wand:
Could be useful.
The next room has a nasty combination of Slith Shamans, a Slith Warrior, and several Inferno Worms (like Frozen Worms, but...you know). What follows is a lengthy process of teasing out the enemy in as small of groups as possible. Everyone levels up to level 9, making us that much more effective and less prone to getting a terminal case of facestab.
Imagine where we were just standing, but covered in fire, blood, and Kane's head, and you have a pretty good idea of how Alternate Universes nos. 15-27 went.
"Fantastic. More shamans."
"B̪̙̜͙͖͝ọͯw̷̟͓̟̗̥ͧͩ ͠b̗̱̉̆̆̀̇̉̊͘e͍͔ͨͧ̓ͫ͑̈ͨ͢f̗͔̟̲͞o̘̟̼̍͋ͯ̊r̼͉̣ͯ̓̆̿̄e̦̹ͭ̃̒̓̉ͨ̓͝ ͓̮̄̀̅̉͘ţ̩̪̫̈ͤ̎̈ͩ̃͊h̴̠͉͉͆ḛ̭̺ͬ͂͠ ̮͕͈t̡ͩ̈́r͚̙͎̮̾u̥̘ͯ̆̉ͦ̔̓e̓̉̇ ̺̈́ͬ̽gͮ͑̓ͪ̿̅o̐d͎!̼̫̰̫͙͍̣̒̾͑̒ͦ̄͐"
"<Will you apes get out of our sacred temple already?>"
And two more inferno worms. Fortunately, they can be pulled out one by one.
"These look kind of like cleansing pools, for purification before certain rituals."
"Shouldn't they be, like, dirtification pools? For evil religions?"
"I believe the classic evil cultist bathes in blood. Which this isn't."
"No, but it sure isn't water either."
Touching any of the three pools restores 50 spellpoints to each party member. Saves us on trips back to town, anyway. They can only be used once each though.
"They've rigged some kind of trigger here. I can't tell what it's connected to though."
"That's because the payload is magical and phased out of reality right now."
"Shit, really? That's going to make it hard to disarm."
A trap that we don't have the requisite Tool Use skill to disarm (we currently have 6 Tool Use throughout the party). If we proceed anyway...
Remember when I said last update that Kane had 80 hitpoints? Let's not go this way. Not yet anyway.
"Hold up; button."
"Ow. I bet these sliths think they're so clever."
On the plus side, there's a Scroll of Return Life in there. Because no trash heap is complete without its angry vermin and random high-value treasure.
"Please, no more worms!"
"If anything, this is even more infuriating."
"I get the feeling we're nearing the end of this pathway."
"What makes you say that?"
"They're putting the skulls up on sticks instead of just leaving them lying on the ground."
"Also, the symmetry is kind of suspicious."
"On the plus side, I think Byff's right; this is the end of the road. Which means there's almost certainly not a third level."
"On the minus side, this terrain is awful for a fight. Way too open."
"Oh, stop being so pessimistic! The Words will protect us, as they have protected us all along!"
There are various sliths patrolling around the perimeter of this room. With careful timing, we can sneak out, kill one, and then retreat back to the entry before others notice us.
...or we could get dragged into a fight, that works too.
"Who litters their sacred sites with dead bodies?"
"Slith culture is weird."
"No, look -- see those bite marks? I bet you this is a sanctified meal for the temple guards."
"No bet. I don't fancy gambling with someone who can make her words all echo-y at will."
"Aww, he's learning!"
Notice that switch on the western wall? Behind it is a closet with two slith warriors, a spellpoint-restoring pool, and chests containing an iron breastplate for Kane, and a Speed Burst scroll.
"That seems to be the last of the guards, on the outside at least."
"Now to get this door open."
"...that was easy."
Just looks like five ordinary sliths, right? Well, and a couple of Lava Worms in the corners. But the center slith is Priestess Puruass. Things are about to get ugly.
Annoyingly, she starts out as nonhostile, and only turns hostile a) if you're close enough, and b) it's her turn. As you are unable to damage friendly units in any way, it is impossible to get the drop on her.
"Hey Byff, what gender is that one in the middle?"
"Uh, it's really hard to tell with reptiles, and this one's decked out in ceremonial gear too. But...female? Maybe?"
"Good enough. Hey lady, we've had a long day, so what say you just come quietly? I'm sure you're guilty of something."
A lot just happened, so let's take it in stages.
1) Kane got teleported outside. That's annoying; it'll take him a couple of turns to get back into the fight.
2) Two Cave Slimes appeared next to him. Cave Slimes are utterly inconsequential (Elly can one-shot them with her bow); they literally just serve to slow Kane down.
3) One-Eye got charmed. He has a mental resistance rate of 14%, so this was basically inevitable. He'll stay charmed for 3 turns, or until he dies; we have no way of curing charming (yet).
Charming is fucking broken in this game, and not in a good way. Your melee characters will basically never have adequate mental resistances, so monsters that can charm you are always capable of turning a 4-on-1 fight into a 3-on-2. Moreover, your party members are hilariously lethal when fighting against you. Monsters have high health and defense, balanced by having relatively low damage output. Party members are the reverse. Thus, a charmed party member is very likely able to one-shot his former allies. And what are you going to do to stop him, kill him?
Eventually, we'll get a spell that can remove mental status ailments (Curing only does physical ailments). In the meantime, we're very fortunate: One-Eye somehow managed to miss Elly, and doesn't seem to understand how to use his bow. We retreat out of the room, as it's a gigantic killbox, and kill sliths one by one while waiting for One-Eye to come to his senses. There's always a slith standing in the doorway when his turn comes around so he doesn't accomplish anything.
"Goddamn I have the worst headache."
"One-Eye! You tried to hit me! What were you thinking?"
"Uhh, reflexes I guess. Gotta aim for the healer first, right?"
"Well you got the wrong healer!"
"Focus on the enemy, folks! That's the big green ones with scales!"
Weirdly, with all of us clustered at the entrance to the room, Priestess Puruass shows no interest in doing much of anything; she just hides behind the altar and periodically "banishes" Kane two steps away from where he stands by the doorway. I believe we're out of range of her spells, which has confused her AI. Meanwhile we pick off her bodyguards one by one as they charge the door, which has become our own killbox.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when we try to back out of the room to drop a quicksave (you can only save when out of combat, and can't stop combat when there are hostiles around); the priestess chases us all the way around the room, terrifies One-Eye (there's that mental resistance failure again), and then roasts him to death.
"She's right around the corner! I don't fancy trying to win this thing without our fire support."
"We can bring him back, you know."
"Then do it!"
"Unbelievable. My headache's even worse now."
"Save it for after this fight is over!"
Elly blesses and protects everyone, and Kane uses a Speed Burst scroll, giving everyone 5 bonus AP per turn for awhile.
Hopefully this will give us some leeway against her attack spells.
"You're really starting to piss me off, lady!"
"<Infidels! Return to the fires that spawned you!>"
Unfortunately, we have a problem. Our accuracy is abysmal, and so is our damage. Kane and One-Eye miss about as often as they hit, and deal puny damage when they get through. Even Elly and Byff's spells are not doing a great job of things. And the priestess of course has gobs of hitpoints and no real limit on her spellcasting. One unlucky turn can let her terrify half our party -- and don't think that Byff and Elly are immune to mental effects. Worse, now that we're out in the open, if she decides to charm someone, that person is going to kill one ally per turn unless they suffer a spontaneous attack of AI stupidity. Though at least the odds of her choosing to cast Charm are quite low.
Also the priestess can do her scripted "banish and summon cave slimes" trick even if she can't see you. And there's two possible banish sites, so you can't even trick her into banishing you to where you already are. So that's fun.
"Stand still and fight!"
"I would if she'd stop teleporting me!"
This universe cancelled on account of the priestess one-shot Elly and Byff with a single spell. In fact, this happens rather often, forcing us to reload from the save we dropped right before resurrecting One-Eye.
That Spellward scroll, which reduces elemental damage for the party (much like Steelward reduces physical damage) means merely that she will probably kill someone with her AoE spells rather than certainly do so.
New universe time.
We can deal damage to her, mostly through repeated castings of Smite. It just goes very, very slowly, and there's a lot of things she can do to screw up our battle plan.
"Agh! More gigantic poisonous rats!"
"On the plus side, I found a use for my summoning spell! Got a lizard distracting the slimes for us!"
Kane eats it to a combination of a fire spell and an attack from the Escaped Experiment that the priestess summoned -- she has access to the top-tier summoning spell and they're a pain in the ass. Byff revives him with our other Scroll of Return Life, but Elly gets frightened...
"When the Creator remakes the world, I'm going to personally see to it that there are no giant rodents!"
Note her in the bottom-left corner: exit, pursued by a giant rat. Still, this is the closest we've gotten, in many attempts, to winning, so we press on.
One-Eye gets banished to the opposite end of the room (where the Cave Slimes and Byff's lizard are still ineffectually duking it out), and Kane eats a flamethrower to the face, but Elly's gotten over her fear! Now she just has to make it back to the rest of the party while getting gnawed on every turn.
"Hey, what are you looking at me like that for? And what's that tingling in the air?"
And Elly ate a lightning bolt in the face and died.
"Will. You. Stop. Running. Away!"
"<What does it take to stop you people?!>"
"Wondering the same thing, lady!"
"And stop dodging!"
Ha ha ha ha ha holy shit we did it.
"Huhhh...hahhh...I think I'm just going to sit down for a bit."
"That was ridiculous. Who even gets to be that strong? She's a spellcaster and yet she dodged half our strikes without even thinking about it!"
"Magical enchantments, it had to have been. A pact with a demon, or a blessing from some petty godling."
"And speaking of deities, Elly's dead. Not sure what we're going to do about that."
"You don't know how she did that revival trick?"
"Wish I did. But no, I don't. And we're out of scrolls of Restore Life."
"I'll tell you what we do. We get the hell out of here. No stopping to loot things, poke bodies, gloat, nothing, just grab Elly and we're out. If there's a demon or godling behind this, they cannot possibly be happy with us right now, and the only thing that'll keep us safe is distance. There are some forces you just don't try to fight."
"Says the anti-Imperial lawyer."
"Shut up, grab her legs, and let's go!"
"Heading back to Fort Dranlon, I see."
"We may as well report our victory to Commander Rosie."
"Y'know, she got on my nerves sometimes, but she was easy on the eyes. I'm gonna miss that."
"Thank you, One-Eye."
"Hey guys! Did we win?"
"Man was not meant to see flesh do that! "
"Welcome back, Elly."
"...did we win?"
"Everything's dead; does that count?"
And thus did we do a dungeon way, way before we were supposed to. Total resources expended in that final fight alone: 8 healing potions, 1 Speed Burst scroll, 4 speed potions and/or elixirs (gives the same AP bonus as Speed Burst scrolls do, for a longer duration but for one party member only), 2 Restore Life scrolls, a Spellward scroll, 6 steel javelins, and all 3 charges of that Entangling Wand we found.
"Captain, your mission was a literal suicide mission. We died out there."
"More times than you realized, even!"
"What I'm saying is, there'd better be a damned good payoff for this!"
"Sorry, who did you kill?"
"Some slith temple priestess? You know, like the one you asked us to hunt down? Big and green with a silver necklace and a weird glow about her? She killed your men while you watched from across the river?"
"That sounds like the priestess of the slith temple down south. They always pretty much just left us alone. I mean, they're sliths, so I thank you for your victory, but revenge against the wrong slith isn't revenge, just a solid blow in the war effort."
"What. The. Hell."
"I said the north end of the swamps. Sorry, folks! Like I said, no bounty for random slaughter!"
"Oh dear. Byff? Let's take One-Eye for a little walk, shall we?"
Yep, so that wasn't the right dungeon at all! Whoops.
"We are going to go back in there and we are looting that temple for all it's worth! Demons or no!"
"That's seriously unwise, you know"
"Sending us off to die in the swamps was seriously unwise! Refusing to pay us for it is suicidal!"
"May I humbly request that we not declare rebellion on Avernum in the middle of one of their forts just because we didn't stop to get accurate directions before setting out?"
Back at the temple...
"Well hey, I found something on the priestess' body!"
"Her somewhat decomposed body. Phew."
Not bad, though Byff doesn't get to keep it. Kane and One-Eye can always use better resists.
"We never got a close look at that altar."
"Ohhhh dear. Something really doesn't want us to do this."
"That just sounds like more of an incentive to meddle to me."
"We are TAKING IT."
"Man, even I can tell this is a bad idea."
"I don't care! We killed the priestess, we can kill whatever comes after her!"
Round one: four Slith Warriors and a Slith Shaman. We hole up in the temple and cut them down as they try to funnel through the doorway. It gets a bit hairy when we have to step out, as a warrior latches onto Byff and refuses to let him be, but nobody dies.
"That was it? Seems a bit lax for such an evidently important temple."
"I can practically guarantee you that was not it."
"The discipline on these guys is abominable. We were gone back to Fort Dranlon for more than a day! What took them so long?"
"Told ya there'd be more of 'em."
Two Slith Warriors, a Slith Flinger, a Slith Mage, and a bog-standard Slith. Wonder what that last one thinks it's doing here. We lure one of the warriors around the corner and kill him, then take the rest on as a group.
"Why didn't we have to fight through these guards on the way in?"
"Maybe they were out fishing?"
A Frozen Worm, two Sliths, and Defender Ssss'Ato, a unique slith warrior who mostly just has about four times the HP of a normal warrior. This would seem odd, but the game kind of expects you to be worn down from fighting the priestess at this point.
We blitz the worm down so it can't run away and pepper us with ranged attacks, kill the basic sliths, and then wear down Mr. Defender over a protracted battle. As a pleasant bonus, everyone levels up.
"Hold up, the big one's belt bears attention."
Not bad, and I'm amused that we got the +2 version of this belt before the +1 version.
"There, that's all of them."
"Do you really think so, dear?"
"...no, I don't. Alright, let's go."
"I don't hear much to the south. We may be able to sneak around them."
"You couldn't have waited ten seconds? The exit is right over there!"
"Do you really fancy running through the swamps to our boat, with an army at our back?"
Bizarrely, this fight is just a bunch of ordinary Sliths and Raider Huss'sha, another unique warrior. No magical or ranged support units to deal with, so it's cake. Like the Defender earlier, Huss'sha is just a beefier Slith Warrior.
"I think that's the last of them. Or at any rate whatever being they worshipped here is now more frustrated than angry."
"Any day we frustrate an evil religion is a good day in my book!"
"Hey, this last one was using a shield with his spear! How do you even do that?"
"C'mon, boys. Let's go somewhere more hospitable."
When we started this temple, we were level 7. Now we're level 10. It's been a bit of a slog, but we should be in much better shape for tooling around the rest of the Slith lands now. The difference those few levels makes is highly noticeable -- Kane and One-Eye are far more accurate, and everyone's somewhat more durable.
Here's the lower half of the temple:
It's just a warren of tunnels. The demon councilroom (with the key to the upstairs temple) is in the northeast, and the stairs in the northwest, with the pen holding three Frozen Worms just east of it. Otherwise, there's sliths of all types scattered throughout.
Here's the upper half:
It consists of set-piece battles placed every few chambers, with far fewer basic sliths and more shamans, warriors, and flingers. And worms of course. The bits of incomplete map are blocked off by magical barriers and that lethal trap. And Priestess Puruass is (was ) in the middle.