Part 26: Solberg's Tower
"And what do you think will happen when that haakai gets loose? This portal connects throughout all of Avernum, right?"
"Guess there really won't be anywhere to hide, chum."
"There must be someone else who can deal with this!"
"Nobody we've talked to mentioned anyone else who was actively working on this problem. All of the mages have their heads in the sand."
"What about the Castle? Don't they have soldiers they can send to deal with this kind of job?"
"You've seen the average soldier around here. Do you really think they could survive a fight with a demon lord?"
"They could at least serve as a distraction!"
"While you do what, exactly?"
"Demons are inimical to life. If Avernum is destroyed by demonkind, then nowhere you can reach will be safe."
"Face it buddy, charging into the hornets' nest really is your best chance for survival."
"I really, sincerely doubt that."
"But nothing. C'mon, let's go."
"Er, hold on before you enter the portal."
"What?! I've psyched myself up for nothing?"
"First, that just goes to Formello...and second, Kelner the apprentice said we need to check out a message Solberg left for him outside. Probably that crystal we found earlier."
"Ahh, here we are. Now let's see..."
"Charming fellow. I bet he's a hit at parties."
"Nobody likes a realist."
"I call it pessimism, not realism."
"Does that mean you admit that something can be done about this situation?"
"Oh, sure. We always have the capacity to make things worse, after all."
"Yikes. Now that's pessimism."
"C'mon, let's try that portal out."
"Somehow I expected more ceremony."
"Let's just get this over with. Formello, right?"
"Woo, I think I saw the Creator there for a bit."
"Think they're interested in helping?"
"Well sure, but the Creator's help tends to be kind of...final. You sure you want an apocalypse now?"
"Hey, while we're here, why don't we stop in and taunt Thantria a bit?"
"If it's all the same to you, I'm really not in the mood to deal with her right now."
"Hey, fair enough. Let's go see Solberg then."
First, let's check in on Phyllea in Fort Draco. The party has no real reason to do this, since they've already finished the Cortath quest, but y'know, completion.
"Hello, Aife. Sorry, we don't have any more spider fangs."
"Hey, you know Phyllea's hiding behind your shop, right?"
"Ye-ep, we know already."
"Excuse us, Phyllea."
"We'll make this brief. Do you know what happened to Cortath?"
The presence of the "You make note of this" text makes me assume that at some point in development you were required to speak to her before you could find the recipe. Presumably, until that point you wouldn't search the wrecked cottage thoroughly enough or something. In the current version that's unnecessary, so a thorough explorer will reliably short-circuit this quest, unless they go to the Tower before they head north.
Anyway, back to Solberg. His tower is along the south bank of the river in northern Avernum.
"Now that we know he's hiding from demons, this place is if anything even creepier."
"Hey, open up! There's a major disaster brewing at the Tower!"
"Archmage Solberg, I presume."
"Sir, with all due respect, why are you hiding out here? The Tower needs your leadership!"
"Sir, this isn't how you solve problems, you know. That haakai needs to be destroyed, not hidden from."
"Look, how powerful are we talking here? You all are quaking in your boots, but can't we just collapse the tower on the thing or something?"
"And nobody else has contacted you about this?"
"You are the first since I exiled myself."
"How long do we have until that thing gets free?"
"It's hard to say. Hours? Days? Weeks? No longer than a couple of weeks, I think, and it could be much less."
"I think we'd better take that key then, sir."
"So wait, we shouldn't do this until we have Demonslayer...but it's still incredibly urgent?"
"I suppose Demonslayer isn't required. But if I were going to slay a demon, I'd want its power on my side."
"Where's the portal, sir?"
"Well, if we're going to have Demonslayer, we need to find the blade tip. What can you tell us?"
"We already have what we think are two of the pieces; see?"
"Where's the other piece?"
"What's a lich?"
"Phenomenally powerful undead wizard. Imagine Solberg here, only without the fleshy bits, and you're basically on point. They're no fun at all."
"No offense, but if you don't think you can handle a lich, perhaps you'd better not try to kill the Haakai just yet. I don't want our only champions to run to their deaths because they weren't prepared."
"What about that time limit?"
"We'll just have to hope the Tower's defenses hold, and that you're quick about your business."
"Yeah, great. So in aid of that, where the hell are these Scree Caves?"
"You...don't have a map of Avernum?"
"Strange. Thought they were handing those out to everyone these days. Hang on, I have a spare."
Welcome to Avernum! You do in fact get this map at the start of the game. Why didn't I show it to you earlier?
The party is at the crossed axes on the eastern edge of the map (or rather, just northwest, at the ?). ? are known locations and ! are quest locations. The party thus far has ranged over most of the eastern third of the map, up to but not past the river leading north from the Eastern Gallery lake (a.k.a. the "Dark Lake").
"Here. The Scree Caves are in the northeast corner of that cave south of the Waterfall Warrens. Your best bet is probably to go north from Fort Emerald, but you can also go west from that lake there. That'd require sailing past the Slith lands though."
"Gee, this map sure would've been useful to have whenever Kane was leading us through some luckforesaken maze!"
"Are you ever going to let that go?"
"Now why would I do that?"
"Thanks for the map, Archmage. Backing up a bit, you mentioned a sceptre. That seemed important to Linda. What is it?"
"That explains why Linda was so gleeful about finding a use for it, then."
"Look, how did Linda get into a position of such power anyway? What business does she have on the Triad?"
Cripes this dialog chain is awfully linear.
"That's quite the resume. What does she hate so much that she couldn't stand to be around you people any more? Someone with really bad B.O.?"
"Oh, that can't be good."
"No, for whoever cast her down here. Erika does not forget insults. Do you know what she's trying to do?"
"Oh for cripes' sake, is she cavorting with demons too? Is literally everyone in this stupid cave system crazy?"
"Look, we'd better check in on her too. Y'know, just to make certain she hasn't blown up half the caves or something."
"Oh, horrors? How bad are we talking here? Because I'm rated a 8 on the Grotesquerie scale."
"I'm...not familiar with that one."
"It measures how well you're able to retain your sanity when seeing things Man Was Not Meant To Know."
"Look, I don't know. That was just meant to be one of those vague ominous warnings. You want a proper scrying, you're paying for the spell components."
"Hey, before we go, I don't suppose you teach spells?"
"Oh. Great. Okay, you just sit here and concentrate, then, while we do the actual work. We'll let you know when we're done. Or, y'know, we'll all die and the land will get overrun by demons. But have fun sitting here! Concentrating."
"Byff, that was mean."
"Yeah, wow dude."
"Sorry. Look, we'd better be going. Stay safe, Solberg."
"Where'd he say that key was?"
"Oh, y'know, around here somewhere. We'll just poke around the place, see what we find."
"Uh huh. Keeping an eye out for valuables, naturally."
"Well naturally. We're looking for a key made out of solid crystal after all."
"Well done; so far you've found the kitchen and his bedroom."
"Damn, and he doesn't even have any incriminating gentlemens' literature hidden in the dressers."
"I hate to intrude on a mage's privacy like this --"
"It never bothered you before!"
"-- because before we weren't dealing with archmages who could fry us with a gesture."
"Ehh, if he were that powerful he'd kill the demon himself."
"Anyway. I hate to intrude but there's a button here."
"This must be that portal he mentioned. The key will be through here."
"It's a small one, though. I don't think it goes very far. And I'll say this: Solberg knows what he's doing. No leaks here that I can see."
"Still, before we go...what's that word, Byff?"
"Yeah, that. Let's check the rest of his tower first. Back downstairs!"
"Aww, a kitty! Whose a little shnooky-woogums? Is it you? It is!"
"Cute. You talk to humans like that?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were a talking cat!"
"My word, Solberg mounts expeditions into the demonic realms? Maybe he's more proactive about this Haakai thing than I thought!"
"It was a nice thought while it lasted, eh?"
"You'd rather be back at the Tower? It's not exactly a safe place right now."
"Okay, I like that cat."
Anyway, there's another button here.
"Solberg wouldn't teach us...but maybe he left a spellbook lying around?"
"Okay, what the hell."
"I swear the universe is biased against me."
Smite at level 3 deals 10% more damage and has a 30% chance to put a War Curse on its target. Ehh.
"I guess we're out of crannies to poke into. Disappointingly poor, this archmage."
"To the portal then?"
"To the portal."
"It leads to a blind cave with a trap door in it? Weird."
"Ah ha, here we go."
"And now we're committed: he did say he only had one of these things. Try not to die, eh? At least not until after we've saved the world."
"With our track record, you're really asking a lot of us."
"A scrying pool?"
"...holy shit that demon was huge. We're going up against that?"
"And that was Linda talking to it."
"I don't recognize what those walls are made out of, but I also don't see any cracks in them...yet. I think we still have some time."
"Well, we'd better get a move on then!"
The portal by the chest takes us back to the entrance to Solberg's tower, so we can make our way out.
"Right. Suggestions on what to do next?"
"Let me see that map. Okay, uh, see this place here, southwest of the Castle? "Fort Remote" it says. I say we go there."
"And why would we do that?"
"It sounds like a nice, peaceful and, most importantly, out-of-the-way place where we can hide while the rest of the world literally goes to hell."
"Realistic suggestions on what to do next?"
"Oh you're no fun."
"Go to these Scree Caves, get the last bit of Demonslayer, repair it, and hope that's enough to kill a demon lord."
"I worry that my definition of "realistic" is dangerously out-of-kilter, because I'm inclined to agree with you."
"No, he's right. But we should swing by the Tower of the Magi real quick first. If we're going to be fighting more undead, I want some more firepower."
"Anything we can do to make fighting undead more pleasant is a good idea in my book."
"Looks like all we need to do to get back is touch the pylon, and then will it to take us back."
"Huh. I could get used to this."
"To the temple!"
"Throndell! About those super-powerful spells you know!"
"We are going to need this Divine Fire spell!"
"Wait, what's happening? Why isn't it working?"
"You've been slacking off on your training, haven't you?"
"I've been training plenty hard! ...mostly on how to shoot better, I admit."
"So our priest can't pray properly? Fantastic."
Uh, whoops. Elly has rank 9 in priest spells. She needs, I think, rank 11 to be able to cast Divine Fire. And it's going to be awhile before she's gained the necessary levels. Serves me right for focusing so hard on getting her to Adrenaline Rush.
"Guess we're doing without, boys! Don't worry, we'll be fine!"
"As long as you're prepared to haul our corpses out of whatever ghoul-infested pit we land up in."
"You know it!"