Part 16: Formello et al
"Ahh, Mr. Kane Orvat. A lawyer with the poor sense to defend those that nobody liked. If only we'd known how strongly you felt about the Empire, you would have met the executioner's axe rather than been exiled. Still, I'm sure you'll meet your fate down here soon enough. Worms that venture too far from safety get eaten."
"You act like we're some bizarre species of insect."
"Eleanor Lopun, ex-corporal of the Imperial Army, holds -- ahem, held -- a high position in the Cult of the Word, a minor doomsday sect. I'm surprised you're still alive, frankly. We rather expected you'd self-destruct shortly after arriving."
"Hmph. I'm saving that for a special occasion."
"Indeed? I'll be sure to keep a feeler out for any earthquakes."
"One, ah, ''Byff'', last name unknown. Exiled for indecent exposure and petty theft. Let's retroactively add ''practicing magic without a license'' onto that. ...my word, aren't you cold?"
"Ehh, you get used to it!"
"I'm disappointed in our sources. Why don't we know more about you? Hm, Mr. Wang?"
"You're a spy? For the Empire?"
"Not willingly or anything! I killed one of their soldiers! What do you think they do to you if you do that?"
"Oh, but we had uses for you! On that note, report on the sliths, if you please."
"Useless to you. Frothing maniacs, the lot of 'em. Also their accent is way off. Your language tutors suck."
"Strange. There's an Avernite-friendly tribe somewhere around here; it stands to reason the others can be talked to too."
"Lady, if you want to go talk to them, please be my guest. You'd be doing us all a favor."
"Oh come on, One-Eye! Why should you cooperate with her now? What can she do to you?"
"Oh, we have our little ways."
"They're keeping my brother Richard hostage."
"Hang on, hang on, your name is Wang?"
"My parents were douchebags."
"I don't believe this. I've been traveling with an Imperial Spy."
"If it's any comfort to you, I'm pretty awful at it."
"You really are. We spent months training you, telling you what to look for, teaching you to survive down here, and you just sign up with the first group of wandering misfits you can find, to go off and get killed!"
"Gee, it's almost like I didn't want to play secret agent!"
"Too bad. You're going to do some more jobs for us."
"And why should we help him help you?"
"Can you get me out of here?"
"Byff! I'm surprised at you! You'd work with this woman?"
"If it gets me out of the caves? Yes."
"''Pleasant'', ha. With the knife constantly hanging over your neck?"
"I said more safe. Not safe. We wouldn't want you to become complacent."
"Seems to me that we should just kill you and purge this town of your influence. And why not? What's going to stop us?"
"See those golems behind you?"
"Look, boss, just...tell us what you want? Okay? Enough gloating, you've made your point."
"Oh, the Batcave!"
"As you say."
"And who did this man kill, then, to warrant a death sentence?"
"And now the big question. Why on Earth would we help you?"
"And that's it? We kill this ''assassin'' for you, you reward us with some surface castoffs, and we go on our way?"
"Succinctly put. Interested?"
"Does it matter?"
"Oh, I suppose not. Get to work, Mr. Wang."
"Kane, you're not thinking of killing this woman, are you?"
"Oooh, these golems look nasty."
"Well, we don't have to do it right this second."
"Let's go at least talk to this Mandvi guy, right? Maybe he'll do us a favor and fake his death."
"I'm not going to kill someone just because they got on the Empire's bad side."
"And I'm not either! We're just going to go talk to him. See what's actually going on. And get the hell away from Ms. Imperial Ambassador to the Prison Colony here."
We can't actually try to kill Thantria right now anyway; she's non-hostile and, as you might expect, can only be driven hostile by breaking into her quarters. But we're 1 point short on Tool Use to open that door. Friendly units can't be hurt in any way, so we'll have to get that Tool Use skill if we want to fight.
Back in the Batcave...
"Hiding behind crystals, she said..."
"Fresh fire, but why's the floor all bloody?"
"He's trapped the back of the cave. Not very well, though."
"Oh hey, a Blood Cultist! We used to play volleyball with them on Saturdays!"
"Hey, just because you're trying to bring about the end times doesn't mean you can't have a social life!"
"These guys are nasty. Mutilate cattle, humans, themselves...explains the blood by the entry, at least."
"I admit we never let them be in charge of the barbeque."
"Still worried about killing an anti-Imperial assassin?"
"If we can't reason with him, then no. Hey! Mandvi!"
"We hear you killed a mayor? Did he deserve it?"
"That is not much in the way of a survival instinct he's got there."
"You should see them when they had some drinks in them."
"Heard of a lady named Thantria?"
"Let's just say we're working on it."
"Hey, heard of the Cult of the Word? We're expanding operations down here! How about you?"
"Oh buddy, you shouldn't'a said that. The Word shall be the last thing you hear!"
"I thought you said you played volleyball with these people?"
"Must be a heretical schism. Happens all the time. The Blood Cultists I knew were crazy, but they weren't omnicidal! I mean, where would you get your blood from if everything's dead?"
Mandvi, bizarrely, actually starts out hostile, and forces the conversation on his turn of combat. We were able to charge in and get a full round of attacks in before talking to him. So imagine him bleeding during that last conversation. Well, more than he presumably already was.
Mandvi's just an unusually durable priest, but he gets double turns and there's a whole bunch of bats down those three corridors mentioned earlier, who are about to start charging our position. Of course, we've killed an awful lot of bats before.
"Guys? Those are some awfully red-looking bats..."
"Cripes, where are they all coming from?"
There are a lot of bats. And Mandvi hit Kane with Call the Storm, knocking him back, and then the bats charged in to fill the gap. Damn; so much for meleeing him.
"You can't hide from arrows, Mandvi! Bleed for me!"
"I'll keep the bats under control! Kill the cultist!"
"Uh, Byff? Crap, Byff's down!"
Mandvi's last set of allies includes Enormous Cavebats, which are much stronger in melee than the normal sort, and can put the Lightning debuff on you which deals heavy energy damage every turn. One of them takes out Byff very quickly, and without Byff, keeping the bats under control becomes much more difficult, let alone keeping up with Mandvi's spamming of healing spells.
Then I remember that One-Eye has access to Adrenaline Rush.
"I'm going to turn you into a pincushion!"
"Great! He's dead! Now we just have to kill the bats!"
"Yep. About that..."
"Have fun! I'll see you back at town!"
"Oh, come on Elly!"
"Kane! Watch ou--"
"You think this is funny, Elly?"
"Well it's n--"
"Maybe I should have told them about the time the volleyball net got turned into a gigantic slithering blood-rope monster? Nahhh."
Back at Formello...
"I really don't like that cave."
"I don't like healers who abandon their allies as soon as things start looking grim!"
"Would you rather I die too and we all stay dead?"
"I'm not saying you didn't do the right thing, but I still don't like it."
"Well, let's go back there and make certain he isn't somehow still alive and plotting to kill us in our sleep."
Arguably we should have retreated back to the entry corridor and taken out the bats as they charged in, while letting Mandvi stay in the back casting spells. We just got swarmed, and that wasn't sustainable once the big bats came out.
"Where'd all the rest of the bats go?"
"I'm not complaining!"
"Oh wait, yes I am."
The bats are still here (well, minus the ones we killed earlier); they just reset to their original locations. But since we can focus on them, we're mostly able to kill them as they come out instead of getting surrounded.
The Enormous Cavebats are colossal jerks, though, taking multiple turns to kill and dealing heavy single-target damage.
"Not much on the cultist. Nice cloak though."
Elly can have it; everyone else has cloaks that do more interesting things.
"So hey, wonder what the pools are?"
"Probably berserker draughts. Go on, try 'em! It's fun!"
"RAGH! I AM INVINCIBLE!"
"I hope he can't remember how to cast spells right now."
They give the entire party 10 turns of War Chant (extra accuracy and damage) and Battle Frenzy (extra AP). Very nice; too bad we didn't use them during the fight! Of course, it's always a crapshoot if the random pools you find in dungeons are harmful or helpful.
"Gotta say, Avernum is probably better off without this guy. Look at all this!"
"Yeah, these dice he carved from human bone are weighted!"
Here's Mandvi's hideaway. There's not much to it.
"Okay, let's go see what Thantria has to say for herself."
"Hi boss. Your little assassin is dead."
"You could be more respectful, you know."
"That's what we keep telling him. It doesn't get through."
300 gold and this necklace:
Elly can have it too.
"Oh joyeous day. Who needs killing this time?"
"Come now, we know something of subtlety. Not every problem must be solved with violence."
"Who is this Kyass, and what does he need?"
"Sounds like a slith to me! You aren't aiding the sliths, are you?"
"And if we were, what would you do? Notwithstanding what Mr. Wang had to say on their behalf."
"We'd...er, well, you shouldn't help them! They're slavers!"
"Indeed. Off with you now, and return when you've done what I asked."
"Ma'am, you are seriously starting to piss me off."
"Truly? How delightful! Now get out of my sight, worm."
"Well! That was unpleasant. Shall we finish exploring Formello now, boys?"
"I say we shank this Kyass person as soon as we see him."
"And earlier you were so worried about not killing the person she wanted us to talk to!"
"I agree with Elly for once."
"Let's just forget about this Kyass thing for now. Who knows if and when we'll run into him."
"Fine, but in the meantime, no more reporting to your spymaster, hm?"
"Believe me, now that I'm ''on assignment'' I plan to have nothing to report beyond ''Yep, still looking for that guy, no, nothing interesting has happened otherwise.'' I can be very incompetent when I want to be."
"You shut up."
"Strange that we didn't notice this earlier."
"Maybe we'll find a back way into Madam Ambassador's quarters?"
"Hey, didn't we pick up a job to kill rats under Formello?"
This doesn't take long; everyone can one-shot these basic rats and there aren't any more dangerous types except for one single solitary Vapor Rat -- which Kane one-shots with a discipline.
On the other hand, One-Eye gets a new hat:
"I don't know, that's not really your color."
"I'm getting fashion advice from the man with no shirt?"
"Hey, a button!"
Yep, you can bypass the barrier into Thantria's quarters. Have fun fighting her salamander if you do this early on. Probably still doable with a party that's only done the bandits and bat cave, but rather more painful -- and I wouldn't want to try to fight Mandvi at such a low level.
Finally for the underground:
"Are they really putting these things in every major city? Wow. Just...wow."
"One of these days I'm going to have to ask you to explain what the big deal is."
"Oh, nothing! Nothing to worry about! Everything's fine!"
"And that's why I worry."
"Magus Miles! We routed the rabble of rats that were roistering in your reading rooms!"
"And how long did you spend thinking that one up?"
"Pretty much since we saw the rats."
Scrolls of Acid Shower and Return Life. Big pay for such easy work, but then we were "supposed" to have come here straight from the bandits.
"Finally! City Hall!"
"Greetings, madam mayor."
"Yes, we heard you had use of people like us. What can we do for you?"
"Shouldn't be a problem, but more information would be helpful. Any idea why they wanted the necklace?"
"Oh dear. So messages could be intercepted..."
"Hm, I hope you secured the transmission route. What kind of encryption were you using?"
"Isn't that beside the point now, Byff? More importantly, how did they even get in? You look to be very secure here."
"Hm, yes. Well, I'm sure we can get the necklace back for you. And while we're at it we can probably cripple the nephilim in this area for some time. But this does raise the topic of pay...?"
"Wonderful. Mayor, you have yourself an adventuring party!"
"Hang on. We do have a couple of questions first. Did you know there's an Imperial spy beneath the city?"
"We are not at war...yet."
"Careful with such talk. I understand your frustration, but Avernum cannot afford even more enemies. Especially not an enemy like the Empire."
"Hmph. ...you're right, though. Sorry, ma'am."
We have no real reason to, but if you ask her about Formello:
"We'll have your necklace back in no time!"
"Fantastic. Good luck out there."
"One-Eye, what are we doing in the mayor's private quarters?"
"Gotta open every door, Elly!"
That dialog-less townsman in the southern room keeps an eye on us, preventing us from stealing her actually valuable goods, but there's a button on the wall...
"Problems, oh illustrious criminal?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm sure it'll be fine."
"Yes, fine. Let's just turn around now. And come back later."
Avernum traps do not fuck around. Kane only has 120 hitpoints.
"Alright, let's go get that necklace back!"