Part 20: The GIFTS"Three courses of action! Man, I'm spoiled for choice!"
"What are we looking for over here anyway?"
"We've heard several times about friendly spiders around here. I have got to see this."
"And the rest of us are along because...?"
"Do you really trust him to survive, out on his own?"
"We're on the right trail!"
"Can we not do this? Please?"
"Oh ho ho ho, is our little priestess afraid of spiders?"
"What? No! No. C'mon, with the stuff I see on a daily basis? No. Of course not."
"Uh huh. Want a drink?"
"You have no idea. Too bad all our booze is in Fort Draco now."
"C'monnnnn, where are they?!"
"Oh my goodness this is amazing! You can talk! Where are the vocal chords? How did you learn language? How big is your brain?"
"Er, greetings, uh, friend spider. What, ah, what are you working on?"
"Destroyed? A tragedy."
"Heh. And what mission were you on?"
"A limited capacity for memory, but able to form plans and potentially -- man I gotta write this stuff down where is my notebook?"
"Hey guys? I gotta go to the lady's room, okay?"
"Oh, no you don't. With the way you tormented One-Eye about that dragon? You can stick around and watch Byff interrogate the giant intelligent friendly talking spiders."
"Hee hee hee. It's only fair, Elly!"
"But hey, I'm not heartless. Been fiddling around with distilled mushroom wine. Want my flask?"
"You are a lifesaver." *sip* "Bluh! By the Creator, I can feeling it crawling on my tongue!"
"Ha ha ha, oh I am having a good day. Mushroom liquor a little too much for you?"
"This isn't liquor! It's what happens to madness when you drive it to drink!"
"Wait, that doesn't even --"
*chug* "It's amazing!"
"Hey, go easy on that stuff..."
"Can't hear you, drinking."
If you talk to Spider again, you get this text:
"'Scuse me, friend, I was wondering if I could interest you in some spatial reasoning tests..."
"Oh, now look, you've frightened it!"
"Hmm, perhaps that one's a baby? I wish I knew what their maturation cycle was like!"
Incidentally, the spiders also have little bits of text they "say" as you walk around, for example:
Also seen: "You're cute!", "Look! A fly!", "I'm Spider!", and "I hate aranea!"
When rereading, it took me a good five seconds to find the spider in this shot.
"Ah, hello! I was wondering if you could share some information about your diet with us. How many insects do you eat each day?"
"Er, nice to meet you. About that diet...?"
"Really? I'd love to learn about your mating habits!"
"BWA ha ha ha ha ha! Byff, you sly dog! Wanting to study the wildlife up close and personal, eh?"
"Whoah wait what? No, no! No no no no no --"
"Eeeeeerrr that's nice and all but, uh, but..."
"You're still looking for the surface route."
"Yeah! This isn't my natural habitat, you know! Probably sicken and die down here real quick."
"Love 'em and leave 'em, eh champ? Shameless."
"This is deeply unreal."
"Man, you wanna see unreal? I can show you unreal. H̅̃̎͒̈́͆e̡y͕̱̿ͧy̆y̒͐͛y̵̰̬͙̩͕̺͓ͯ ̩̋C̣̪̬͇̏ͤ̿r̄̐̅͗e̵ͨͤ͊a̷̭̖̻̰͑ͅt͖͔͍̎ͨͨ̾̽ͮo̪̳̦͡r̒͐͞,͎̈́̇̐ ̺̥̯͖̔ͬ̆͆̽̔l̷̖̖͈̙͇̲ͩ͑̆ḙ̜̬̣͚̼̰͊ͨ̔t̗͖͎͎̿̈́̌̓́̇'̛̅ͪs͌̇̉͑ͬ͛̀ ̼ͤ̏̔̐ͣ͗̃d̼͓͛͌ͯ̚͞ỏ͓̪̱̮̐ ̻̲̣̍̍ͧ͋̎t̻ͥ͘ḧ̘͓̻͇͓̱́͑̚ȉ̍͏s͕͍̞̒ͣͅ ̻͓̠̩̻͚͉͗͂̀̐̇t̛͔͈͍̗̱̽̌ͬ̓ͧĥ̇ͩ̽ͥ͗ͤ͜i̝̰̐̍̔ͬn͎̞̏̎̆g̤͍̏͋̇̾ͬ͜ ̻͙͓̈́̽ͥ̚̕a͚͈̿͐͌͋̎́̑l͉̩̤̤ͪ̆ͣͮ̀͑ͬr̟̓̀e̴͆̆̑̽͊ảͤ̈̽̌̅͞d̝͎͔͔̼ͣ̔̐͋̿ͥ͐͢y̜̯̼͇̖̪͈͆̑ͣ̄̋ͥ̅!̗͔̫̫͔"
"Whoa, hey, hey! Let's not go unmaking the world just yet!"
"'N why not? S'got giant talking spiders in it! You can't tell me that's right!"
"It's beautiful, and amazing! I never dreamed the natural world could create such an unusual creature!"
"Nope, don't believe you. Prob'ly invented by some mad wizard somewhere."
"Okay, yeah, but I don't see any wizards around now, which means that someone figured out how to make the intelligence and talking breed true, and that's if anything even more amazing! I've got to find their notes!"
"As entertaining as all this is, I am morally opposed to any path that results in more creatures like this. I mean, what's next, cockroaches?"
"Maybe! Very versatile animal, the common cockroach! Bet I could make it work if I only had the knowhow!"
"Right, this is getting too creepy for me --"
"Says the lawyer!"
"-- so let's just keep moving on, shall we?"
"Swear t'the Creator, the new world's gonna be strict'ly arachnid-free."
"Really? Then what's going to eat the insects?"
"No bugs neither."
"Oh dear. Once you've sobered up, Elly, we're going to need to talk about what it takes to make a functioning ecosystem."
"Hey, One-Eye, here's your flask back."
"Oh, thanks, I -- it's empty. Elly, what have you done?!"
"Lemme know if you make any more, okay?"
"Hey, a switch! I wonder if the mechanism still works..."
"Well what d'you know, it does."
Another one off in a corner is a bit more fruitful:
He has a pair of Grounded Boots:
Finally, finally, Byff can join the Nifty Boots Club.
"I wonder what caused the ancient builders of this place to put so many switches in?"
"Maybe this is how they thought doors should work."
"Maybe the spiders know! Excuse me, do you know anything about the original inhabitants of this structure?"
"Maybe the spiders built it. You think spiders can't build? Racist."
"Fascinating! Is this some kind of mating ritual?"
"Always with the mating."
"Hey! It's important to know how species procreate! How else are you to ensure they don't die out?"
Jeff Vogel sure has the priorities of the average adventuring party straight. I think basically every single friendly NPC that mentions magic has a dialog prompt where you ask them to teach you or to direct you to someone who can.
"Oh. Oh dear. And, uh, have you learned any spells yet?"
"Wait, you mean the aranea can cast spells? Real ones?"
"They'll mess us up? They'll be unmade! At least they have the decency to be hostile! You know where you stand with a hostile giant spellcasting spider!"
"In its webs, presumably."
"At least it's obeying the natural order of things!"
"All else being equal, frankly I'd rather have giant intelligent spiders who don't try to eat us, thanks."
"Pardon, sir (lady?) spider, but does anyone around here know how to cast actual spells?"
"Owwww, that is physically painful."
"I'm inclined to agree. Whatever you're doing, please stop."
"Wow, it rhymes and scans! Impressive!"
"Please don't encourage them."
"Wait wha --"
"Ow. What was that for?"
"I'm beginning to dislike this place."
"Firs' sens'bl thing you've said since we got here. C'mon, hit it with your sword!"
"Tell you what, when we're done here we'll kill lots of spiders. Lots and lots."
"'Bout damn time! Let's get started!"
"Ah ah ah! When we're done!"
"I'm done. I was done when we arrived."
"Yeah, but Byff isn't. Hey Byff, what're you doing?"
"They appear to have walled off this passageway..."
"Coordinated effort to defeat a powerful foe! Heck, they're about as smart as the nephilim!"
"Oh, now, I wouldn't go that far."
"Well okay, maybe not. But they didn't suicidally antagonize the Avernite nation either. So they've got that going for them."
"My word, it's taller than Elly!"
"So I noticed."
"Were you...talking to yourself?"
"They even have religion! Oh, this is amazing! Tell us, please, about your Spider Lord!"
"Hm, deity worship, not very advanced --"
"-- but pretty par for a primitive culture. Well done, spiders! You have an excellent god."
I should explain. I don't believe I have even once seen a friendly religion in the Exile/Avernum series (well, outside of the spiders, anyway) that involved worshipping an actual deity or other powerful being. The religions are all more like philosophies or ways of life; temples are locations for people to meditate on the meaning of the relevant religious path. People "worship" such diverse things as luck, fatalism, money, and thinking happy thoughts.
I did not make any of those up.
Evil religions are free to worship powerful beings, generally demons but the occasional drake or eyebeast gets in on the action too. Naturally this is so you can kill the god after you kill its worshippers.
Anyway, back to the spiders!
"So how come you're all named Spider, anyway? How's anyone supposed to tell you apart?"
"He sure showed you, One-Eye!"
"He sure did, Elly. He sure did."
"Learning to weave webs, are we?"
"Wait, the spiders have a regulatory system to make sure their webs are up to snuff?"
"I'm sure it's important to the spiders. They must use webs for all kinds of things!"
"I don't think I'll get used to a spider considering me cute."
"Aww, look at you! What's the big news, buddy?"
"Well, good luck! Procreation is very important."
"What's this finished mission, then?"
We have no reason whatsoever to ask this guy, completely unprompted, about where to learn magic. Why is that even an option? But if we do:
"Honestly, I think Elly's just kind of in shock right now. She'll be fine."
"Look on the bright side, it could have bit you."
"Did you hear me complaining? I'm not complaining. I'm just in pain, that's all."
"Wait, mean people? Like those ones you walled up in back?"
"That doesn't really narrow things down any."
Something else to point out here: in the original game, instead of clicking on dialog options, you had a free-text field that you could type prompts into, like "name", "look", "job", etc. All of the spiders here responded to "mission" in various ways, which is why that word keeps cropping up. I bring this up because the big puzzle for this cave was figuring out that you had to ask this next spider, completely unprompted, about "mission" in order to get the local quest.
"Well, you seem a bit more dignified than most."
"Squeaky voice kind of spoils the effect though."
"Wait, did someone beat me to the punch? You guys know about cockroaches?"
"Wait, Byff, you aren't seriously thinking about making intelligent cockroaches?"
"He'd better not be!"
"Say, we might be able to help you with this aranea problem, if the price is right."
"So we've heard. Any more information?"
"Wait. Rescue? You guys need help?"
"It just occurred to me that you guys might not understand the concept of money. We have to get paid, y'know. And not in insects."
"We have to help them!"
"Excellent, then we're agreed."
"Hang on, you said when we were done here we'd kill them all! Why not just take the stupid reward?"
"No, Elly, I said we'd kill a bunch of spiders, nonspecifically. I meant the aranea."
"We can kill everything! It wouldn't take long!"
"Elly! We are not killing a miracle of nature!"
"Shaddup they're gross and their voices are grating and that one's braiding its leg hairs ugh I can't believe you guys are okay with this!"
"Honestly, I've seen worse."
"You have not."
"You would not believe some of the clients I had to defend. Talking spiders are downright benign."
"While y'all were having your crisis of conscience, I found another cubbyhole."
Just some common alchemy herbs.
"Okay, it's hard to tell, but I think I've talked to all of the ones that are willing to chat."
"So we can leave?"
"I guess. Just as soon as I do some sketches. Ooh, and measure their molt skins. And collect some samples. And --"
"Okay, you've had your fun. Let's go."
The spider cave map:
The walled-off section is in the north.
It really is hard to keep track of which spiders you've spoken with, since they all look identical and have the same name. You basically just blunder around, staring slack-jawed at the bizarre conversations, until you run into the leader spider to get the quest. Then you emerge, blinking, into the light, and wonder what the hell just happened.
"Oh thank the Word."