Part 50: Erika's Tower"Look, I don't go stabbing people in broad daylight unless they attack me first."
"How principled of you."
"I'm just saying, there's a huge difference between self-defense and premeditated murder."
"If we're committed to stealing from the mayor of Spire, don't you think maybe we should not discuss our plans while standing in Spire?"
"Good point! Let's go explore the Abyss!"
"Oh, now you've done it."
"Hmph. These farms are in lousy shape."
"Hello! We're being approached."
"Oh, you guys again. No, we're not paying your stupid toll!"
I think that if our reputation were worse, they'd attack us (and the guards at Spire's entrance would presumably also try to kick us out). As it stands, there appears to be no repercussions whatsoever to stiffing the guards. Though they will bug you every time they wander into you.
"Ahh, this looks like the tunnel leading to the Waterfall Warrens, all right."
That makes three routes into the Abyss: via Fort Spire, through the Scree Caves and their hordes of undead, or by boat through the Waterfall Warrens.
West of Spire is a minor cave system:
"Man, there is nothing out here."
"Completely unexplored wilderness! It's great!"
"Speak for yourself."
"Surely someone must have been here before."
A Cave Lore cache in the middle of this cave has an interesting little bauble:
Sure, Elly can have this. Byff gets her old Magestone Band, replacing the Chilling Band he was using (which boosts fire resistance).
"Ah, I was right! Let's go say hello!"
"Geeze, this place is full of extortionists! No, we're not paying your stupid fee!"
Seven Assassins, three Elite Archers, a Sorceress, and a Dark Cultist.
"Oh hey! I know that guy's holy symbol! They try to summon and bind infovores by destroying books!"
"Books? This cannot stand!"
"How's that work out for them?"
"Dunno, they keep getting amnesia."
One-Eye, as usual, goes first, takes point, and attracts a bunch of attacks before the rest of the party can move.
One-Eye, you mad beautiful bastard.
The rest of the fight is mostly just us spamming our most powerful AoE attacks while occasionally healing.
Eh. Elly gets it, because she's just using a Steel Helm right now and this is strictly better.
"So much for that ''completely unexplored wilderness'' thing, hey hon?"
"Okay, so I was overoptimistic. One of these days, though!"
"Oh thank all that is lucky, some sign of civilization. C'mon, let's check out this hut."
"Hiya, lady, what's cooking?"
"Yeugh! Dirty play, lady!"
"Sheesh, we'll just be going then!"
"Hey guys, I've been taking a look at our map...I think this wall here leads to Skarragath."
"You mean a mysterious, old, and potentially hostile witch build a hut right next to Grah-Hoth's crumbling prison?"
"Let's not do her any favors. Someone like that cannot be trusted."
"Exactly what I was thinking."
"So, uh, are we gonna crack that prison open right now? Because I for one do not feel ready to fight a demon lord, weakened from his long imprisonment or no."
"But if we wait, he'll only get stronger."
"And we will be stronger as well. For example, I still need to go learn those spells Solberg offered us as a reward for banishing Adze-Haakai."
"Hmm, and we might find some more allies in the Abyss. Surely they don't want a demon unleashed on their homes, right?"
"Ha! He'd probably be an improvement over wossname, that bitch in Spire."
"Okay then! Let's go elsewhere."
In various corners of this cave, we can find patches of mold. Some of them are behind secret passageways:
"We're taking this stuff, but only so she can't have it."
"Heads up! Gazer!"
"That's an Eyebeast, Kane."
"Whatever, it'll be a blind beast by the time I'm done with it!"
They're accompanied by Lancing Fungi, which probably do something unpleasant, but they waste their first round of attacks trying to pin One-Eye, and they don't get a second round.
The Eyebeasts do, though, and quickly put a stop to One-Eye's dodging. And pulse. Nothing Elly can't fix. The Eyebeasts crumble gratifyingly quickly once Kane catches up to them.
"Why did we do that?"
"Because it was there! Plus, all those eyes give me the creeps."
They aren't even actually blocking access to the mold patch; you can walk right past them if you're careful.
"Hm, nice tower. I wonder who lives there?"
"That would be the tower of Erika the Archmage, if our map is accurate. And it's been accurate for everything else so far."
"Let's go pay her a visit."
"She's on the other side of a river, Byff. And we don't have a boat."
"We do have an orb that grants us the power of flight, though."
"Oh yeah, I keep forgetting about that."
Erika's Tower has the last patch of mold right next to it. If we were to collect them all and head back to the suspicious witch, we'd see this:
But what fun would that be? Let's do this tower properly!
"Heh. Somebody doesn't want any visitors."
"Who is this Erika, anyway?"
"She's a legendary enchantress. Arrogant, manipulative, and incredibly powerful."
"So what's she doing down here, then?"
"She ended up on the wrong end of a political power struggle. Garzahd had her banished as punishment."
"Even he wasn't interested in finding out what kind of death curse she could cast, I guess. Come on, let's crack this thing open and meet the lady."
First, we make a quick tour around the outside and find a side entrance:
Where does Erika get deliveries from?
There's also a staircase:
"I suppose it should come as no surprise that Erika's tied herself into the portal system."
"I wonder if the other mages know?"
"You know, now would be an excellent time to go learn Solberg's spells."
"Might as well."
One quick teleport to the Tower of the Magi, then to Formello, then taking the boat parked outside over to Solberg's Tower later...
"Archmage Solberg, I've done my homework. I think I'm ready for your spells now."
Byff's had the levels for these spells for awhile now, but we hadn't been close enough to a pylon to justify making the trek back to Solberg. Arcane Summon is a summoning spell, and therefore tripe, but Cloak of the Arcane gives a noticeable damage boost to all our spells, and Arcane Blow is the most powerful (and correspondingly most expensive) attack spell in the game, a conic AoE of pure magic damage, which practically nothing resists effectively.
Cloak of the Arcane will be our go-to cloak, while Arcane Blow will come out to play in the occasional big fight; for the most part we still stick to Lightning Spray, though, for efficiency reasons.
And with that, we've learned all of the really important mage spells in the game!
Congratulations, Archmage Byff. We're missing, in order: Cloak of Bolts (bonus damage on missile weapons), Minor Summon, Blink, Cloak of Blades (bonus melee damage), Summon Aid, Howl of Terror (tries to frighten nearby enemies), and Arcane Summon. We'll probably pick them up at some point for completion's sake, but for now I'd rather have the cash, just in case.
Now, back to Erika's Tower.
"If all of Erika's tests merely involve feats of magical prowess, we should have little difficulty."
"Was that bragging? From you?"
"A statement of fact, nothing more."
"I suppose she needs somewhere for her guests to sleep and eat."
Free heal in (what is effectively) a dungeon? Don't mind if I do!
"Any luck with this door?"
"No. In fact, I'm not even certain it is a door. See? My hand passes right through the doorknob."
"The long way it is, then!"
If we'd helped the witch, this door would be open.
"Ooh! Logic puzzles!"
"Oh boy, here we go."
"Look, we're in a hurry. Can't you just tell us which passage to take?"
"Why, you --"
"C'mon, let me have this!"
"Okay, so where do these passages go?"
"Uh huh. And she'll tell us the right way to go, eh?"
"Holy shit you're ugly."
"Well, it's true."
"That doesn't make it less rude!"
"She's a goblin, what does she care?"
"Look, what do you do here?"
"Okay, so according to you, where do these passages go?"
If we ask her for the answer, we get the same response as Glogroth Von Bloov gave us.
"I can't help but notice that both passages have lots of lava in them."
"Obvious traps, eh?"
Indeed, if we were to go down, say, the right passage, this would happen:
Three Punishment Golems are sicced on our ass. Punishment Golems are assholes: their basic melee attack causes immobility, and they have a radiate-lightning attack that does preposterous amounts of damage. On the other hand, there's a bedroom just down the hallway with a full heal, so we get to spam our biggest spells at them. As long as Elly stays out of range, we can't lose, really.
The switch you might have noticed at the end of the hall? Does nothing as far as I can tell.
"Hrmph. This problem is underspecified!"
"I mean that there's not enough information to figure out what the solution is! One of them says that passage A is deadly, the other says that passage B is safe; either could be lying or telling the truth and there's not enough information to figure out which! Erika's cheating!"
"Then we cheat back. Hey, Glogrot or whatever your name is: tell us which way to go, or die."
Results are predictable.
"Well, that was needlessly violent."
"Not needlessly! See: there's a switch on the wall behind them."
"And there's our safe passage."
In the original game, you could just attack non-hostile NPCs at any time, even in towns. Of course this tended to get the guards sicced on you. But it also made this puzzle rather less obvious, since there was no need for a dialog option prompting you to cut the Gordian knot.
"I'm guessing the giant magic circle is a bad thing. Byff, can we disarm this?"
"It looks like she made it out of steel, and it's embedded into granite. I can't cut through that."
"Steel? For a magic circle?"
"Evidently. I didn't even know that was possible."
"Oh well. Guess we'll just trigger it and see what happens."
"Or not see, as the case may be!"
"Great, now I'm having flashbacks to the Spiral Crypt."
"Breeding Pit Bypass Gate"
"Let's take the gate!"
It's possible that those buttons with the Punishment Golems open this gate. I'm not going back to check.
"Want me to dispel this thing?"
"I think that's probably the breeding pit, Byff."
"So that's a no?"
That's no fun, of course, so let's go check out what kinds of horrible monstrosities Erika's been breeding!
I see. Pustulant Zombies and Pit-Bred Basilisks. Mm-hm.
"The entrance should be right behind that southern door. Too bad we couldn't take the shortcut."
"Hello lizards! And fungus with inexplicable missile weapons!"
Mutant Lizards are old hat by now, but they're mostly just here to get in the way while the Lancing Fungi shoot at us. As long as they shoot at One-Eye, though, they won't do anyone any harm.
"Just because they can't hit me doesn't mean I enjoy being shot at!"
"Do you suppose this is where Erika gets her food?"
"These things cannot possibly taste good."
"Bet you a bottle of mushroom port to try them!"
"Elly, you're the only one that can stand to drink that rotgut to begin with."
"Is that a no?"
"There's a closet to the southeast that we haven't checked yet..."
"Now that's just rude!"
And ineffectual -- two Golems, two Pustulant Rats, and two Writhing Masses. I mean, sure, they do a lot of damage in round one...
...but after that Byff and his Triplecast Arcane Blow come out to play, and there's not much left to fight once he's done.
"Ah ha! Hello --"
"Yes, me. Do you have some quarrel with me?"
"In a way, perhaps. Why the hell are you so far out here?"
"Tiresome formalities? Have you seen what's going on outside your tower? Avernum is falling apart!"
"Okay, let's not anger the nice archmagus, Byff..."
"I've been keeping an eye on things. You seem to have the situation well under control."
"Ha! Have you any idea how many times we've nearly died permanently? Elly's little necromantic binding must be wearing thin at the edges by now."
"Uhhh. No, no, everything's fine!"
"I'll tell you later!"
"People are dying out there! And not coming back! While you sit here in your tower, because, what, they bored you?"
"Do not presume to question my actions. I owe allegiance to nobody except myself."
"This isn't a question of allegiance. It's a question of basic human empathy! You could have ended the Slith War singlehandedly. You could have banished Adze-Haakai. Let alone killed bandits, rescued captured soldiers, and more! It's in your power to save these people from a life of misery. What possible justification could you have for leaving them to suffer?"
"Justification? You would demand justification of me?"
"L--look, I don't know this guy. He just wandered in here. Uhhh, Byff, you're on your own buddy!"
"Yes, I'm well aware of your curse."
"Wait, you are?"
"The capture, cursing, and exile of Erika was the biggest piece of news among the Imperial arcanum for years. Of course I am!"
"But this is irrelevant! You got banished to the netherworld, so what? Plenty of people were banished! We're working together to make things better, and we need your help!"
"And my help you shall have...so long as you assist me in exchange."
"Not just us! Everyone down here!"
"I will only treat with those who demonstrate they are worthy of my time. You would have me save every poor downtrodden farmer who could make the trek to the Tower of the Magi? I could spend every hour of the day helping those who would not help themselves, and still they would demand more. I know this, because that was my life before I came here. What do you think I was doing before I took my library with me and came to this tower in the middle of nowhere?"
"So no, I will not help the people of Avernum. Not unless they can make it out here to ask me in person. Anyone who can do that is worthy of an audience at the very least, and my assistance...if they will help me in exchange."
"What kind of assistance? Could you teach my friends some spells, say?"
"I think you'd better take her up on that offer, guys."
"Heck, I don't mind learning from a world-famous incantatrix!"
Hello! Erika will teach you all of the highest-level spells, both mage and priest, as well as several useful skills. Solberg already covered the mage spells for us, but Erika's the first teacher we've found of the top-tier priest spells, and she doesn't even charge all that much...relatively speaking. She's still putting us in the poorhouse.
Return Life: We know this spell already, since we learned level 1 at Gremlin's Gold. Levels 2 and 3...appear to do exactly the same thing. Same cost, same effect, so why bother?
Divine Retribution: "Calls down a cloud of holy power, searing all nearby foes." The strongest priest attack spell; ruinously expensive at 40 energy, but it's that awesome earthquake spell that several nasty enemies (like Adze-Haakai) have used on us. At level 2 it can slow enemies too. On the other hand, using it effectively requires your priest to get somewhat close to large numbers of enemies.
Divine Restoration: "Heals damage and cures or reduces all negative effects for all nearby allies." Significantly more healing than Mass Healing, and it also cures status ailments...but Mass Healing is usually enough for us and we don't generally need the status curing. As it costs twice as much as Mass Healing (40 energy, again), it probably won't see much use, but if we need it, we probably really need it.
Divine Host: "This awesome spell summons a powerful shade, who will fight to protect you from your foes." For 50 energy (!) you get a Vengeful Shade. Hooray.
Elly just picks up Divine Retribution and one rank in Divine Restoration. Elly and Byff also pick up two ranks in Spellcraft each, for a minor damage boost. They could also get some ranks in Magical Efficiency, but that'd bingo our cash supply, and I'd rather keep some in reserve. We can always come back later for more training.
And with that, we've learned all of the really important priest spells in the game!
Missing are Summon Spirit, Domination (the charm spell), and Divine Host.
"Okay, are we calmer now?"
"I still say you're wasting your talents and ignoring your responsibilities."
"Think what you like, as long as you work with me to fulfill my plans."
"Your plans of, what, revenge against the Empire?"
"You want us to kill Emperor Hawthorne?"
"This strikes me as profoundly unwise."
"No, no, let's hear what she has to say!"
"Great, now she's using the royal We."
"Who's this Aydin chap?"
"Look, killing Emperor Hawthorne is going to precipitate a leadership crisis. And start a war with Avernum. How can this possibly be a good idea? In short, I have concerns."
"So you've discussed this plan with other Avernites? Who also didn't like it?"
"And what exactly do you think will happen if Hawthorne dies?"
"Better it happen at a time when we aren't fighting any other wars. You might notice the Avernite army is a little busy these days!"
"That is all right. We have much groundwork to lay before the assassination can take place anyway. By the time we are ready, no doubt things will have calmed down."
"You said that we're edging closer to our doom. What doom? You think the Empire is going to roll through here and subjugate us? Why does Hawthorne need to die before his time?"
"Well, I'm sold."
"Of course you are, hon."
"Look, no offense Madame Scary Sorceress Lady, but I think we need to talk this over among ourselves before we commit to anything."
"As I said, you have some time. But my patience is not infinite."
"Yeah, so if we do decide to help you, could you maybe see to it that we don't have to fight our way through your tower again?"
"How uncharacteristically generous of you."
"Ahem and I think we'd better be going now. Nice chatting with you!"
We'll hit up the other topics some other time.
"Well, we went to all that effort to come here, we may as well take a look at her library while we're here."
"And to think the only people who get to see these books are Erika and the select few who can make it out to her tower."
"Heh. Check this book out, everyone."
"Say, maybe Erika can help us kill Grah-Hoth?"
"I think she's a little too utterly and completely obsessed with her revenge to care."
"Found that key, in the desk."
"Hm, what do you think this journal means?"
"Interesting. Presumably five items...related somehow?"
"We found a brooch at Motrax's cave."
"And those freaky talking spiders had one too."
"And the undead of the Spiral Pit had one too!"
"That tears it, then. If they're all contemporary, then they must have come down with the First Expedition. Nobody else could have made it to the center of the Spiral Pit. I wonder what they're for?"
"Doubtless we'll find out when Erika deems it relevant."
"I hate to think what an incredibly powerful magician thinks is appropriate bedtime reading material."
"These are trapped, you know."
Trying to read them without permission sticks 10 turns of War Curse on us. Utterly irrelevant since there's nothing left to fight here.
"Well! That was interesting."
"We are not starting a fight between the world-spanning empire with nearly limitless resources and a fucking penal colony, Kane."
"Well, not yet anyway! Not until Grah-Hoth is dead."
Before we go, here's the map of Erika's Tower:
The southeast ! is the stairs to the teleport pylon, and the other three are Erika, her laboratory with the key to the delivery entrance, and her private tomes.