Part 17: Nephilim Fort
"Alright, let's go get that necklace back!"
"Where did she say those nephilim were that stole it?"
"Ahh...''to the west''. That's kind of vague."
"Do we at least remember which direction west is this time?"
"You're no fun. Yes, it's this way."
"Is that a camp over there?"
"Oh dear, and so close to town too. We'd better go this way."
This tunnel parallels a river; after following it for a ways we find this:
"Hello. I think we've found them."
"This doesn't look like a fort to me."
"Maybe not, but they're clearly guarding something. So let's take it from them."
"Return the necklace or die!"
"<What are they talking about?>"
"I don't see a necklace. Do you, Kane?"
"Nope. Guess they chose the other option."
Six basic nephilim and an archer. Barely more threatening than the rats under Formello.
The second camp has identical text and guards, except the archer is replaced by a spiritist...who dies in one hit from Kane.
"Odd, there's nothing here. What were they guarding?"
"There's something here all right. Didn't you notice the passageway?"
"Excellent, a back way in!"
"Straight into the trash heap, as usual."
"Would you rather assault the keep head on?"
"Frankly? Yes. Let's do that."
"I'm with Elly. At least you have clothes to keep the flies off."
"Sounds good to me!"
"...seriously? Well, okay then."
"C'mon! Look at all the guards!"
"They were going to have discovered us eventually anyway. This way we get it over with faster."
Two warriors added to the mix, but they're nothing compared to slith warriors. Yes, we're now thoroughly overleveled for this region. Oh well! The second group, again, has a spiritist with them, and again, it doesn't get a turn.
"There, see? Much cleaner this way."
"These walls have seen better days."
"I get the impression the nephilim aren't much for stonecraft. I bet they found this place abandoned, and took it over."
"<Intruders at the front gate! Sound the alarm!>"
A minor amount of fire damage to anyone in the entry corridor.
"This is the downside of the non-sneaky approach."
Kane, Byff, and Elly can't quite one-shot nephilim with their bows, but they're close. One-Eye, of course, can take down three in a round with Adrenaline Rush, if he isn't fatigued.
"Can we please get out of this corridor? I'm tired of being on fire."
"Oh, picky picky."
"The important thing is, fire is clean."
"There, that wasn't so bad!"
"My word, there's certainly a lot of them. I bet they depress the rat population for miles in every direction."
"Hey, a chief! Lemme use him as target practice."
Three shots later, the sub-chief is half-dead. Then Byff covers him with acid, causing him to flee in terror. It's a bad time to be a nephilim. Though I guess it could be worse. They could be goblins.
The sub-chief is carrying a Heavy Iron Cleaver, a dagger that, bizarrely, boosts Strength when equipped. Elly can have it; conceivably it would let her wear heavier armor, if we had any heavy armor that she wanted.
"And we're back at the trash heap again. Lovely."
"Let's not leave the ground floor until we've cleared it of opposition. No sense giving them time to prepare an ambush."
"Hey, I found their religion of evil!"
"How do you know they're evil?"
"Simple: they're trying to kill us."
"Not very effectively, mind you."
The unique spiritist spends his sole turn summoning a cave slime. Priestess Puruass from the Slith Temple could do that twice as a free action.
Also, the altar doesn't do anything.
"Sorry to break it to you, boys, but I think they're just animists. And to be fair, we did break into their home and start slaughtering them."
"If they didn't want to be slaughtered then they shouldn't have stolen that necklace!"
"I admit I don't understand that bit. It seems unwise to make enemies down here."
"Hey, nice necklace!"
"Hey, we're done!"
"Uh, no. Sorry, One-Eye, but this thing is just a protective charm. No communication magic on it that I can tell."
"Knew it was too easy."
"Oh hey, take a look at this note I found."
"Wait, seriously? They locked the door to their temple, here, and put the key in a poorly-defended goblin warren in the Eastern Gallery?"
"Good news is, we have that key already!"
"What I don't understand is why it's written in English."
"Hm, just a robing room. Nice robes though. Made of...fur..."
"I guess when you're a primitive tribe living somewhere with a shortage of plant fibers, you make do with what you have."
"Let's not go upstairs either just yet."
"More trophies. Phew, some of these were not well-preserved."
"And an ogre. Weren't we contracted to kill one of those?"
It's marginally less durable than the sub-chief. In its room is a chest containing an emerald, some gold, and a broadsword -- great loot if this is your first serious dungeon, but not so much for us.
"Oooh! Oooh! Let's disturb him!"
"It's...an ogre with a skin condition?"
Ogre Mages are nasty pieces of work, and this is a unique one. Here's how he looks at the end of our turns:
He then chain-cast some kind of magical damage spell (hitting One-Eye for respectable damage), and Haste. If we'd come here when we were supposed to, this would have been a serious fight. As it is, he just topples over on our next turn of attacks.
"Dibs on his gloves!"
He also has money, some herbs and potions, a Terror Wand (useless, but sells well), and a secret passage...
...containing a Group Heal scroll. Nice!
"Okay, I think we're done here. Now, up or down?"
"I say down."
"The leaders are almost certainly up top. If we go there first, then we'll be left mopping up downstairs afterwards, which will be a letdown. This way we have something to look forward to."
"Gotta eat your greens before you can have any dessert, eh?"
"Something like that."
"Can we at least take the stairs instead of the trash pit?"
Here's the map of the first level. The ! is the ladder up; there's also stairs up and two ramps going down.
"Watch out for the cats!"
There's a pair of coaligned kitties down here.
"I guess they don't eat only rats."
"And sometimes they like a little spice in their meat!"
Just a fire lizard; we've killed plenty before.
"Oh dear. They've been feeding their prisoners to the lizards."
The corpse has a partially-used Oozing Wand, which douses an area with acid.
"And spiders? I guess the nephils don't come down this way very often."
"Or they're trying to set up a silk operation."
"They don't look friendly..."
"Whelp, let's do it then."
"Aww, just another lizard. Hi, Darkhaz. Want a hamhock?"
"Sss. You insssult me!"
"Oh, uh. Wasn't expecting you to be able to talk. Uh, sorry."
"Look, man. We're kinda clearing this place out. Nephils're gonna be gone in, oh, another half-hour or so. I really suggest you bug out too."
"Darkhaz does not flee from interloperss! You shall be my next meal!"
Darkhaz is quite durable, and has spells and firebreath. He manages to haste himself and slow both Kane and One-Eye...but only after being nearly killed by them. So Byff and Elly finish the job instead.
"Idiot. I'm gonna make a hat from your skin."
"What do you think?"
"I think yoink."
"Thanks, Kane! You have have the hat I got from that cultist."
One-Eye needs the resists more than Kane does, anyway.
"Careful, that opposite door's trapped."
"I said to be careful!"
"Oh, shut up and kill these things."
"They're already dead, hon."
"You know what I mean!"
A pack of ghouls. We're pretty firmly into the "hard" content of this dungeon, but One-Eye still one-shots three of them in a single turn thanks to Adrenaline Rush. Such an overpowered discipline.
"Duplicate loot is the most disappointing loot."
So no, you aren't required to go to the goblin fort if you really don't want to.
"Posh digs, this."
There's small piles of money on the rugs, a chest hiding in the bottom corner with a heavy steel shield and a speed potion, and of course that trap on the left side, leading to a chest with more money, an Iron Breastplate (too heavy for our casters and obsolete for our fighters), and some Blessed Boots.
"Don't think I've forgotten about that dragon. I'll take the boots. Just in case."
Finally for the underground:
"Oh, you naughty kitties! B̰̯͍̠̭̰̩̄̆̀a̰̤̲̙͐̾̑ͬ͑̈̑͞d̏҉̩̟̤̥̝̮ ̧͍̟̣̻̆͂͌̍ͭc̙̬̟̼ͣ̍͋̾ͯ͂̚a̲̰̅͠t͇ͫͪ͂!͇̘̳̬̅"
That's not just a nephil warrior in the back; that's Torturemaster Rrrek. He gets rrrecked.
"Serves you right! I'm taking your torture implements from you!"
We get the last set of tongs we need for Efram, finally.
"Hello? Is someone out there? I mean, besides the usual?"
"Howdy. How's things?"
"A prisoner? What on earth are you doing here?"
"I approve of this."
"Zemera wrote that note earlier. Who is he?"
"I bet she masterminded that necklace theft!"
"No bet. Species traitor, huh?"
"So why not just leave? If you can get out so easily."
"You have a strange taste in women, my friend. Look, just go now, won't you?"
"Well. I'm insulted."
"He said he doesn't think we have what it takes!"
"Guess we'll just have to show him how wrong he is."
"One dead sorceress, coming up!"
"You two are better friends than you realize."
"Shh! It's adorable!"
"So hey, how long have you been here anyway?"
"Oh, thank you so much."
"Dragons are a sore point with One-Eye here. Anyway, heard anything about a necklace?"
"About what we figured. Okay, you sit tight, and we'll be back when Zemera is dead."
Here's the underground:
Darkhaz' lair is the northern of the two !, and his treasure room is the southern.
"Okay, let's wrap this up!"
"Quickly, please. I'm not sure I trust the structural integrity of the upper levels here."
"Okay, here's your proof that the nephils are evil! This one's raising an army of zombies!"
"Maybe he just needs some help with the housekeeping?"
"Also he locks his treasure behind magical barriers. Definitely evil. C'mon, Byff, work your magic."
"Don't have to tell me twice!"
"I swear, there's a conspiracy against mages in this place."
In addition to healing more damage, at level 3 Minor Heal also makes its recipient regenerate for three turns. Which isn't hugely significant, but it's better than, say, Spine Shield.
This is directly above the entrance to the fort, where we were lightly fried.
Presumably this deactivates the periodic fire damage downstairs. I guess it could be handy if you needed to leave and come back.
"Oh boy, another book! Maybe this one has spells!"
"This is one of the stranger forms of ancestor worship I've ever seen."
"Hey, just because someone's dead doesn't mean they can't still be useful!"
There's some minor loot in two of the sarcophagi, of course.
"Oh hey. You must be Zemera."
"Oh, you know, just poking our noses into places and looking for treasure."
"If you miss human company, have you ever considered...leaving? And going to one of the towns?"
"What kind of allies? Demonic?"
"There's that Kyass again."
"He was arrogant?"
"I guess she would know what arrogance is like!"
"Ha. Nice one, Byff."
"What's the Abyss like, then?"
"And I bet I can imagine how your meeting with the nephils went."
"Haven't we had run-ins with the Split-Tails before?"
"Yep. Slaughtered a band of them over west of Cotra. Guess they have influence across a pretty wide area."
"We're working on that, Zemera. There aren't very many Split-Tails left now."
"How'd you learn their language, anyway? It's hard enough to pick up a human tongue once you're older than 10 or so."
"Hm. A shame you decided to dedicate your talents to telling nephilim what to do. I've a feeling you could have gotten a lot of research done in a civilized setting."
"So what do you command, then?"
"This is pointless. Why aren't we fighting yet?"
"Now you're speaking my language!"
You can try to bribe her, but it leads to the same result; she thinks she can just take the bribe off of your corpses. Also, if you already have the necklace, you can show it to her, but it just leads into the "It is a shame we cannot talk at length" dialog.
Zemera has two "Zemera's Guard" nephil warriors, a Trained Guardlizard, two standard nephil archers, and a basic nephil attending her. They all proceed to thoroughly embarrass themselves, failing to hit One-Eye with anything. Even Zemera misses him with a firebolt!
"You seriously decided these were your best choice of guards? This is sad!"
"Then again, three arrows and she's just about done herself."
"Well, that's typical for us magical types, right? Phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty squishy bodies. Goodnight, Zemera!"
"What a waste. Oh well, dibs on her robe!"
"Nice quarters. Except for the cat hair everywhere."
"Hey, found her diary!"
"I think it's about time we paid a visit to those shamans."
"Not until after we check this secret passage!"
"Yay! Balance is restored to the universe!"
Bolt of Fire has a "cleave" chance, to hit an adjacent target, much like broadswords and halberds do. Its chance increases to 30% at level 3, in addition to the normal damage boost. Considering the spell only costs 1 spellpoint, it's a very efficient basic attack.
"Wonder where these stairs go? There's no matching stairs on the first floor."
"...ah. Down to the prison. Guess we should pay a visit to what's-his-name."
"Hey, Kneedler. You should probably go now. We killed Zemera."
"Kneedler! Yeah, him."
"That does seem advisable. I mean, the nephils will leave you alone, because they're all dead, but nobody's gonna feed you."
"Stockholm syndrome is a terrible thing."
"I think he's just kinky."
Telling Kneedler to leave after killing Zemera gets you a little experience and a reputation boost.
"Hey, we found the sub-chief's chief boss!"
"Have fun. Wake me when it's over, will you?"
"Do you think we're taking this too casually?"
He has two Chieftan's Escorts, a basic warrior, and a giant lizard with him. How do all of the enemy polities manage to make friends with giant lizards, when Avernites can barely manage to domesticate them?
Attacking Chier Charrar in melee puts a battle curse on you; good thing almost all of our damage is ranged.
"I'm amazed the chieftan knew how to read, frankly."
"Newsflash: he didn't."
This just poisons everyone, but the damage is negligible and easily-healed.
"Hey, more alchemy! Maybe they have some recipes lying around?"
"Ever the optimist, Byff."
Just some basic herbs and a nice collection of healing potions.
"This is the last place we haven't checked, and we haven't found the necklace yet."
"Let me just get this door open..."
"Oh, right. Keys are a thing. That's no fun."
Some more ghouls, two Nephil Acolytes, and High Shaman Mrrrrmm. Man, nephilim must have a hell of a time figuring out how many letters to use when spelling their names.
None of these guys can really touch us, but the High Shaman delays the inevitable a bit with summoning and healing spells. He gets double turns, by the way -- he just can't cast the kinds of high-level spells needed to be a serious threat.
"Give my regards to whatever you worship!"
"Yeah, yeah, he's dead, gimme that book!"
"I don't think these are spellbooks, Byff. In fact, I rather think we ought to destroy this."
"Oh no, imps. However will we survive."
"Be nice! I bet they thought it was a cunning and dangerous trap when they set it."
Kane kills one imp, One-Eye gets two of them thanks to a fortuitous Sniper double-turn (he's too fatigued to use Adrenaline Rush right now), and Elly and Byff clean up the last one. None of them get turns.
The head shaman dropped a Nimble Chain, an amulet that increases Gymnastics by 1. It's not great.
"That necklace has got to be around here somewhere."
"No, no, no, this is just the spare parts room!"
"This looks promising."
"Yep, this is it! Man, that's a pretty good long-range communications charm."
"All right! Let's go get paid."
Here's the final flooor ofo the Nephilim Fort:
Clockwise from the top-right, the !s are the Minor Heal spell tome, Bolt of Fire spell tome, Zemera's chambers, the shrine (with the necklace in the bottom-right room), the door we needed the Bronze Key to open, and a trapdoor connected to the ladder on the first floor.
Back in Formello...
"One mayoral necklace, safe and sound!"
"Many thanks, ma'am. And what should we know?"
"Oh believe me, we will. So long as we get paid!"
The sword is the Singing Rapier:
It's pretty good, but I think the Radiant Shortblade is better, and nobody besides Kane needs its abilities. Oh well.
"Before we go haring off to the Castle, there's a few little details we need to take care of in this vicinity. Aren't there, One-Eye?"
"I swear I don't know what you're talking about. Now let's get out of here."
"I want to see the dragon!"