Part 35: Almaria
"Man, this is gonna open so many doors for us."
"I might feel a little better about this if my stomach were settled. As it is..."
"Hey, don't stand so close to me!"
"So, I can't help but notice that we're right next to Sss-Thsss' fortress..."
"Yeah, and I've been thinking about that. Much as I'd love to go rob some lizard dudes, I think we should hold off."
"Because nobody is going to pay us well for a fait accompli. Someone wants this guy dead. Let's go get the contract, bargain as high a price as we can get, and then go singlehandedly win the war against the sliths."
"It feels really weird to hear that said seriously."
"You don't think we can do it?"
"No, quite the contrary. And that's if anything even weirder."
"I object to waiting. I've been very patient. And we've buzzed this guy's fortress like a dozen times now while en route to other locations! It's like a juicy bit of squid that nobody will let you eat!"
"What, you've never eaten squid before?"
"Tantalizing morsels aside, everyone on that fortress just saw us soar through the air like particularly murderous seagulls, and --"
"-- and so I don't give us much chance of being able to get inside. It's gotta be locked up tight right now."
"We could just fly in! Look, there's no roof on it or anything!"
"And get skewered by a hundred javelins? You've seen how badly we fight on open terrain!"
"Yeah, I don't really feel like trying this over and over again until we somehow miraculously survive."
"Oh, fine. We'll go away, find some poor sap whose children got slaughtered by sliths and who'll pay us his last copper penny if we get revenge for him, and then we'll come back, sneak inside, and do the job anyway."
"Now hang on --"
"Y'know, just so we're doing this properly. Wouldn't want to win the war by improper means!"
"Now you're just being bitter."
Alright, we can fly! The Orb of Thralni is the primary "key" for overworld travel -- there'll be chasms, rivers, and so on that we can't get across without using it. The way it works is pretty straightforward: you activate it from your inventory (same as if you wanted to drink a potion or use a scroll), and then click somewhere on the map. If it's in range, then you just teleport to it; otherwise you stay put.
In previous versions of the game, the Orb gave you six turns of free movement over normally-obstructing terrain (but not, say, cave walls. That would be silly.). Once those six turns ran out, you plummetted back to earth, and if you had no safe landing, then the entire party died! Hooray! If you're the type to try exploring river sources, which invariably disappear into anonymous rock walls, then be prepared to die a lot. In the previous versions. In this version of the game, you can't fly to anywhere you can't see, so that's all moot.
Anyway, we voted on where to go, and the general consensus was that we should stick to safer fare and give the party a well-earned vacation. So let's go to the main hub of humanity in Avernum: the Great Cave! To get there from Ss-Thss' fortress, we head north through the portage, then east to Fort Dranlon and the Eastern Gallery lake, which has a river that feeds south to the Great Cave:
"Ahh, remember when we raided the wrong slith stronghold? Twice?"
"Heh, imagine if we'd gone after Ss-Thss' fortress first thing after visiting Cotra!"
"That sounds deeply unpleasant."
This is the start of the river out of the Eastern Gallery lake. It terminates after some distance here:
"I believe this is it. Welcome to the Great Cave, folks."
"Imagine! Weather...indoors! I wonder what keeps the air circulating?"
"Looks like we have to get off the boat here. Is that a town to the south?"
"I hope they have beer!"
"Elly, if there's any constant in the world, it's mankind's need to get drunk. I'm sure they'll have something."
"Hey, looks like a nice place."
"Still with the walls, though. I guess even the Great Cave isn't safe from attackers. Whelp, let's start grilling the townsfolk!"
"Hiya, Dex! How goes the killing-people-from-a-distance trade?"
"Elly, you're starting to worry me a bit."
"Ahem. Pay no attention to my compatriots."
"Hell, we don't pay attention to each other!"
"So you supply adventurers, eh? I might be in the market for some supplies. Whatcha got?"
Ha ha, no. It is interesting that he has bows made out of actual, proper wood, instead of the jumped-up mushrooms that I understand Cave Trees to be. The Yew Bow is hilariously overpriced -- it deals nearly as much damage as the Cavewood Longbow, but is slightly less accurate.
"And...got anything else? For...discerning customers with an eye for quality?"
"Not as far as you're concerned. Have a nice day, don't let the door hit you on the way out."
It's possible that Dexter sold thieving supplies in previous versions of the game. Or else there's a keyword we need to learn still. I forget.
"Sage Julio, do you have a moment?"
"Hey look, Byff! You can be sagey muscle buddies!"
"Err...maybe some other time."
"So, what's the biz, Julio?"
"I don't suppose, he said without much hope, that you'd be willing to share your recipes with those in need?"
"Naturally, naturally. How about ingredients? We're still looking for a reliable source of graymold."
"You know these areas well, then? Done much exploring?"
"Why? I mean I'm sure the cartographers are grateful but that seems kind of a low payoff for so much work."
"Really. Share, please do."
"We'll keep that in mind, and thank you very much! If you have any other advice for us, we'd love to hear it."
"We're already on the lookout for them. Have been for awhile now. Thanks for the tip."
If you've forgotten, there's a Scimitar recruiter in, if I recall correctly, Fort Dranlon, who tells you to seek them out if you want revenge for being exiled.
"Gossip aside, hon, can we see what you have for sale?"
Not a bad source of consumables. Speed potions in particular can be very helpful, granting Battle Frenzy (bonus AP) for 8 turns. I'd rather save our cash for now, though.
"Thank you for your time and advice, sir. I think we'd better move on now."
"Let it be so, my friend."
Jasmine, like most dialog-having NPCs, has a bunch of bits of text she'll spout off while you're wandering around. Her particular set includes: "Try the lizard jerky!" "Lizard tail stew?" "Spicy lizard wings?" "Lizard sashimi?" "Fresh roll with lizard bacon?"
Just putting that out there.
"Hello, ma'am! Something smells good!"
"Something looks good. Hello!"
"I hear you're quite the dab hand at lizard meat. You sell provisions here?"
"What, no comments from you about bitey cows, Byff?"
"I'm more amazed she'd rather tend sheep. Sheep are stupid."
"Sheep don't bite. At least, not so readily."
"There is that. Your arms have, ah, seen better days."
"So, can we see your wares?"
"I never would have believed it!"
"We'll take the lot."
"Finally, a leadership decision I can respect."
Alas, cake, like every other food, merely has the descriptor ''Sufficient to sustain life, if not happiness.''
"Why are we breaking into the lizard pens?"
"To say hi to the friendly animals!"
"Aww, good to see you too buddy!"
"I'd hate to see you interact with a bobcat or mountain goat."
"Hey, I'm not stupid. I learned healing magic for a reason!"
"Well well well. Haven't seen one of these in awhile. Hey Kane, give you 2:1 odds we've already finished one of these jobs."
"Hmm. I'll take that bet."
"Ha! We've dealt with the Tower of the Magi!"
"Does that really count, though? This isn't so much a job as a desperate warning. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the note was written in blood."
"I'll take my winnings in cake, if you please."
"And don't think I missed you, buster!"
"Why are there living statues in all the big cities, anyway?"
"Does it really count as alive?"
"I guess that settles that, then."
"Hm, we're being watched. Excuse me, ma'am, can we help you?"
"Ha! Didn't know you were so scary, Kane!"
"Oh no you don't."
"Sorry, Elly, a job's a job!"
"I hate civilization sometimes."
"Though I admit this is a bit more...lush than I was expecting. Except for the weird dead area."
"Should have known."
Five Searing Slimes and a Bulging Slime; we vastly outlevel them. The Bulging Slime can use an AoE ensnaring attack, summons four Unstable Masses when it dies. Unstable Masses will explode when they die, damaging everything in the area; surprise!
"I don't like surprises."
They have enough HP that the first one that explodes won't kill all the others...but it will leave them all one explosion from death, so I hope you're ready to take a triple explosion in the face.
"Not to worry, folks, I have this under control. One-Eye, get your ass away from the blast zone."
"Yes, sir. Here, let me just set them off for you --"
"Pfui. How do I look?"
"I was kind of hoping to get my face behind my shield before they exploded. So, thanks for that. Here, have a hug!"
"You stay away from me!"
There's some Blessed Boots in the slimes' nest. We already have a pair though, and they don't do anything interesting.
"Hello, what do we have down here? A little smugglers' nest?"
"Wait, does that nametag say ''Cormac''? We have a message for you!"
"Oh really? We're here on official business, slimebusting. Why shouldn't we be here?"
"Oh man! Where do I sign up?"
"Hey, Kane, next time can you ask us before you go signing us up to rebel?"
"Look, all I'm doing is gathering information. Meanwhile, Cormac, anything we can do for you here?"
"There goes the laziest agent provocateur I've ever seen."
There's another slime fight down here, but I'll spare you the details. We can also see a teleport pylon, but not reach it, from this area.
"Can we please go back topside?"
"Hey Julio, we blew up those slimes you wanted. And then the slimes they blew up into, also blew up. Can we count that bounty twice?"
280 coins, a healing elixir, and a curing elixir. Eh.
"Hmm, nothing but amateurs."
"I don't think much of your methods. Do you really have to shout so much?"
"Eh, I've seen worse in the military. Let's see what you got."
That's kind of expensive to save a couple of skill points, and Kane honestly has all of the melee weapons skill he needs at this point.
"I'm guessing your training methods weren't populare on the surface?"
"From a certain point of view, sure."
"Oh, I bet begging for your life was fun."
"Well, good luck out there."
"Hang on, that's the way out of town. Why is it shut?"
We entered from the west, for reference; this is the eastern gate. North and south are blocked by the river, of course.
"Aww, thank you!"
Almaria is the only way to get into the Great Cave by foot. In the original game, it sat on a one-tile-wide river, so you could just park a boat right next to it and bypass the toll. In this remake, the river is wider, so this only works as long as the boat's on the correct side of the river...but we can fly anyway, so this toll is totally irrelevant to us! You know, if the guards would even let us pay it, but they won't.
"You must be Mayor Bevan. We're still working on that assassin job for you."
"You're a warrior?"
"Wait, what's a Ward?"
"So, like a sergeant, I guess?"
"What did you learn in the army?"
"And yet you put a job listing out to kill a slith assassin."
"Hey, I don't expect anyone to actually succeed at that. But people like seeing adventurers out carrying on the fight. If I can make the population happy by nailing a piece of paper to a board, then that's a small price to pay."
"Anyway, now you're the mayor, eh? Any other jobs we can do?"
"I think that won't be an issue, thanks. Mayor Evelyn of Formello granted us a Crown Token in exchange for saving her office."
"We'll add it to the pile."
"Yeah, can't promise anything, but we'll probably get to it eventually. Thanks for your time, sir."
"How comforting. Does it count if you get it off them before they finish bleeding out?"
"Wait, the sliths are perfectly capable metalworkers. How is this an advantage?"
"Lady, I've been stabbed a fair few times by their spears. They work."
"I think there's a gap in your logic there, somehow."
"Anyway, let's see it."
I will never understand why storebought equipment is so expensive. It's just never worth buying anything. At least we can sell our stuff to Rosemary; we pick up another 4300 gold by doing so.
"I think I'll be fine with Demonslayer and my sharp wit."
"Sharp? I think we need to take your brain back to Boutell for some honing, Kane."
"Short and to the point. I like you. Let's see 'em."
Note that these "very reasonable" prices are still a markup from the nominal value of the items -- that Shielding Knife has a value of 300, for example. And we can't sell for anywhere near the nominal value; I think we're getting 28% when we sell items. Oh well.
"Oh look, another teleport pylon."
"Hey, let's nip back to the Tower and see what Kelner has to say about that note!"
"He took a vow of silence, remember?"
"I do, but does he?"
The game really did not expect us to banish Adze-Haakai before ever visiting Almaria.
"There's one last place in Almaria that we absolutely must check out."
"Or check in?"
"Barkeep! What've you got for us?"
"Wait. Wine? Like, real wine?"
I'll just take this moment to note that one of Rhiannon's "atmospheric quotes" that she says while you're wandering around is "Our wine will not make you go blind!"
"And just so we're clear: this wine, is it made from grapes?"
"I knew it was too good to be true."
"So what's so great about your wine anyway?"
"Well hey, we deserve a treat. How much?"
"And I'm in need of some entertainment. Why can't we rent your rooms?"
"Right, let's just grab a table then."
"'Scuse us, buddy, can we join you?"
"Oooh! Tell us about the sliths!"
"I think you'll find that temple's been raided already."
"Wait, seriously? By who?"
"Some unknown band of terribly brave, handsome, and intelligent adventurers."
"Slathering it on a bit thick, aren't you?"
"I'd like to hear what you know about that island."
"Thanks muchly, sir."
"See? This is why we hit the civilians up before we go raiding bloody great fortresses! They have useful information!"
"Or technically, they know people who might know useful information, possibly."
To Silvar! Chuck's in the tavern, sure enough.
"Hey, buddy. I hear you got a little too close to the sliths for comfort."
"Well. That was helpful."
"Oh good, we aren't going to have to try to scale the walls. I wasn't looking forward to that. I don't even know how to operate siege equipment!"
Back to Almaria!
"Alright, drink up, boys!"
"Oh, One-Eye, could I bother you for a moment?"
"Sure Elly, what's up?"
"I see you've been learning a little about the world's inner workings."
"You want to tread lightly with that stuff. It doesn't pay to look too closely. After all, staying alive isn't any good if you can't appreciate it, right?"
"Don't think I'm really following you, but okay."
"Just think about that the next time you're having one of your little paranoid moments."