Part 48: The Return of Drath (also, Gremlin Cave)"Okay, are we done? No more delays then, eh? Let's see what the Abyss is like."
Welcome to the Abyss! I'm sure it's a nice place.
"I feel welcomed already."
"What are we even doing with all of these alchemical ingredients? You just keep stuffing them into your backpack, Byff."
"Let's just say I'm saving them for a rainy day."
"But it never rains here."
"Anyone want to mug some muggers?"
Of course there are bandits and brigands in the Abyss! Nothing we haven't seen before, though.
"Who even builds a house on the side of a sheer cliff face?"
"Someone who doesn't want to be found?"
100 coins and an Armor Elixir (grants Shield Chant, Regeneration, and Spine Shield).
If we continue to follow this easterly tunnel, eventually we get spit out into the Scree Caves:
"Interesting, so there's two land routes into the Abyss. One of 'em's just infested with undead."
"That would explain why we found a bunch of merchants out here, back when we were working on reassembling Demonslayer."
"Come to think, we haven't fully explored the Scree Caves yet."
"See? We just found more bandits!"
"Truly, we are blessed."
"Hello! Hallo? Are you bandits? Because --"
"-- this was your chance to leave peacefully! Oh well, we do it the hard way then!"
Can I just say that it's very disconcerting to see so many One-Eye clones? Those are Assassins, and they're actually moderately dangerous, with attacks that do decent damage, cause random debuffs, and reliably hit everyone except One-Eye (who just gets batted around by zero-damage knockback instead).
That's just one of their turns. It's nothing we can't stay on top of, but if we weren't careful, someone could easily die in this encounter. I mean, someone we care about. The bandits are all dying regardless.
250 coins, two Rubies, a Speed Burst scroll, and a Mica Band (a ring that gives 15% resistance to acid, poison, and curses).
"Serves you right. Jerks."
"I wonder what that cave they were guarding is?"
"Hang on a tick..."
One Mandrake Root.
"Hooray, more roots for Byff to carry around."
"I for one think this is a healthier habit than your tendency to carry every bit of food we find."
"Sue me for not wanting to starve to death!"
"No point; the judge would throw the case out."
"No bandits this time, but this feels familiar anyway."
Energetic Herbs this time. What a weird way to distribute alchemy ingredients.
While we're in the area, why don't we pay a quick visit to Drath? Last time we met him, we just barely managed to force him to flee, despite multiple attempts and draining his fountain of invulnerability. We've gained a bunch of levels (from 17 to 24) and some swanky new gear since then, though. Is that enough to swing the difference?
This does mean sweeping through the rest of the Crypt. We can use the shortcut we set up on level 1 to go to level 2, and the teleporter on level 2 to bypass all those switches and levers and go to level 3, but we still have to go through the portal maze and its respawning golems. Remember: always take the eastern portal!
"Why are we doing this again?"
"Because if we don't, it's only a matter of time before he starts attacking the Great Cave."
"And Kane hates leaving things unfinished."
"That I do."
"On the plus side, these fountains have replenished."
This is a pleasant bonus! I was expecting these to still be depleted from the last time we fought Drath. Several turns of invulnerability will make this a lot more pleasant.
"Okay, fine. Let's do this, then."
"Hi boss. Remember us?"
"Right, that's about enough existing out of you. Go on, then. Shoo."
"Wait, that's it? ...oh, right. Invulnerability potion. Wait, those things wear off! Kane, get your ass over here!"
"I'm comin', I'm comin'."
"Invulnerability" cuts damage by 80%, remember. One-Eye still would've survived that shot without it, but it would've hurt.
"Let's see how you like getting stabbed with burning steel!"
"Everyone deserves a pet name! Anyways, how do you feel about rains of fire?"
"Hey, I can do that too!"
Oh yes, this is much better than last time. He still slows Kane sometimes when Kane attacks him, though, so Kane's better off focusing on Drath's summons. And unleashing our strongest spells will tap Byff and Elly out of spellpoints in very short order, so we're probably best-off sticking to cheaper fare.
"Hey, I'm here too!"
One-Eye's damage is pretty poor against Drath, sadly -- Drath's physical resistances are no joke. One-Eye switches to shooting that Vengeful Shade on the other side of the barrier; we'll want that guy gone before our invulnerability wears out and we start having to eat the full strength of his frost breath ability.
Meanwhile, holy shit, look at Drath's healthbar!
"Oh, no you don't! No skipping out on your trial! We're ending this here and now!"
He summoned a Ghost. That's no fun; Ghosts can cast Charm! On the other hand, Drath's slow "aura" is gone now, so Kane can whale on him with impunity.
He also takes to spamming Slow spells (indicated by those bluish clouds falling everywhere), which is great as far as I'm concerned, because we can easily counter that by just renewing our Haste, and him casting Slow is one action in which he's not casting something more dangerous.
"Hey, pale and see-through! How many arrows do you think I can stick in your eyes before you give up?"
"Uh, One-Eye, our invulnerability ran out."
"Shit! Well, that just makes it more urgent then, right?"
"Especially since he keeps summoning more of them!"
And giving them absurdly long-lasting Battle Frenzies -- 24 turns! I hope you like getting double-turned.
Fortunately, the ghosts are mostly contenting themselves with sticking Weakness Curses on us and using minor attack spells.
"Hey, did you say we're not invulnerable any more? Because Drath's casting something..."
"Hey, I'm still alive!"
"And that was the Arcane Blow!"
"Ha, your magics are no match for my incredibly thick scar tissue!"
"...nope, still here!"
"Good thing he's pointing that finger at you instead of the rest of us!"
"Don't give him any ideas!"
In a spot of amazing fortune, Drath has fixated on Kane, and he refuses to move, so all of his conic AoE spells are hitting one person, instead of the entire party.
Of course, as soon as I notice that, he changes tactics, throwing out first a lightning ring...
...and then a Fireblast...
"You two better finish this!"
Me and my big mouth. And he summoned another ghost.
"Oh well, these scrolls exist to be used, right?"
"Welcome back, you two."
"So this is what the front lines are like! Hiya Drathy! Nice teeth you got there!"
"Almost got him! Quick, finish him off!"
Or he could use his lightning ring spell again, that works too.
Cue one Scroll of Group Heal, and then Elly casting the corresponding spell.
"Right, time to get revenge! For One-Eye!"
"You of all people should know he'll be back in a minute."
"It's the principle of the thing! Eat divine fire!"
"Ha! We did it!"
"Phew, and a good thing too. I need a nap."
See that? 7 out of 352 spellpoints left. Being a caster in this game is expensive. In a way, I like that: it helps keep the physical characters relevant.
"Oh my...look at this robe!"
"Swanky! Dibs! Plate armor wasn't really my style anyway."
"Aww, I wanted that!"
Sorry, Byff, but you need the extra AP from the Mercuric Leather to be able to double-cast reliably. Meanwhile, Elly only loses a small amount of armor and some fire resistance from setting aside her old armor. Heck, this is a straight upgrade over the Slime-Stained Tunic, even!
"C'mon, let's get out of here and get One-Eye back on his feet."
Back at Fort Emerald, the closest friendly town...
"Please tell me we're not going back there a third time! You did destroy him, right?"
"I'm afraid I have some bad news, One-Eye..."
"Yes, I'm afraid..."
"Come on! We were so close!"
"...Elly called dibs on the robe he was wearing."
"You're an asshole, Byff. Where'd you learn that from?"
"I can't imagine where I could have observed that kind of behavior up close, repeatedly, with many opportunities to take notes. Nope."
There is one last thing in the Scree Caves we should check out.
"Another cave with a single alchemical herb in it?"
"Oh, a gremlin cave. Fantastic."
"How could you tell there are gremlins here?"
"Oh...this just seems like a particularly gremlin-y place, that's all."
"Also, there's that."
"It's not like I need the practice, but when presented with such tempting targets, how can I say no?"
More gremlin flavors! The greenish-yellow ones are Dizzy Gremlins, and the red is a Munching Gremlin. The former can cast Daze; I'm not able to determine what's special about the latter. Maybe they just have a stronger melee attack.
The bright orange one is a Holy Gremlin; we've seen those before.
"Well, I'm stealing their wine anyway."
There's stashes of wine all over the place, and the occasional alchemical herb. Elly's up to 28 bottles; we should turn those in at Fort Draco sometime.
"Oh, gross. That one's got a skin condition!"
Oozing Gremlins can...cast a Lightning Spray that also tags its target with the Lightning debuff. More evidence supporting the theory that said debuff was originally some kind of super-acid.
"Kind of a nice place, really. If you ignore all the bones and gnawed limbs all over the place. And the fact that it's located in an undead-infested hellhole."
"So it's a fixer-upper!"
"Also it's full of vermin. Could you two please kill them with fire?"
Awfully kind of them to bunch themselves up like this. Once we're done, we hit the switch on the wall.
"Figures there'd be more to this place."
"Well sure. You have to have a secret room leading to your hidden workshop-slash-lounge, right?"
"That's the Imperial crown emblem."
"Yeah, no shit. What the hell's it doing here?"
"I think we have more pressing problems!"
"I demand you explain yourselves! What are Imperial Soldiers doing in Avernum?"
"We don't answer to you, worm."
"Okay, I guess we're doing this now!"
Two Elite Warriors, a Sharpshooter, an Assassin, and Dhoul of the Circle. They're a little underleveled for us.
"This is worrying."
"You got that right, chum! The Empire has a secret hideout within spitting distance of the Great Cave!"
"Had a secret hideout. It's not a secret any more."
"And when we're done with it, it won't be a hideout; it'd be a tomb!"
"Just so long as we don't end up making any liches while we're at it, hon."
"Oh, we know what we're doing, all right. And it's perfectly justified."
Rather than face these guys head-on, though, we'll just pull them back to the little kitchen we just cleared out. Why fight six guys at once when you can fight one guy at a time?
"Hmph, you've only achieved the fourth circle? I guess Avernum doesn't rate serious attention."
Commander Bhaoul can cast low-level priest spells, but he shows no inclination to do anything really threatening. However, partway through the fight, he gets some Assassins spawned in.
This is not particularly worrisome.
"So hey, I've been meaning to ask: how come you all dress like I do? Did I set some kind of fashion trend by being banished to the underworld while wearing my pyjamas?"
"They're trying to kill you, you know."
"Well they're not doing a very good job of it!"
"Scratch one Imperial outpost."
"And I get some fancy pants out of it!"
Maybe this makes up for her spending the first half of the game wearing a slimy tunic.
"Don't push your luck, buster."
"Well, time to loot the place!"
It mostly just has low-grade salable stuff and a few more alchemical herbs. But there's a whole bunch of secret passages:
"Poor bastard must've stumbled on their hideout somehow."
"This would seem to be the way out."
"We'll check it out later."
"Ah ha! Perhaps we'll learn their plans!"
Level-3 Lightning Spray has a 40% chance to try to inflict Weakness Curse on its targets, which makes them more susceptible to damage. Lightning Spray remains our most efficient AoE damage spell (Fireblast is stronger but also 3x the energy cost), so hey, why not. I kinda wish we got the one the monsters get that puts a Lightning DOT on its targets though.
"Say, maybe one of them connects to the surface!"
"If that were the case, we'd be able to tell, because we'd be on fire. These are shorter-ranged. Much too small and low-energy."
This portal really does just lead us to the exit. Which means the other portal is more interesting: it leads to elsewhere in this cave.
"Summoning circle with miscellaneous bones, narrow bridge over a bottomless chasm, strange crystal...yep, I think we're looking at a trap here."
"Well, don't just stand there; get ready to spring it!"
"One of these days your curiosity is going to get you killed, you know that right?"
"Someday, sure. But I'll get over it."
"Curious...is this a scrying crystal?"
"Shit! That was Garzahd!"
"More importantly, we have company!"
"Kane, try Demonslayer on them!"
"No good; we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way."
"I guess his obsession with demons doesn't extend to everything..."
Infernal Constructs appear to be simply huge slabs of beef, but they can grant themselves Battle Frenzy at will, and their attacks cleave and cause knockback and immobility. That's a nasty combination, which makes it very hard to keep them away from our squishy casters...
"Wait, where did Byff go?"
"You're standing on him."
"Oh, ew. Fix that, would you?"
"I'm kiiiinda too tired to cast Restore Life."
"Okay, you two grab Byff. I'm smashing that crystal."
"How anticlimactic. Who was that guy, anyway?"
"I believe I've heard of him. Garzahd is the Imperial Mage, the right-hand-man of Emperor Hawthorne himself. Not a good enemy to have."
"Good thing he didn't see me then. I hope."
All that's left of this cave system is a blind portal choice! You like those, right?
The eastern portal just sends us back to the top of this little area, and summons some gremlins. The western one takes us back to the hideout...and summons some gremlins.
"Didn't take the fuckers long to move in, did it?"
"Go on, get out! This is our hideout now!"
Time to take the other portal out of the hideout.
"Back to Fort Emerald?"
"Back to Fort Emerald!"
"We seem to come here rather often."
"Hi guys. Managed to get away from Garzahd, did you?"
"Yep! And Kane smashed that crystal."
"Good. Garzahd is not a good enemy to have."
"So I've heard."
Here's the map:
Left to right, the !s are Enchanted Crystal, Secret Portal, Portal, Spell Tome, Hidden Portal, Portal, and Portal.