Part 34: Waterfall Warren and Stagnant Tunnels"Cripes, that guy was persistent. We got him, right? The lich is destroyed?"
"Sure is! Shot him through the eyeballs and out the back of his skull."
"And...was it worth it?"
"I'm a little better at leaving our enemies unable to think clearly!"
"So, no, not really."
"Oh, well. Guess we'd better get on with it, then."
"Goodbye, lake full of sliths! See you soon!"
"Do you want to be drunk for this?"
"Does that really sound like a good idea to you? I'm going to have enough trouble holding onto my lunch as it is."
"Good point. And I think I don't want to sit next to you any more."
"The Waterfall Warren. Discovered by the Great First Expedition of the Empire."
"If they were so great, you'd think at least one of them would have survived."
This place is huge, and as the name implies, it's a maze of waterfalls. In the original game, going down a waterfall had a chance to reduce your food stores (and you needed food to be able to rest, so that could be important). In this game they're just one-way passages.
"Looks like we have our pick of passages. Might as well be systematic about this -- let's start at the leftmost and go from there."
"That was awesome!"
"Oh look some undead let's go fix that."
The patch of dirt near the boat is another Cave Lore cache, which contains a Blessed Breastplate. Same defensive stats as Kane's Crystalline Plate, but without the extra bonuses.
As for the undead?
"On second thought, guys, how's about we don't throw our lives away in some forgotten hole in the ground? Just this once, for a change of pace."
Six, count 'em, six Vengeful Shades. Who all go before the party does. Ha ha ha ha ha fuck that. We'll just grab the breastplate and leave.
"Seeya, fellas! Have fun guarding your pointless little island!"
"Is...is it over? Urp..."
"Man, that's one big waterfall."
"And one tiny one from Kane!"
"Okay, let's pull in here and give Kane a little breather before we do that again."
"We're doing it again?"
"Sure! Haven't found the Orb yet."
"Okay yes, break now please."
"Hey, is that a road?"
"And farms! With cows!"
"Well, that was weird. Where are we?"
"Hang on, lemme get the map out."
"The Abyss. Hunh. Kind of a shithole."
"Heads up, guys, we have company."
"How about no? We go where we like."
"Cowards. Come on, let's get back to me heaving my guts out. It's more pleasant."
"Hm, more company?"
"Unfriendly company! Ow."
Three Assassins, three Rogue Warriors, and a Rogue Archer. The Abyss is such a pleasant, welcoming place, isn't it? They lack the kind of massive damage output needed to be a serious threat, fortunately.
"This place sucks. Let's go."
"I think we must be near the Scree Caves; that's Drath's crypt that way."
"And what's this on this island?"
"No, it's an Eyebeast, not a Gazer...oh."
"On the plus side, he's not seasick any more. Because he's dead."
The Eyebeast's four Banshee pals die to Byff and Elly's combined magical prowess; unfortunately, the Eyebeast proceeds to one-shot one party member per turn from then on out. We really need Kane alive to absorb those punishing magical attacks.
I make a few more attempts at the fight, but it's really not worth pursuing; the Banshees can easily wreck us all on their own, between their ludicrously powerful melee that causes slowing, their AoE lightning attack that also puts the Lightning debuff on us, and their Terrify spell (Kane and One-Eye have mental resistance of 27% and 26%, respectively, while Elly and Byff have topped out at 85%). Even when we do manage to kill the Banshees off, we're too weak to take down the Eyebeast.
So hey, fuck that.
"Wow, you really nailed those sound effects."
"Did I really have to be killed off mid-sentence? That's such a cliche."
"Tell me it's not totally what would have happened, though."
"Yeah, yeah, let's just leave 'em and get on with it."
As for the sign?
"First Expedition. Long Live the Empire."
"These are definitely the Scree Caves. I know where we are!"
"Yes, in a nest of undead."
"And with an unexplored cavern to check out!"
"Man, hell if I know what's in there. Can undead swim? Maybe they cross-populated the area from across the river?"
"Surely you're not thinking of using that!"
"I've been using a creaking cavewood longbow for what seems like years now! This little puppy just needs a little cleaning and she'll be good as new!"
"...oh. Maybe I'll test it out sooner than expected."
Cave Lore: your one-stop shot for subverting story climaxes.
If we don't ignore the fight, we get this:
"Eyebeast! ...ha, and I lived!"
"Shut up and kill it before it can correct its mistake!"
Eyebeast, four Ogres, and an Ogre Taskmaster. The Taskmaster is just an unreasonably powerful melee enemy, and the Ogres are just so much dross, but the Eyebeast of course is tricky. Fortunately he refrains from his stronger attacks, and we're able to kill him; unfortunately, while we were doing that, the Taskmaster managed to reach Elly, who is not really built for front-line combat.
"Catch you all at Fort Emerald, boys!"
"Hey guys, I don't like how he's looking at me..."
"Just dodge him!"
"Oh yeah, I can do that."
One-Eye is fairly impressively hard to hit, though he folds like a wet paper towel when enemies do connect with their blows.
"This bow had better have been worth it."
"Oh, I think it was. Check it out, it shoots lightning bolts!"
And this is the other reason why throwing weapons suck! There are awesome enchanted bows out there. There are no awesome enchanted throwing weapons, and even if there were, you'd never use them for fear of running out.
"Come on, let's go get Elly back."
"I'm amazed this fort is still standing after what we did to it."
"And there's still that group of sliths hiding on the wrong side of a barricade...what's going on there?"
"Welcome back, Elly."
"Hi guys! How'd it go?"
"I have the power of the gods in my hands!"
"Hey, welcome to the club! Awesome, isn't it?"
"C'monnn, let's go back to the waterfalllls!"
There's a sort of 2x2 grid going on here: the Warren is north of the Scree Caves and connects to it by a narrow river; the Scree Caves are west of the lake with Sss-Thss' fortress. And that lake connects, via a portage, to an unnamed lake that has the Foul Cavern and a Slith location we haven't visited yet, which in turn connects to the top of the Warren. Every time we pass through the Warren, we have to go back past the Scree Caves, past Sss-Thsss, to the portage, and then back to the top to try again.
Fortunately, the branching in the Warren isn't too bad; in practice, you shouldn't need more than three passes to see everything.
"Right, next-furthest-out waterfall this time!"
"How long is this going to take?"
"Depends on how many unique paths there are!"
"Whoah, check it out! Skeletons!"
"Well, they're not undead and trying to kill us."
"That is unusual."
80 coins and a scroll of Acid Shower.
"Didn't someone mention crystals in the Warren being important for something?"
"Probably, but if I brought out my notes right now they'd get soaked. Onwards!"
"Oh, well then!"
"Guess that'd be this way then."
"This must be it!"
"Pee-yew! It reeks in here!"
"Nobody ever said adventuring was glamorous."
"(The message on this crude sign faded long ago.)"
"Well hey, bunch'a stiffs here. Bet they won't mind if we take their gear."
"Good idea! Do any of them have the Orb?"
"Nah, just a bunch of broken armor."
"Hey, slow down a bit chum..."
"Well that's ominous."
"And look, they even left us a boat so we can come to them! How considerate."
"So...I guess that means medusae instead of basilisks? I wouldn't think basilisks would know how to build a boat."
"What? Medusa don't exist, you doofus."
"Hey, you never know!"
"I'm gonna side with One-Eye here. Oh dear."
A unique Eyebeast and his three Basilisk pals (one of whom is hiding just offscreen). Their AoE stunning breath attack is a pain in the ass, though at least it's not an immediate party wipe like basilisks could be in the original game.
Fortunately, as this isn't an overworld fight, we can get the drop on them. We still lose a ridiculous number of turns due to being stunned, but nobody dies!
"Man, if I were a powerful magical monster, I wouldn't chose to live in a damp, stinking hole in the ground."
"Why? Where are they going to go from here? They're surrounded by hostile waters and they don't...have...a boat. Except the one by the entrance. Hm."
"Plus, they can fly. Monster psychology is strange."
Our reward for that fight is in the eyebeast nest:
There's been a major shortage of good hats so far; Byff's still using a basic leather helmet! One-Eye gets this helmet, and passes his old Serpentskin Helmet to Byff.
Incidentally, if I recall correctly the original game had a Shield of Klin, which could be used to cast bless or healing spells or something like that. I guess Klin was part of the First Expedition?
"Hello, Byff. What are you doing on the front lines?"
"Trying to split their aim! Also, killing them with frost magic."
"I bet that's our destination."
"No bet. Man, how much would it suck to try to take the boat there while getting attacked by basilisks from this island? We wouldn't even be able to fight back!"
"Hello, ghost lady! I'mma call you Moaning Myrtle, okay?"
"Where are you getting these names from?"
"Oh, here and there."
"Well hey, you're a ghost, right? Why stick around here? You can probably just float through the walls or something."
"I miss forests."
"Hey, got any intel for us? What's going on here anyway?"
"Why on earth were you exploring here anyway?"
"Yeah yeah yeah, that's great and all. What about Thralni?"
"Forced? What, like through mental magic? Was he a mage?"
"Aww. What a sad story. And you got murdered, really? Who by?"
"And now I'll have nightmares, thanks."
"Could you clear something up for me? Why would the Empire even bother sending soldiers down to Avernum? What did they care what happens down here?"
"Avernum's the caves, lady. Our home."
"Well, thanks for the conversation, Myrtle! Let us know if there's anything we can do to help you!"
"Fascinating. I'm amazed that this well isn't flooded."
"Aww, gremlins? Keep a close eye on our booze, Elly!"
"Hang on, there's a crack in the wall here..."
"Oh look, more statues. Which means that..."
"Hey, you're not a basilisk. What gives?"
"Never mind, found 'em. And run!"
This fight goes amazingly smoothly...right up until Evhyor joins the fight and completely stomps us with a wide-area lightning spell. Time to try some more subtle tactics, then.
"Okay, I've got his attention! Fall back to the ambush!"
"Ha ha, they fell for it!"
We lure out some of the Searing Crawlers and Gremlins; unfortunately, we can't get the Eyebeast away from his Basilisk. Oh well!
"Hey, c'mon guys, this isn't funny!"
"Ha ha ha, but seriously, we're coming Kane!"
"Stab him in the eyeballs!"
"I have been! It's not as effective as it should be!"
Take one: stymied by Evhyor one-shotting Byff out of the blue, and then terrifying the entire rest of the party and picking them apart one by one while I watched, completely helpless. Mental status effects (daze, stun, frighten, and charm) are just a little dumb in this game: every single one of them renders the victim useless in combat (at best!), and the only spell that fixes them is single-target-only. And as I noted, I'm fairly certain that Elly and Byff have topped out on mental resistance: they're never going to have better than an 85% chance to resist these effects, while Kane and One-Eye are far more vulnerable.
Anyway, enough bitching. We have an eyebeast to kill. Which is merely a matter of our party not getting completely debilitated by a single spell.
"Wait, what happened? Where's One-Eye?"
"Don't worry about it. Congrats, you beat the eyebeast!"
"What did this accomplish...? The Orb isn't here!"
"Well, we get to loot its body, for one!"
"Uhhh, it won't stab us in the back?"
"And we have to go back to town again to get One-Eye revived. Cripes, his corpse is crispy."
Yep, that fight is completely optional!
One quick jaunt to Fort Emerald, followed by retreading the Warren again (note the barriers behind us which we dispelled: the other entrance to Evhyor's lair)...
"Man, I still feel all tingly."
"Hello! More bodies!"
"C'mon, it's got to be around here somewhere!"
"Sweet! So how do we use this thing?"
"Well for one, we wait until the roof's a little higher up. Unless you like smashing your head into the rock."
"Hey, what's down this way?"
"I smell more loot! Hit the switch!"
"Ah ha, an alchemical lab! ...not soundproofed though. Phooey."
"Can you get these barriers down?"
"And this isn't so much a door as a crude painting of one someone scrawled onto a blank wall."
"Well, then I guess it's this switch or nothing."
Four Vengeful Shades and a Crumbling Lich. Man, we're just chock-full of liches lately. Naturally we lure everyone back to the alchemical lab rather than try to take them head-on.
"Look guys, we just want to study your remains! It's kind of hard when you keep moving like this, so hold still, will you?"
"Whoops, hello Mr. Lichy!"
"Man, how do you hold together? You're like, made of dust."
Hitting the Crumbling Lich in melee inflicts Stunning on the attacker. Guess we're stuck with bows and magic for this one!
The lich is of course able to grant himself Battle Frenzy and has access to all of the strongest attack spells, which means it's only a matter of time until we get unlucky and he kills someone. Elly's the first to die, which is really unfortunate as she's the only one with Group Heal. Next is One-Eye, downed by an Arcane Blow.
"I think it's time we made with the resurrecting."
"Ah huh. Scroll didn't work."
What the hell, there's totally room. And the best part is, this still charged us for the scroll! So yeah, this iteration of the fight is lost.
"Hey guys, this is just a suggestion, but I think we should move back a room."
"Oh, no reason...in fact, let's just run back to the boat."
"You realize he's -- ow! -- following us, right?"
"Shut up and run!"
"There, nice and peaceful. And now we can wait, recover, and strike back at the lich when he comes around the corner..."
This helps more than you might think. Besides having room to resurrect party members now, we can spread out so the lich can't hit everyone with a single attack spell -- and Elly can even use Divine Fire from complete safety as it can hit around corners. Or at least she should have been able to, but somehow she got clipped by an Arcane Blow anyway.
"You'd better get our friends back on their feet! I'd do it myself but I think you aren't as busy!"
"Already on it!"
"Okay, I'm confused."
"Just blast him!"
"Getting kind of tired of fighting these ancient undead horrors, to be honest. At least this one had fancy pants."
"Here, Kane, you wear them."
"I'm not sure I'm okay with this."
If magic hats are in short supply, magic pants are even rarer. This is only our second pair; up to now everyone except Kane has been strutting around in leather pants this entire time. Kane hands his old Pustulant Greaves to One-Eye.
"Ahh, a trove of historical relics!"
"...that I cannot read. What madness is this?!"
"Here, maybe this one is legible?"
"Yes, it is!"
Powerful but spendy, Fireblast is the mage's answer to the priest spell Divine Fire.
The two tomes we could not read are one of the very few Arcane Lore checks in the game that the Sage Lore trait does not count for, which explains why they were beyond our skill. However, all they do is teach you the first 7 mage/priest spells at level 2, and Elly and Byff already have all of those spells that we care about.
Theoretically you could save some money by coming here instead of buying spells, but that'd mean training up to be able to defeat the Crumbling Lich and his entourage without having access to those spells, and if you can do that then you don't need the minor savings that you'd gain from the accomplishment. It'd be more useful if you weren't stupidly limiting yourself to only one arcane and one holy caster, mind you.
"Ha, this barrier is no match for me!"
Just some coins and a magic wand. Wands appear to be useless in combat now; in any remotely significant fight, they just miss outright. Oh well, they sell for a decent amount of cash.
"I guess we're done here, then?"
"Yep! Let's get out into the open space and take 'er for a spin!"
"Sure, but let's let Myrtle know she's free first, okay?"
"And good riddance!"
"Man, what are you complaining about? You never even died this time!"
And here's the map of the Stagnant Tunnels:
The central area has the first unique Eyebeast with his pack of Basilisks, another smaller Basilisk nest near the northern edge, and a pack of Searing Crawlers. Moaning Myrtle is in the southeast, the gremlins are in the southwest, Evhyor is in the northwest, and the northeast of course has the lich's little hideaway.
I believe it is in fact possible to sneak in, grab the Orb, and make your way out without getting into any fights, which means you could come here as soon as you get a boat from Cotra or Silvar and immediately gain the ability to fly. You'd best be careful if you try that though, because the fights here do not mess around. Evhyor is probably the worst of the lot (the lich didn't use any mental attacks that I saw, so while you'll need some resurrection, he's unlikely to cause a party wipe), though fortunately you need to either open a secret passage or dispel some barriers to get to him, so he's definitely not going to surprise you.
"Okay, so how does this work? She said to rub it..."