Part 38: Shattered Fort and Gnass
"Okay! Let's go, guys!"
"Because it's there!"
"Oh, okay then!"
"Sounds like a good enough reason for me."
"I'm surrounded by crazy idiots."
"This place has definitely seen better days."
"Oh look, we came all this way for nothing."
"Not nothing! We're being attacked!"
"I can hardly contain my excitement."
These guys are weak enough that even Kane can hit them with his bow, with which he has approximately zero skill.
"I don't see anything stopping us from exploring a bit. If there's a locked door or something, then we can go see King Micah about it."
"Hey, maybe we'll find ancient tomes of forbidden lore!"
"Guys, c'mon, would it kill you to pay attention?"
Scaly Imps and a Corrupted Imp; it won't kill us to fail to pay attention to them.
"You shut up."
"Oh, not you."
"Man, stupid demons hiding where I can't hit them! Answer my summons to the halls of justice, fiends!"
"Getting kind of histrionic there, aren't you, Kane?"
"Oh, look at that, he obliged! Thanks kindly, demon."
Cliff Imps have a Leap ability that lets them teleport and try to ensnare targets when they land. Nice of the developer to put that in so you aren't always stuck killing all of them with ranged attacks. Because there's a lot of Cliff Imps here and while they can't really hurt us, they do slow things down.
"I see the problem. Byff, if you would be so kind?"
"Man, whoever built this place built to last."
"Also to repel attacks. I would not fancy laying siege to this place if it was fully occupied."
"Oh look, Kane, it's what you wanted."
"I think you're rubbing off on him, Elly."
"Oh, or maybe he's just taken a few too many healing spells."
"You mean your healing spells aren't healthy?"
"Oh, now that's just sadistic."
Nine Wights and the Flaming Banshee are hiding in this corner, waiting for you to charge the demons. Good thing we can just step back into cover! Of course, that does let the demons have a free shot at us.
"You're doing great, boys! Just stand there while we shoot down the demons!"
"This isn't fair! I'm supposed to be the demon killer!"
"I think that great big metal stick in your hands has gone to your head, Kane."
All of these monsters seem to be pathologically incapable of hitting One-Eye with physical attacks. He even managed to dodge one of the Fire Demons' fireblasts! Not the other one, though, which half-killed him. Feast or famine with that boy.
I'm sure you're wondering what the Flaming Banshee does. Well, she spent most of the fight hiding in a corner. Then when she did start fighting, she hasted her friends (no Battle Frenzy, just haste) and then one-shot Byff with a fire attack.
"We could really use some firebolts right now..."
"Sorry, our mage is a bit too crispy and delicious to help us right now."
"Oh, so that's why I smelled pork."
Surprisingly, the Flaming Banshee isn't immune to fire at all. Elly gets some good shots in...then the Banshee uses a wide-area fire attack that one-shots Elly too.
"Looks like we're on our own, chum."
"This is what happens when you refuse to stop and ask for directions."
We actually have to use our healing potions for the first time in ages! Kane very nearly dies to a double-tap from the Banshee; meanwhile, One-Eye is firing two shots on almost every round and doing the bulk of the damage. It's a good thing the Banshee didn't decide to attack him: he almost certainly would have died and Kane on his own wouldn't have been able to survive long.
"Hey, I'm one of the ones that lived this time!"
"Yep. Congratulations! Grab Elly; I'll get Byff."
"Oh. Fantastic. How far is it back to town, again?"
"Hm. Thirty, forty miles?"
"...I apologize for any grumbling about dying I've done in the past."
From here we can go east to the Tower; it's actually closer than going west to Almaria. The tunnel comes out just south of the ogre village we cleared out awhile back.
"Oh, the Tower! ...guess that means "duck and cover" doesn't work so well against magical fire, huh?"
"Hey, anyone want to go get some lizard bacon? I'm hungry all of a sudden."
The Flaming Banshee, being a unique monster, has a special drop:
...it's a robe. That increases mental resistance. Couldn't have been some plate armor, could it?
The Banshee's little nook also has a Lemonwood Bow (strictly worse than the Bow of Storms), some mandrake, and a Steel Short Sword.
"Heyyy, what's down this way?"
"Stoppit we're already doing one of your harebrained adventures get back here --"
"Might as well give up, One-Eye."
"Oh look, and it's haunted. By ghost demons, no doubt."
Wonder why the Tower has such a problem with demons? It's really close to this location. That's it, just on the other side of the wall there.
"No worries, lads, I've got this!"
"I think I'm just gonna stand back and watch. From outside the splatter zone."
"Oh no! No more forts, we haven't even finished with the last one ye!"
"Actually, this one looks more like a battleground --"
"-- that's been frozen in time! This is amazing! Nobody touch anything, I have to study this!"
"Aw, c'mon man!"
"I can't help it! It's worth money and nobody was using it!"
"Look on the bright side, we get to see Kane go to work again."
"My word, that boy is enthusiastic."
The wand is a Basilisk Fang Wand, but at this point even high-level wands never hit targets worth using them against. The belt is more interesting:
More damage for Kane, or more tankiness? We'll give him damage for now; I doubt it makes a huge difference either way.
Attempting to investigate the battlefield without taking the wand still starts the fight -- and you grab the wand anyway. It's a false choice.
"Well, that was fun. Back to the Shattered Fort!"
"Oh hey, an ancient demon-worshipping shrine!"
"Recognize anything, Elly?"
"Actually, I think this might predate the fortress."
"Hang on, maybe I can make this out..."
"Huh. Usually that kind of thing doesn't work out in our favor."
This unusually generous shrine grants us a level-1 Ward of Elements and level-1 Cloak of the Arcane, and we can re-use it if we need to leave and come back. Handy!
"Whoah whoah hold up, treasure sense tingling!"
"Empty crates are treasure?"
"This fortress sucks."
"Who puts magical barriers up against a wall?"
"Bet that button has something to do with it. Too bad we can't reach it."
"Oh, now that's just rude."
Lava Imps are jerks: they love to spam an area-of-effect fire attack. It's not too powerful on its own, but there's six of them, and they're faster than everyonoe except One-Eye. That's a recipe for problems.
So we just trigger the encounter while in combat mode, and everyone gets a full turn before the imps can react; easily enough to whittle them down to where they aren't much of a threat.
I'mma name this fortress Evil Gondor. It's a bunch of concentric rings, with stairs placed so that you have to run across the entirety of each ring to reach the next one.
"There's that bridge, placed directly over lava, that still has a functioning mechanism hooked up to a wheel."
"...and I see something we missed. Be right back."
"Oh, sure! Running around in a demon-infested hellscape is great exercise! And now to find out what this button does..."
"...I was so certain that it was going to reveal a shortcut back up to where you guys were. Oh well, be right back!"
"What if there's demons?"
"I'll be sure to yell in pain extra loudly, so you'll know to come and avenge me."
"Don't you "but" me! It's your fault we're here in the first place!"
"Well, at least it's not an empty box this time."
Scrolls of Group Healing and Mass Curing. Eh, we'll take 'em.
"Find anything interesting?"
"Eh. Just another empty box."
"This must open that portcullis."
"Oh well, too bad, let's go."
This dungeon is a tease. Lets you do almost everything, and then puts up a locked door when you've explored nearly all of it. I mean, look at our map!
"I've half a mind to go ask King Micah for the key right now."
"After the show we put on for him last time? Forget it! Not until after we've earned his trust."
"Ooh, I know how we can do that!"
"Can it wait? I'm still feeling tired from fighting all those liches. Let's go back to the Great Cave, that was fun."
"No, he's right. But hey, let's go check out that friendly slith village. Consider it an intelligence-gathering operation."
Bugging Micah wouldn't help anyway: we don't have any new dialog options relating to the Shattered Fort.
The friendly sliths are in Gnass, just west of Fort Emerald.
"Man, this is creepy. They're not attacking us!"
"They did say these guys are friendly, chum."
"Yeah, but -- hey! Hello? How do I stay on your guys' good side, huh? Don't wanna step on the sacred rocks or whatever and get double-shanked by one of your spears."
"Maybe I didn't say it loudly and slowly enough."
"Okay, stop hassling the guy and let's go."
"Hello? I don't suppose you understand us?"
"Hey, I didn't realize you guys had written language."
"Oh good. That means we can learn from each other!"
"You, my friend, are addicted to knowledge."
"And jonesin' for a fix! What's that scroll you got there?"
"Hey, I like these sliths! Help away!"
"That's a somewhat mercenary kind of help."
The recurring problem with purchased consumables: by the time you can afford them, they're unlikely to make a big difference in a fight. Well, except for the Speed Burst and Restore Life scrolls, but we already have a few each of those.
"Alright, well, study up a bunch and maybe someday we can compare notes!"
"Whoah Nelly that's a big lizard."
"You make those spears I'm so, uh, intimately familiar with?"
Note what he said: their spears are made entirely of metal. With no natural wood in the caves (cave trees are presumably an adaptation of a surface plant, brought by the Avernites), sliths had no lightweight, strong material to make the handles of their spears from. Those suckers must weigh a ton.
"Okay, let's see what masterwork slith crafts are like."
We found a Slith Warspear a long time ago. They give +10% fire resistance and deal slightly more damage than Fine Slith Spears.
"Do you use these things yourself? I wouldn't mind a friendly sparring session..."
"Hello, you look important!"
"Sharing lookout duty, huh?"
"Hang on, hang on, what the hell's a darkling?"
"There's more of them."
"Rebels, eh? Man, I like you guys. What from?"
"Oh. That's...less good."
"And how goes the peace efforts? Are we treating you at least halfway decently?"
"Did you really expect otherwise?"
"Not really, no."
"Hey look, we're thinking of staging a raid on Sss-Thss...is this something you might be interested in helping out with? Like, monetarily? Or anything else you'd pay us for?"
"Man are you behind the times!"
"We killed that guy some time ago, sir."
"Ahh, thank you."
"Anything else you need?"
250 coins and a new belt!
"Hey guys, I'm smarter than Byff now!"
"Says this belt."
"I guess this place is an exile for the sliths too. Avernum is nobody's home."
"Okay, now this I have gotta see."
"Aww, they're all spread out. I was expecting, like, a pit just completely filled with lizards."
"Uhh, that one lizard looks a little different from the others. Boys?"
"Well, we've ruined the sliths' food stocks. I hope you're all happy."
"No big deal, we'll just give 'em some of our lizard jerky. It'll be fine."
The basilisk's nest has a nice ring for us:
Oh hell yes Kane is putting this on and never taking it off.
Here's the map of the larder:
Very short and simple: just some Mutant Lizards and then a Basilisk. You can reach Gnass very early in the game if you want, so high-level threats wouldn't really appropriate here.
"Okay, that's enough killing defenseless farm animals --"
"-- let's go back topside."
"Oh my goodness you all are adorable!"
"If you say so, Elly."
"They all like this?"
"Are these your babies?"
"Sage? Tomes? That's my kind of language!"
"Eyes on the prize, that man."
"Care to share your knowledge with humans? You, uh, you're friendly with humans, right?"
Seems like there should be more here about the tomes, but there isn't.
"And who's the lucky, uh, slith boy?"
"Okay well nice chatting with you lady but I gotta make tracks while I have boots to make them with. Bye kids!"
"Oh, good, we haven't plundered their entire food supply."
"Farms! I'm gonna learn about slith farming techniques!"
"Let's try that again."
"'Scuse me, what are you doing here?"
"Excellent! A farmer!"
"I can't help but note this fellow isn't entirely with us. Got kicked by a -- no, no mules down here, unless you count the nepharim. Chewed on by a giant lizard, maybe?"
"Sir! Are you Ach-Schah?"
"Wow, you look like you're freezing."
"Sounds good. Why not do it? Ship on out and end the war all peaceful-like."
"Well, now I'm depressed."
"By process of elimination, you must be Ach-Schah."
"As do your...subordinates?"
"Not smart? How do you mean?"
"Oh, like --"
"Don't say it."
"Anyway, it seems peaceful enough here."
"Oh, uh. Thanks. Grow anything besides mushrooms?"
"If you keep this up, I'm not going to have an appetite for -- hey, One-Eye, what're we having for dinner tonight?"
"I was figuring mushrooms with a side of more mushrooms, and maybe some basilisk garnish."
"Right. Might as well eat now, then."
"Worse than One-Eye's cooking?"
"Hey! You try making a meal from the crap we have to work with sometime. It's not easy!"
"No thanks, it's more fun to sling insults."
"Hi, don't mind us, we're just barging into everyones' homes and interrogating them. What's up?"
"Leave the poor thing alone, man."
"I'm just trying to find us some more jobs! You never know what poor farmer will be willing to pay us thousands of coins' worth in ancient magical artifacts to clear out their root cellar!"
"Holy geeze, I'd pay good money to see you wrestle the smith."
"Yeah, it's a kind of play-fighting. But first you gotta oil up and --"
"-- uh I think maybe I should stop talking."
"You got a real love-hate relationship going with the sliths, don't you, Elly?"
"You shut up."
"Ahem. Nice statue. You make these things?"
"Yeah, I noticed you guys have statues all over the place."
"Hey, neat. I thought you just didn't have mirrors."
"I never got the impression you guys went in much for homebuilding. The strongholds we've raided never had much, uh, quality construction."
"Okay, this I have gotta hear."
"Well, no harm done, right? I mean, long-term."
"I'm glad accidentally bashing your chief on the head is your biggest problem. It speaks well for the peace here."
"I wish humanity meant you sliths no harm too."
"At least one of us is optimistic, then."
"Hey, how come you don't hiss so much when you talk?"
"Okay, well nice chatting with you hon! You take care now."
"Seriously, Elly, he's a lizard."
"Oh, like that's gonna slow me down? I have seen things you would not believe, buddy."
"Try me. And seeing is one thing, smooching is another."
"I don't want to smooch him! Just, y'know, watch. Up close."
"Hey look an island let's go check that out."
"Well! Who's up for a little comparative theology?"
"See? See? I've been saying, we gotta kill that guy! Sss-Thss has got to go! Drown him in his own blood!"
"Rip out his tongue and tie it around his neck!"
"No berserker rages in the nice friendly town!"
"Oh, boo. You're no fun."
"Hey, finally a businesslike slith. Whatcha got?"
If you needed healing potions...you'd probably have an alchemist cook some up for you. But if you didn't have any herbs, this'd be a good place to buy them instead -- "Pretty Average" is, I think, the second-cheapest price tier.
"You take care of that shrine? Could you ask it how to keep our priest from going all bloodthirsty on us?"
I said awhile back that the Avernum series is not big on gods. I guess this is an exception. Kind of odd that sliths worship gods while humans all worship philosophies or ways of being or things like that.
"With a capital 'T'!"
"That sounds fascinating! Where's this Temple?"
"Oh, that temple. Eh, it was alright."
"Alright, thank you for your time. Take care."
"So now what?"
"We keep exploring the Great Cave!"
"Who put you in charge of where we go, anyway?"
"See, that's what I've been saying!"
Before we go, here's the map of Gnass:
Only the second town we've seen all game that hasn't had walls around it.