Part 27: Slith Fortifications; Fort Emerald"As long as you're prepared to haul our corpses out of whatever ghoul-infested pit we land up in."
"You know it!"
"Okay, let's get this horror story on the road then. Byff, where to?"
Incidentally, happy Halloween, folks!
"Take the portal back to Silvar to pick up our boat, then up through to Fort Dranlon. I hope you're ready to do some rowing."
"Sure, why not? Plenty of time to rest when I'm dead, right?"
"Hello again, For Dranlon. West from here, I take it?"
"Looks like it, yes."
"I'd love to explore this place further, but now is really not the time."
"Hey look, some sliths! Let's stop and ruin their day!"
"Sorry Elly, we're in a hurry."
"Might I advise some careful rowing right now?"
"Way ahead of you."
"Phew. Let's not do that again."
"Aha! That evil slith's home base! C'mon, we gotta stop this guy! We could win the war for Avernum right here!"
"He's not about to break out of his prison and wreak havoc on the underworld. He can wait."
"Yeah, but we're coming here next, right?"
"I hate to interrupt this darling little conversation, but you haven't forgotten that sliths can swim, right? Let's get moving!"
Alas, they don't actually swim in-game, so we're perfectly safe as long as we never get off the boat.
"I think this is it. The Scree Caves should be to our west."
"Byff? What is this?"
"Ahh...hm. This fort isn't on the map. Strange."
"C'mon, let's go!"
"No, wait --"
"We're right next to Slith lands! This is clearly one of their forts!"
"Then we can't have it at our backs when we assault the undead, right? Besides, it's not very big; this shouldn't take long. Pleeease?"
"Might as well give up, Kane. You're not winning this one. Let her satisfy her bloodlust for a bit, eh?"
"...fine, okay. Let's make it quick, right?"
"And here's our way in.
"Right into the hornet's nest."
The Scourger appears to be an up-statted Slith Warrior. There's also a Mage, Flinger, and standard Warrior here. Hard mode makes them noticeably more durable and harder to hit, but their offense still isn't all that much to deal with.
"Nice job dropping us into the barracks, Byff."
"Would you rather he took us in by the front gate? He did fine."
"Uh, guys? We're kinda under attack here."
"My word, these slith have strange livestock."
Mutant Lizards have an area-of-effect attack (hits a small radius around them, like Blade Sweep) that causes Weakness Curse, and they're a lot more durable than standard Giant Lizards, but that's it. Unfortunately, while fighting them, someone else wanders by...and then out of frame before his turn ends.
"I think we've been spotted."
"What? Who by?"
"Dunno, but he's shouting about killing intruders."
"Also a bunch of guards have suddenly started showing up. Yup, definitely spotted."
Sliths of various types start showing up. We pull Kane back into the room so he's not as exposed and enemies have to run in to attack us.
Pictured: two Slith Flingers that have run into melee range.
Also, I mentioned earlier in the thread that this version of the game has no basilisks?
Whoops. Basilisks can't instantly kill your party members, though. Instead they have a conic area-of-effect attack that causes heavy damage and stunning (which guarantees the target loses at least one turn). Which is still really unpleasant, but it's nowhere near the "surprise party wipe out of nowhere" levels of dickishness that the original game descended to on unfortunately frequent occasion.
"Hey, what's that lizard, Byff?"
"Bad news. Don't look too closely at...you did already, didn't you?"
This kind of situation is what Adrenaline Rush is for. Three Icy Rains and some Smites from Elly later, the Basilisk is dead and everything else is badly hurt.
"That was fun!"
"C'mon! Who's next?"
"Uh, looks like a bunch of burning worms."
Searing Crawlers are nasty pieces of work. They're not all that durable, but they have a ranged attack that can cause the Lightning debuff which, as I've mentioned in the past, is painful. Fortunately, they mostly miss us.
"This room is the center of the fort. I bet the leader's in here! Let's go!"
"Good lord lady, this vendetta of yours can't be healthy."
"Probably not! For them!"
Two Shamans, a Mage, a Warrior, and Gunkass, the unfortunately-named leader. Another enemy of some kind is sort-of visible out the opposite door; it turns out to be a Flinger.
"Uh, stand and deliver?"
"That's for bandits, you dope."
Kane and One-Eye work together to take down one Shaman. The other summons a Wight, and the Mage hits Kane for some minor cold damage. Then it's Byff's turn.
"*cough* Ahem. I bring the thunder!"
Oh, Lightning Spray, how I've missed you. Three castings courtesy of Adrenaline Rush, and the Wight's dead, and the Shaman, Flinger, and Warrior are all badly hurt. Gunkass is barely touched and the Mage was out of the area of effect, but still!
Gunkass doesn't seem to do all that much; he just hits single targets really hard.
"Is this hole in my torso new? I think it's new."
But we can tank that kind of thing all day. Once his entourage is dropped, he should be done for...
Pictured: literally five turn's worth of chopping. He appears to have approximately 90% physical damage reduction.
"In the name of the law, this guy's skin is like steel!"
"Keep at it! He can't last forever!"
"Oh, that ain't good."
His melee attacks now cause the Lightning debuff. Fortunately, he still doesn't have the offense to kill Kane in one hit (that previous screenshot of Kane's health was 2 hits), and he's not bothering to attack anyone else. But we have to play a lot more carefully to keep Kane healthy, which slows the fight down even more. Still, eventually...
"I think I'm actually going to run out of arrows! I didn't think that was possible!"
"No, not really. Keep firing!"
"Phew. Satisfied now, Elly?"
"Oh sure! Thanks for indulging me, boys!"
Gunkass' weapon is just a Fine Slith Spear, nothing special. His shield is more interesting:
But it's not worth it for Kane to lose the mental resistance and evasion; he's more valuable as a tank than as a maximally-optimized damage dealer. Lethal Blow, as you may remember, makes your critical hits stronger. We give the shield to Byff, since it's a straight upgrade over his old Steel Shield. Maybe he'll get some use out of it.
There's some alchemical herbs in the chest and desk, including our second piece of mandrake root ever. We also get back the only consumable we used in the fight: a single healing potion. Upstairs is this:
"Looks like we get the easy way or the fun way."
"I get to practice my trap disarming?"
"That's what I thought. Stand back, everyone."
"Oh, you think you're so funny. These guys are awful trap makers."
"I believe this is called ''defense in depth''."
On our first attempt, one drake breathes fire once and just outright kills both One-Eye and Byff from full health. Let's...try that again. We buff up, and Kane and One-Eye lead the attack with three strikes each.
That's not enough damage. That's nowhere near enough damage. And Byff and Elly are basically out of spellpoints after the last boss fight. Oh, and you noticed the "Frenzied" in the drakes' names? That means they're permanently Battle Frenzied and can get multiple attacks per turn.
"New plan! RUN AWAAAAAAY!"
"This is no time for heroics, man! We can't kill these things!"
"Just wait a minute damn it!"
Enter Plan C. The "C" stands for "Cheese it, these drakes are ridiculous".
"There's gotta be something worthwhile in here!"
"Score! Now run!"
"Thought you'd never ask..."
So yeah, you can completely avoid this fight by just running in, grabbing the key item, and running out again. Monsters usually won't activate unless they can see you on their turns.
Oh, and we're not quite done with the first floor. There's a few Flingers and Warriors left.
"I think we'd better head to Fort Emerald and drop that map off. They'll probably want to know."
"Bet we get paid for it!"
"Probably wise. I don't feel up to assaulting a nest of undead right now anyway; we need rest.
"Hey look, a secret room."
"Hey look, a secret room that actually has something in it! I was beginning to give up hope!"
We get 750 coins from this; not a bad haul! And before we go, here's the map of the place:
It's seriously tiny. If you aren't careful, the entire place just turns into one huge fight, as enemies get alerted to your presence and move in to join their allies. In fact, I'm fairly confident that's how this place is "supposed" to go, which explains why the boss is so straightforward: he's meant to be reinforced by all of his flunkies. I'm not entirely certain how that failed to happen, since he clearly tried to alert the entire fortress to our presence.
The ! of course is the ladder to the Tower of Drake-Derived Death.
"Fort Emerald should be south of here. Here's hoping it still stands against the sliths."
"It looks okay."
"Wait a second...is that a slith warband just on the other side of that wall I see?"
"Sure looks like it! Let's get 'em!"
"I can't see any way around the wall. And besides, presumably if they're on that side of the wall, they're defending against the sliths we just fought?"
"Didn't someone mention a tribe of friendly sliths? That sounds vaguely familiar. Oh well, let's hit up the fort."
"Hallo the fort! We're friendlies!"
"Hey, it's the war heroes!"
"Wait, do they mean us? We're heroes?"
"Sure! Everyone's heard about the job you guys did in the Eastern Gallery! Sss-Thsss is furious!"
"Well. It's, uh, nice to be appreciated."
"You're blushing under that mask. I can tell."
"This fort's seen better days. There's barriers everywhere."
"Would you rather it be a mound of rubble? Be glad for the barriers!"
"You made these barriers?"
"Oooh, go on."
"Cute. Y'know, we could dispel those barriers if we wanted to."
"Which we don't! At the moment! I'm just saying."
"Ahem. You must know a lot about barriers then."
"Neat! Could you teach me how to do that?"
"No no no, see, we already can dispel them, I want to be able to make them."
"Forget it, Byff. Head's too far up his own ass to see the point. Hey, you want we should get you a flashlight or something? Some biscuits and tea, while you're up there?"
"Elizabeth...odd. I don't think we've met anyone with that name."
"Look, do you teach anything useful?"
"Buddy, you had best learn to keep a civil tongue in that head of yours. One of these days you're going to piss someone off who isn't a paragon of restraint like we are."
"Hm, maybe that attitude is a coping mechanism..."
"Hey boss, you keeping an eye out for disguised sliths?"
"Not as such, no."
"Well then, what're you doing on the front lines?"
"Wait, what emerald?"
"That sounds handy. We should check it out, guys."
"If you don't mind my saying so, though, you look like you don't get enough sleep."
"You and me both, brother."
"So how's the healing business, then?"
"Graymold? You found where we can get more?"
"Thank you very much, my friend! We'll definitely check on it."
"Ahh...when we have the time. We're a little busy right now."
"Say, any odd jobs you need help with? Ingredient retrieval, that kind of thing?"
"...oh for fuck's sake."
This is kind of a dick move on the game's part, as we had a bunch of fangs but turned them in for 50 gold apiece as a bounty. But we'll have other chances to get more aranea fangs. As long as we don't sell all of them to that lady at Fort Draco, we'll be fine for this quest.
"Well, good luck holding down the fort!"
"Odd. Byff, can you bring this barrier down?"
"Yes, but -- ahh, there's another barrier on the other side. Should be safe, right?"
"Great, now let's check that body."
The armor's just a basic chainmail vest. Oh well.
"Hey, they managed to capture a slith!"
"How'd you get captured?"
"Uh huh. And who's going to avenge you?"
"Explain it for me?"
"It sounds like these sliths have allied themselves with a powerful demon, which is currently imprisoned but may break free soon."
"The one in the tower?"
"That would be my assumption, yes."
"Well then, we'd better hurry!"
"Thank you, sir. You're the commander of this fort?"
"Wait, I thought you said you were a captain."
"How's the commander life, anyway? Speaking as one of the grunts?"
"Yes, we saw your security. Raids happen often, do they?"
Ice Lance was a basic attack spell in the first remake, which hit multiple independent targets with ice damage. Some enemies in this game still have a single-target version, effectively a replacement for Bolt of Fire, so I guess this isn't technically a writing error.
"I found some notes in that fort talking about raiding Gnass. What's Gnass?"
"Y'know, if you've been raiding that little fort to the north, we cleared it out for you! Uh, except for the second floor."
"Don't go to the second floor."
"Yes, we saw that island. Ominous thing. What's there?"
"So hey, anything we can do for you? Y'know, besides taking out a fort?"
"Oh come on, little lady. We're trying to help here! Maybe if you'd earned that rank you'd know to take help when it comes to you!"
"Smooth, One-Eye." :clap:
"Bah. I need a drink."
"Don't think we're likely to find a bar in this place. The mess hall will have to do."
"Well hello. Come here often?"
"Oooh, was it Emperor Hawthorne's New Clothes?"
"Yikes, lady. No, because I'm still alive."
"I think I remember hearing about that one. No defense lawyer, hand-picked witnesses, and wasn't the judge a particularly venomous theatre critic?"
"Haha, yes, I can still see the spittle flying from his mouth when I close my eyes."
"Forgive my lack of familiarity with these matters, but who was Karzoth?"
"Hang on, this just got real relevant, real quick. Don't suppose you know anything about those artifacts, babe?"
"Ahh, that's okay. I won't hold it against you. Say, what do you do when you're not working your job here at the mess hall?"
"Hey, you can cheer me up anytime."
"That's sweet and all, but you're kinda smelly for my tastes."
"Smelly? I'm not smelly." *sniff* "Hey, Kane, do I smell bad to you?"
"I was trying to avoid mentioning it, but that outfit of yours has gotten a little ripe lately. Didn't you notice we've been trying to stand upwind?"
"Hey One-Eye, why don't you go jump in a lake!"
"Man, some wing mate you are! Gotta let a guy know when he needs to clean up, or he'll never have a chance with the --"
"You never had a chance anyway!"
"Oh shut up, Elly. C'mon, let's go somewhere else."
"Hello? Adventurers on official prodding-our-noses-into-things business?"
"Er, sorry chum."
"Why are you hiding? The fort isn't under attack right now."
"It's been going a lot better lately, huh? Where've you been lately?"
"Oh yeah, the Castle. We still need to go there sometime. What's it like?"
"Shame. Some people just aren't cut out to live in a penal colony where practically everyone and everything is trying to kill you."
"Storage. Keep Out."
"Man, and there's people watching and everything. Why can't they leave their storage rooms nice and unobserved like civilized people do?"
"Because civilized people get stolen from?"
"Well yeah, but they're supposed to be too dumb to realize that. Hey, quartermaster! What say you and I go get shitfaced?"
"Pardon, but what's in all these crates?"
"I can't imagine why you wouldn't enjoy your posting here."
"Wait, that's an actual place? I thought it was a joke they drew on the map to confuse the newbies. Where is it?"
"Look, we're about to assault a nest of undead. I don't suppose we could buy anything?"
"Okay, then can we unload some of our crap on you for cash?"
Answer: yes. We pick up another ~2k worth of gold from the random salable junk we've found.
"Okay, then, good luck holding the fort together."
"I think this will come in very handy indeed..."
This puts a Cloak of the Arcane on everyone:
It's only level-1, but it's still almost certainly better than Cloak of Curses or Cloak of Bolts. Too bad it's not possible to put different cloak spells on different party members.
In previous games, the Emerald was a full SP restore; basically a free inn. This is more interesting and thematic: the mages are holding out because their spells are far more effective than those of the sliths, not because they are literally inexhaustible.
Also in previous games, the emerald was in a small room in the center of the fort, instead of being out in the open. Hence the text error in the encounter description.
"Ahh, that's much better! I feel up to fighting a lich now, I think."
"My, don't you sound confident."
"What are you doing here? You don't look like one of the combat mages."
"Hey, hear that? She's heard of us!"
"Yep, I think this group qualifies as an event all right. Like a tropical storm."
"I miss storms."
"Ahem. What are you fighting for?"
"Demons? What demons?"
"You fought a demon as an apprentice? And lived?"
"Ha ha ha, oh, bless you no, I was just one of many. Almost every mage in Avernum was in that fight."
"Well, what happened?"
"Wait, back up a tick. You mentioned treasure?"
"A Royal Seal?! Oh man, the tricks I could get up to with one of those! Where's this fort? We have got to go there."
"Yeah, yeah, after we kill Adze-Haakai, whatever. I got something to live for here, man!"
"Think that frozen guy was Karzoth?"
"Academic, really; he's dead anyway. Presumably."
"Anyway, what do you know about this emerald?"
"Interesting! Do you know who made it? I'd love to learn to craft this kind of thing myself."
"So say, hypothetically, someone were to move this thing? What would --"
"Hypothetically, I said! What would happen?"
"...are we standing on top of a volcano or something?"
"Anyway, ma'am, are you helping to fight the sliths here? Because Kane's right, you don't look like a battle mage."
"Wait, you know where her tower is? Could you show us please?"
"Well, if what Byff's said about Erika is true, uh, good luck!"
"And we'd better prepare for the Scree Caves. Let's find an unused bedroom and get some sleep, okay? Tomorrow's going to be a busy day."
Before we go, here's the map of Fort Emerald:
The upper ! is the Emerald, the lower is the quartermaster.
As for Erika's Tower? It's waaaay over on the western edge of the map.
We won't be going there for quite some time.