Part 12: Island Fort, Swamp Town
"C'mon, boys. Let's go somewhere more hospitable."
"So what was that broken sword blade thing we looted, anyway?"
"Hard to say. These runes are all the adjectives; whoever made it went and put the verb and nouns on the tip. We'll have to find that. And probably the handle too, if we want to actually use the thing."
"What adjectives do we have?"
"Uh, let's see. ''Chaotic'', ''Strong'', and ''Piercing''."
"Sounds like my kind of weapon."
"Oh? Are you planning to learn to use a sword?"
"Thanks, but I prefer to stay where the enemy can't punch me in the face."
"So I've noticed. You three can't all stand in the back."
"I volunteer One-Eye to help you defend us spellcasters from the enemy warriors!"
"And I volunteer Elly to get eaten by a demon."
We head back to Cotra for a recharge, looting the half of the warehouse we couldn't get last time (and picking up six sacks of mushroom meal and an Oozing Wand, which douses an area with acid) and talking to Konig the alchemist, who still doesn't think highly enough of us to teach us whatever spell he knows. Then it's back out to the waters.
"We've demonstrated we can take on some serious slith forces."
"Kind of? We died rather a lot back there."
"Oh, don't be a baby, Byff."
"Yeah, we survived...er, kind of. You know what I mean. Anyway, I think we should track down that other priest. The one that Commander Rosie wants killed. And then we kill them. And get paid."
"I can get behind that."
"Now remember, she said at the northern end of the swamp. Not the southern."
"It's not my fault I can't navigate well when there's no sun!"
The swamps are a warren of tunnels, with the occasional wandering band of low-level sliths and/or hostile wildlife.
"Hey, look over there!"
"It's a seething bed of worms!"
"Okay, no. This worm obsession of yours is unhealthy and has got to stop, Byff."
"Deny it all you like. We are not going over there."
Picking that fight would be an awful idea. Like, this awful:
Where are Kane, One-Eye, and Byff? They're all dead, before they even got a turn. There's five Frozen Worms, five Searing Crawlers (similar, but with an even higher-damage attack that also puts a damage-over-time debuff on the target), and an Eyebeast, which is Jeff Vogel's copyright-dodging version of a Beholder. And they completely wrecked us. Even if we had a stronger offense, we're nowhere near durable enough to survive and actually bring that offense to bear.
"Sure hope this is the village the Captain meant. These clothes were not made for trudging through swamps."
"Don't suppose you people have a priest among you? Magical type, killed a bunch of our soldiers, probably green?"
"Only one language these brutes understand, Kane. Let's go."
This is a rough fight: four slith warriors, a priest, a mage, and a bunch of lesser sliths. The warriors, priest, and mage all go before we do; if we aren't lucky, they can kill characters rather easily -- especially since we start out bunched up and the casters have several AoE attack spells.
It takes several attempts before we have a turn where the casters don't screw us over -- this more or less requires them both to decide to cast summoning spells. Kane uses our Steelward scroll to reduce incoming melee damage (because the warriors are almost killing him all on their own), One-Eye uses a Speed Burst scroll, and Byff breaks out that acid wand we found in the Cotra warehouses:
Too bad mages and priests are inexplicably resistance to acid. You guys should have lousy acid resistance! That's based on the Endurance stat!
Then Kane and One-Eye get hit by a fear spell, and there goes our ability to survive, because Elly and Byff are eating the melee attacks now.
"Hey guys! Those sure are some sharp spears you have there, aheh."
This universe cancelled on account of enemy mental attack spells being ridiculously overpowered.
This time the priest tries to charm Kane, and miraculously misses. We scramble to heal the damage from the first set of attacks, and Elly blows the warriors back a bit with Call Storm. The basic sliths then attack and nicely get in the way of the warriors, who have to run the long way around and don't get any attacks in in turn 2.
Then in turn 3, everyone takes gobs of damage, and the mage casts a Daze spell that succeeds against the entire party.
And we all got cut down in our sleep.
This attempt starts similarly. Getting the basic sliths in as a body wall is invaluable to buy us a turn. Unfortunately, one turn simply isn't enough to deal with either of the casters, especially since they're out of reach of both Kane and One-Eye. We instead focus our efforts on the melee units, and Elly singlehandedly manages to kill most of the basic sliths. If only Byff had some AoE attack spells! The acid wand is a poor substitute.
Kane and One-Eye have both drunk shielding potions, which give them regeneration and better defense. But we just ate an AoE cold spell. Kane spends his turn on healing Elly (One-Eye is also dazed and loses his turn; great). Byff empties out the wand, leaving us facing two warriors (one almost dead), the priest, the mage, and a summoned revenant. Elly heals Byff from near-death, and kills the warrior.
Byff got nailed by a fear spell; he's out of the fight. Too bad One-Eye is still dazed and will be for the next several turns as the enemy is conscientiously avoiding hurting him (which would break the daze effect). Worse, our Speed Burst scroll ran out, and Byff has the only other one. Kane makes it out of the melee zone to go attack the casters...who proceed to summon an ogre and then run away from melee range. At least they're too far away to cast at anyone but Kane now.
Byff finally recovers his wits -- One-Eye will as well on his next turn. Kane lands a solid blow on the mage, and everyone else scrambles to heal. On the next turn, Kane kills the mage! And with One-Eye back in the fight, things are suddenly looking up. It's just a priest, a warrior, and two summons (revenant and ogre) now.
Several turns pass without much happening. Slith priests, as it turns out, are massively more durable than slith mages. Kane gets both dazed and terrified, and Byff and Elly are spending most of their turns healing the damage they're taking from the warrior, revenant, and ogre. That doesn't leave much for our offense. Eventually, however, the revenant's summon timer runs out and it despawns, relieving a lot of the pressure we're under.
One-Eye snipes down the priest, and like that the fight is all but over.
"Ha-HA! That's what you deserve for killing humans!"
Total resources used: four healing potions (almost the entirety of our reserve), a Speed Burst scroll, a Steelward scroll, six charges from an Oozing Wand, and two Shielding Potions. Our resources are now much depleted.
"Are we entirely certain that was the correct village?"
"North end of the swamps. Had a priest. I don't see how we could get much more accurate than that."
"Oh boy. That island across the way is bad news, boys."
"Well, then it's a good thing there's all that water between it and us, right?"
"You forget sliths can swim."
"Right! I vote we vacate this area, on account of I don't want to know what can make Elly uneasy."
"Motion sustained, let's get the hell out of here."
There's another slith village right here, by the way, with identical encounter text and an identical fight if we choose to attack. I don't think that was the right village.
"We're doing this, boys. Come on!"
This puts us into a similar fight as before, except that there's one fewer slith warrior, and the mage has been replaced by two fire lizards (giant lizards with a firebreath attack). We get two friendly mages on our side to act as distractions. Unfortunately they're lousy spellcasters -- the sliths resist basically everything they can do.
Fortunately, the warriors don't do much damage, and one of the friendly mages hastes us! This gives us a chance for our attacks and spells to not charge us the full AP cost, which potentially means double attacks. Elly indeed gets a double turn, casting Call Storm to weaken the sliths and then Smite on the remaining fire lizard (after One-Eye sniped the first one down).
Unfortunately, the remaining sliths get preposterously high-damage attacks on Kane, and he dies. Fortunately, Elly gets a lucky string of hasted actions, but it's not enough to make up for losing our primary damage sponge; One-Eye dies to a summoned Greater Spirit a few turns later, and Byff and Elly are on their own while there's still far too many enemies on the field.
This just doesn't work without the massive pile of consumable items we've been leaning on in our prior fights. There's no way to limit the number of sliths we have to face at a time, the slith warriors can chop down our melee units faster than we can heal them (without using potions that we don't have any more), the priest is free to run around in the background pelting us with spells (and healing his allies!), and while we're far more durable than we used to be, it's still not enough to stand against this kind of force.
"We're doing this, boys. Come on!"
"Oh no we aren't. Out here in the open? There's more of these little encampments all over the place. As soon as we pick a fight they're all going to descend on us."
"But they've enslaved your fellow men!"
"And that sucks but we can't fix that. Not right now anyway."
"They're slavedrivers! T̥͈̟̩͎̠ͦͬͩh͔̆̀͊͆̋̚e̓̏ͦ̀̕y̰̣̑̏̌ͣ ͍͍͋̈́̅̓̅h͎̟͇̓ȁ̵̹̺ͦ̔ͮ̌͌̐v̉̋́̀͞ͅẽ̘̏̆̄̆̍̀͟ ̩͙̻̦̗̊ͤ̑̐͊͛ͅt̶͙͙̲ͣoͤ̿̓̔ͅ ̹ͬͤ͛d̄͂͗̉ͥ҉͕͖̯̦̠i̸̙̬̮̯͑̄ͣe̜̳͈̟͙̯̥ͤ!͍͓̻̫̲̼ͣ̅̇ R͒̄̍ͩ̃ͬ͒̕i̺͇̝̭͍̊̾ͨͦ̓̔̚g͚̦h͇̙̰͈t̷̖͉̘̹̬̭ ̷̞̗͎̮͚ͮ̌ͮ̾͆ͧn̓̂͏̲̰̙̯̟̪o̭̯͒̂͛w̙ͣͤ!̝̗̙̳̺̈́͋̀̈́̈͋͋"
"Sorry, Elly, I'd like to free them as much as you would."
"Hey, I bet I know what'd cheer you up. What say we invade a fort?"
"We got a job to go kill the leader of that island fort, didn't we? Get some bloody vengeance, that sort of thing?"
"...and while we can't face these guys on open ground, I bet we'd do a lot better in a confined space like their supposed fortification!"
"What, you think we can just walk into their fort?"
"You've seen their structures. They're barely competent stonemasons."
"Okay, fine. But we're coming back here as soon as we can."
"I can't believe we're doing this."
"I also can't believe there aren't any guards right at the entrance. Not even a lookout!"
"Oh, I imagine we'll run into them soon enough."
"Ah ha! I'd like to have a word with you naughty boys! S̲̮̮̺̲͕͙͊̊ǒ̠͍̯̭̬ ̭̜ͮ̇͂͘s̛͂̾͛i̲̫̖̹̱̲̜͑̊͒ͧ͆͐ṭͥ̚̕ ̛͓̯̬̟͇ͯ̽ͦͨͨͬͅd̸̮͚̳̺̲ͧ̃ͫ̔ȍ̱̓ͧ̂̽w̲ͅń͔̣̜̩̿ͯͫͤ̇ ͙̳̲́ȧ̌̔ͤͨ͠n̲̻̻̼ͨ̔͛̑̀d͍̼̺̬̍͛̃̓ ͎̞̩̳̪͓͔͓̻̥̀͛̊̈́̏ͭͥͫ̚h͙̻̗̎͊̄̈́́͋̉u̴̲̍ͨ̔tͯͅ ͉̹̞̥̘͆̌ͥup̵ͥ!̒͛"
"Yeah, kill the cooks too! You do not deserve my respect!"
Some much-needed healing items are in these chests, along with a bunch of vendor trash.
"All of you shall b͚̳̖͈̓ͫ̎͗o̵̙̖̳̩̭̦̙̓͗̽ͧ̎̒̚w̶̲̩͖̯ͧ̄ ̬̥͢d̗̟̟͓ͬo͎̖͕̗w̳̮̭̣̼͕̤̐ͧͫ̊̿n̴͎͈̥̺̉ before the might of the Word!"
"Y͚̺̩͓̖̳ͥ̋ͩ́ͅŏ̡̜͉̮̍u̸̲͋̊͗͊̾͆̍ ̝ͤ́͛͌̔s͕̘̘̩͎̞͋h̰͚̲ͮ͑̊͝a̷̩͈͐̐̂͊ͪ̓ḷ̺͍̻̻̈̇ͦl͈̟̻̻̣ ̴͇̟͉̪̝̐̐̂n̅̐͑͐́̂ͅǒ͖̹͍̗̙̻ṭ̲͔̤͋̄ͦ̀ ͈͍̹̰̪̤ͨ̈́̄͌l̴͎̿i͍̲͓̱̗ͥ̂̿̂ͣ̚v̨ͩͥͪͤ̓͒ĕ̍ ̼̩̣̫̀̋̃ͬ̾̅̀t̬̉o͓̤̤̹ͣ ̢̳͓͎̫̤̯̫̿͊s͕̋ȩ̙͎̙͍͖̯̐ͪ̃͌̒ͩe̳̖̟͖̗͇͕̓̍͊̑ ̲̲͔̏̒̈̒ͫ͛͢ṭ̞̻̥ͥh͖͖̞͕̱̄̂͋̀̑ͭ̈́͟e̟̻͕̳̰ͪ ̪̺̫̮͓͕ͦḙ͇͙̹̓̈̔ͩ̂ṋ̡͓d̩͈ͪ͒͠ ͓͚͈̒͗o̮͈̊́ͧ͆ͥͪͧ͝f̪̱̝̖ ̜̯͉̠̍ṭ̙̞͙͚̮̊̚ͅh͍ͦe̻̻̟̜̰͑̊̽͂ͅ ̒̚w̧̌͑̿͊o̤̥̲̩̜r̡̗̳̩̹̯̙͆̇ͧ̐ͩͭͧl̡̮̝̰͓̰̻͛̄̊ͪ̌ͅd̹̣̿ͧ̏̀̀!͇ͧ̊̍̈"
"Elly! Less power tripping, more healing!"
"Elly! Get ahold of yourself!"
"She appears to have gone berserk. Amazing! I say we ride this as long as we can!"
"Whoopsy-daisy, I'm back! My word that's a lot of blood. Here, p̨̠͇͖ͪ̃̅a̻̦̗̠̜̯̬̔t̩̗͔ͦ̋̄̃͊c͖̝̣̦̺͈̋̌̊̒͋ͧh̨͍̱̣̣͈̱ ͎̺͎̙̀y̒ͮ̇̄̓ö͌͏̪ṳ̖̺͉̩̻̳ͪ̔̔ͮͭ͘r̖̗͙͚͐͌͛s̯̣͎̼ͮ͆ͣ͛͊e͈͑̀̓̽l̷͓̥̲̦͔̞̩ͥ̋͑̑͒f̷͉̩̟ͯ̔̔̃̓̀͗ ̹͈̱̻̱͇͢ṵ̞̹͉̹̠p͍̝͇͇̭̈́̒.͕̠ͣ̍̇ͮ̒ͤ͟"
"What the hell, lady, what the hell."
"They're slavers! I don't mind the warfare, or the demon worship, or the lack of pants, but they went and enslaved people! You don't do that!"
"The Empire enslaves people all the time."
"Well yeah, but those are criminals. They've done something wrong and must be punished."
"Have they now."
"Mm. I'll get back to you on that. But the point is, we need to kill us some sliths."
"I like new Elly. Let's keep her."
Sure enough, this fort is nowhere near as deadly as the open battlefields from earlier. Being able to hide behind walls and draw out enemies a few at a time does amazing things for our survivability.
Which isn't to say we don't get into a few scrapes.
The big green one in back is Shaman Kel'Voss, a supercharged slith shaman. Fortunately his escorts are few in number. We pull them back to the bridge behind us and chew them up while Kel'Voss mostly just casts Smite and Call Storm. Once he's alone, he dies quickly -- far, far faster than Priestess Puruass did.
"Like I said, I don't really mind the demon worship. I mean, it's self-destructive and dangerous, but what are you going to do? Not curry favor with vast, powerful forces that seek to destroy everything?"
"Hey, it must be my birthday!"
"Finally, ol' Byff gets a shiny to wear."
"More of those poison-spitting fungi, like the ones we fought on that island."
"I bet the sliths are cultivating them as static defenses."
"I bet the sliths just have exceptionally poor hygeine. *sniff*"
Apparently "Stonecarver" means "Mage". He drops a Terror Wand which can be used to cast the same fear spell that enemy casters have been using so effectively on us. Too bad enemy mental resistances are already sky-high.
"Great, the second floor. Well, let's get this over with."
"What's the matter? This is going great so far!"
"Yes, and you've already forgotten the second floor of that temple?"
"Frankly I'd rather fight slith soldiers than slith fanatics, any day."
"...you may have a point."
"Hold up, we missed something down here. Walked right past some docks with a boat on our way over here."
"Got to keep an eye out for those boats, eh?"
"You know it!"
"And while you boys were bickering, I found a switch down here."
"Hidden loot! Yoink."
"Hey Byff, recognize this potion?"
"No, but the label says ''Ironskin.''"
Handy...assuming Kane survives the first turn to chug the thing, anyway. Ahem.
"Ahh, so peaceful."
"Because everyone else down here is dead!"
"Don't say it."
"Aww, another crystal! Wait, was it the sliths that vandalized the crystal cave?"
"If it helps you sleep better at night, sure."
"Aww, looks like we can't reach anything else by boat. That was short-lived."
"Then c'mon, let's go upstairs and finish this!"
"Wow, that's some large-scale alchemy."
"Any idea what they're doing here?"
"Without access to their notes? Not a clue."
"I'm going to guess ''getting roaring drunk''."
"The label says ''Chateaux Champignon 706''. Hunh."
"Hey, and check this chest out."
"Bet Commander Rosie'll want to see this."
"Sure are a lot of those vats."
"And I think we've found who's responsible for them."
"Ooh, think he'll share his notes?"
"Kiiiind of doubt it."
"Wow, you're never going to learn the Word with an accent like that. Enunciate!"
"Or, y'know, die. Frankly, right now I like that option better."
Tassik-Schai is accompanied by three Consorts and one Scribe. The Consorts appear to be just basic sliths (I guess the slith sex life isn't very good combat training), while the scribe has mage spells.
"S̗̆̐̾̇u̡͍̪̝͇̤͚ͫͥͮ̀ͯ̚r̳̤̘̄̈́r̷͔én̠̖d̸̤͛͊̿̓̀e̠̭̯͉̞̘̰r̛̺̟̤͖̟̙̹ ̟͉͕͙̂͌ͪ͒̄ͅa͈̿͆͜n̝͙͈͗ͯͣd̶͚̫̞͔ ̵̱̗̿ͫ̔d̺͗̚i̭̘̮̲̺̼͊e̷̬̩̝̠̱͍̅!͎̗̹͖̰̤̐̄̈̏ͤ͒̎͞"
"Hey, Kane? I think I figured out what those vats are for."
Three Searing Slimes. That's unpleasant. They aren't very durable, but they have a poisonous melee attack which can add up. Tassik-Schai can do this many times during the fight (once per vat), but fortunately only when his HP hits certain thresholds. By avoiding attacking him, we can take down his escorts first and limit the amount of pain we have to subject ourselves to. And fortunately, Tassik's only other option is a basic melee attack, so we can afford to let him be.
"Quick, get behind him!"
"No vats over here!"
"Ha-HA! Didn't expect that, did you?"
"<I am going to MURDER YOU>"
"I think he's pissed, guys."
"Hey, time out while we kill these slimes."
"Can't we just kill them all at the same time?"
We got a Draining Slime this time too; they're much more durable, their melee causes slowness instead of poison (potentially robbing you of 9 AP at the start of your turn, which is usually your entire budget), and most importantly they have an incredibly punishing AoE attack that hits everything close to them.
"You want it? You got it. Kill everything!"
Tassik-Schai takes damage very quickly for a level boss. It's tempting to try to blitz him down, but if you do that you'll end up swarmed by slimes. Best to just tolerate his attacks and clear the area after each time he breaks a vat open.
"Hey, before I throw this thing, where do you keep your notes?"
"<Go to hell!>"
"What? I don't understand you. WHERE. DO. YOU. KEEP. YOUR. NOTES?"
"I guess professional slith soldiers don't match up to their religious fanatics."
"Sss-Thsss...he's not going to be happy with us."
Tassik-Schai's drop is a pair of special gloves:
Ehh, One-Eye can have them. Perhaps of more interest, each of his consorts had a platinum ring (nominal value 500 gold), and his scribe had a Return Life scroll and an Acid Shower scroll (same effect as that wand we spent on a subsistence-life slith fishing village.
"Who sets up a portcullis around their bedroom?"
"Someone who doesn't want his bedmates to escape."
The basin in the room gives everyone a bit under 100 experience when used.
"Let's go inform Commander Rosie of our success."
Back in Fort Dranlon...
"Sir. I'm pleased to report that we've assassinated the leader of the sliths' island fort."
"Hey, congrats! Still not the slith I hired you to kill, but nice work."
"Kane, dear, she wanted us to gather intel, remember?"
"Which we did! And here you are."
"Thank you, sir."
A nice upgrade for Elly, who's our primary source of magical damage right now.
"I don't see why you're having so much trouble finding that priest. They're literally just across the river from us."
"Seriously? Then why didn't you say so?!"
"Anyway, someone wanted us to kill that slith officer. Who was it?"
"Hang on, let me check my notes."
"You've been writing down notes on our jobs?"
"Sure! What, you don't expect me to just remember things, do you? Paper's an extension of your brain!"
"Looks like we got this off the job board in Cotra. Better go talk to the mayor there."
"Sir. I'm pleased to report that we've assassinated the leader of the sliths' island fort."
This is a nice upgrade for Kane. Maybe he'll stop getting frightened, dazed, and charmed so often now.
"Hey, while we're near Silvar, can we unload these picks and shovels? It's not the weight I mind so much as the bulk. They don't really fit in my pack."
We have Efram's delivery of mining supplies -- 3 picks and 3 shovels.
"Here you are, dear! Good luck with your prospecting!"
"Oh dear. I hope you don't need me to bring you a mining cart this time."
Sure enough, the job board has added a new item.
"Well hey, our thorough scavenging has turned up what he needs already!"
And then some.
"Good news, Efram! Here's your hammers and iron ore!"
Just a bronze broadsword; we have better.
"What, even more?"
"Back to the job board!"
"Uh, don't think I quite have those yet."
We have three pincers, but only one set of tongs. Alas.
Oh, since everyone has Negotiator now, we can sell our loot. We have 319 items in our loot bag right now.
"Hey, Efram! Got some goods to unload on you."
We get 5687 gold for the lot, nearly tripling our money. And, while we're in the area, we picked up some Almarian Wine, didn't we? Let's go see if the gremlins like it.
"Got a drink order here for one hundred psychotic giggling purple men?"
"That was very strange."
"These have to be useful for something. I just wish I knew what."
It's a replenishing supply of Healing Herbs. I guess it's worth stopping by from time to time to see if there's any more. Two such herbs equals one basic Healing Potion, and there's a few other recipes that alchemists (like Walner at Fort Duvno) can use them for.
"Now that we actually have directions, let's go kill that slith priest for Commander Rosie. Sounds good? Sounds good."
Continued next post