Part 52: Erika Environs, Blocked Tunnel, Sulfur Caverns"Near the giants' castle, across a chasm. Now if only we knew where the giants are."
"I'm sure we'll stumble into them eventually. I mean, they're giants; they won't exactly be easy to miss."
"Let's just keep exploring around here for the moment."
As you may recall, we're exploring the caverns north of Erika's Tower.
It's a pleasant place.
"Phew. If we could get a crew and some pickaxes out here, this place might make amazing farmland."
"I'll add that to the bottom of our list of get-rich-quick schemes."
Hey, remember wandering encounters? They're usually incredibly rare; I think we've seen more hand-placed special encounters than we have random wandering monsters. But here's one: some Crocolisks and Enormous Cavebats.
"You know, I vote that we just stand here and watch him dodge them for a bit."
"Not funny, Elly!"
"Would you like me to bomb your location with a few lightning sprays, then?"
"You guys are assholes."
"Looks like they're guarding a passageway, but I can't see what's behind it. Guess we'll have to ask them nicely. Byff? Orb us, if you please."
"Whatever happened to only attacking things that attack us first?"
"Ehh, these guys are undead and/or constructs. Doesn't count."
Aww, crud. Six Demon Golems and six Skeletal Warriors. The boney guys aren't a problem; it's the golems that are going to smash our faces in. The problem is their elemental breath attacks -- in addition to the frost we saw last time, they also have lightning, fire, and presumably acid too. And since their melee causes knockback, there's no way to properly draw the fire away from the bulk of the party -- even if One-Eye runs out in front, he'll be knocked back into the middle of the party in no time.
A few AoE attacks later, and we have this situation on our hands:
"Aww, c'mon guys, if you're all dead then who's going to get hit instead of me? Get back here!"
"This is going to be a very unpleasant fight, isn't it?"
"See, I knew you were smart! You figured that out real quickly."
"Guess I'd better go take point again."
One-Eye charges the enemy, leaving everyone else far enough away that they mostly don't get hurt as much when the enemy takes their turns.
See? A marginal improvement, in that now everyone is still alive!
"Ha! You've fallen into my trap!"
"Holy shit, Elly."
"Aww, that was nothing!"
Between casting Return Life, and three castings of Divine Retribution, Elly just spent 195 out of her 363 energy in two turns. Considering this is a "go big or die trying" situation, it's perfectly justified.
Byff follows up with a triplecast of Arcane Blow, which leaves just two Demon Golems standing -- easily mopped up. You guys are making a beautiful team. One-Eye attracts the initial attention and (hopefully) evades it, Kane has the endurance to keep enemies distracted over the long term, Elly keeps everyone standing and supplies supplemental smiting, and Byff is our primary source of damage. It's working far better than it ought to.
"Well, that was invigorating!"
"Three of us died."
"Oh! That reminds me. Elly?"
"So, necromancy, eh?"
"Wait, I missed something."
"Byff mentioned something about a ''necromantic binding'' while he was ranting at Erika. Weren't you listening?"
"I was too busy looking for escape routes in case the legendary scary sorceress decided to turn us all into mushrooms."
"I'd say I was more lecturing than ranting, personally."
"Anyway. Care to explain that, Elly?"
"Oh, you know...I just, uh, tied our souls together."
"Hold that thought."
"Weird sword, this. Kane, you want it?"
I'm a bit disappointed in this: this sword by rights should be called the Alien Blade. It's one of the mainstay unique weapons in the Exile/Avernum series, alongside Demonslayer and Smite. It's not a very good unique weapon, but dammit it's traditional.
"I'm good, thanks. Elly?"
"I said I tied our souls together. Any of us dies, their soul just kind of gloms onto the others' for a bit, until we get close enough to a town."
"What do towns have to do with it?"
"Well, uh, they have lots of...you know, friendly people. With, uh, spare bits of soul."
"Don't look at me like that! They have plenty to go round! It's a well-known fact that people only use 10% of their soul anyway!"
"I didn't know that."
"Oh hey, giants! Hey guys, your castle around here somewhere?"
It really isn't. I have no idea what these guys are doing here. The red one's a Cave Giant Slinger, the others are basic Cave Giants, and they're wholly unremarkable otherwise.
"You never studied necromancy, Byff. Anyway, so we leech a little off the top, that triggers a little reconstruction/reanimation enchantment, and poof, no more dead bodies."
"Sounds good to me."
"Sure. You'd rather be dead?"
"Well no, but --"
"Then there's no problem. Look, we're trying to fix things here, right? The least these townsfolk can do is help us when we get hurt."
"Especially considering the ruinous prices they've been charging us for everything. Hell, they deserve it."
"I'm not convinced that's very ethical. Byff, do you have an opinion on this?"
"I find it hard to argue with One-Eye's practicality. I'm very attached to being alive. Moreso than is normal, evidently."
"Anyway, that's necromancy for you. And no, Byff, despite what you said, that binding is not wearing thin. It gets renewed every time it gets used, so it is in very healthy shape thank you very much."
"That's all you can say for yourself? ''Neat''?!"
"Okay, how about ''Can you teach me to do that?''"
"Sorry, I think you're outvoted, buddy. Join the shambling zombie revolution! We're out to save the world, one brain at a time!"
"Speaking of, where in the world are we?"
"''Vahnatai''? Like that ghost we found at that one crypt?"
Back in update 29.
"They're still around? And they're gonna return someday?"
"Not right this moment, from the looks of things. We might want to notify King Micah to station some guards out here though. Mm. Maybe some diplomats. Could be a spot of unpleasantness if we find out the Great Cave is their ancestral burial ground or something."
"Hey look, a dead body!"
"Sorry, I can't get these barriers down. We'll have to come back later."
This is getting irritating.
"Weird. Mysterious and weird. Can we go now?"
"Remind me again why we follow you anywhere?"
"Aww, you know you love it."
"Hang on...that's a human! What are they doing out here?"
"Grah-Hoth? But he's still in his bottle, isn't he?"
"So far as I'm aware, and I'd think we'd notice if he broke free. This place does seem kind of demonic though."
"Sorry buddy, no can do. We're going to destroy Grah-Hoth, or die trying."
"Maybe die trying in the process, but not permanently, eh? Eh?"
"Yes, yes, very clever."
"Logic does not seem to be your strong suit. Poor fellow."
Fortunately, these are just ordinary golems. They hit like trucks, sure, but they can only hit one of us at a time.
A Crystalline Wand, which deals cold damage in a conic AoE, for by-now pitiful damage that everything will dodge anyway. Attack wands are way past their use-by date. At least it sells for a good price.
"If this is part of Grah-Hoth's domain, then maybe we should be elsewhere for a bit? We should complete our business in Skarragath before coming here, I think."
"Yes, please, can we go somewhere less stinky?"
"Nonsense! We'll just go around the demonic lands."
"Who makes a secret passage that leads into a pool of lava?"
"Hang on, I can see an island..."
"I think I don't like where this is going."
"Tough! You insist on exploring this place, we are exploring it!"
Through repeatedly using the Orb of Thralni, we can hope across the lava pools to a series of scattered islands...
"And you're leading the charge against these harmless lizards!"
"Harmless, she says."
Better than I was expecting! It's just Basilisks and Crocolisks; I thought there'd be some Ur-Basilisks. Basilisks are nothing much to worry about at this point; the entire party out-speeds them. Which means Elly can do this:
"Ḃ̤̻̼̗̬a̪d̩͙̞̘͓̑̊ͯ̇̃ ̮͍͙̏ͅl͚̳̿ͭ͗ͫ͌ỉ̫̒̓ͣ̌̿ͅͅz̺͇͔̼̼ͥ̋̑͌ͯ̐a̤̟̰͓͌̀̈́͗r͓͍̈̔̾́ď̲̒̈́s̲ͅ!̹̹͓̝̠͖͋̓̅ͦ͂ͅ B̆͆̚ả̻͎̭̲̩̰̪̏̍̆̚c̫̤̙̗̉̂k͚̼͈̝̣͐ͤ̽̑̋̑͑ ͚̦͇͖̺̪̄̈t̟͓̫͕̝̀ͪo ̩͇̠͔̪͇̲̎̓͛ͤ̓y̝̭̘̫ͬ̿o͔͌͛͐̿̑û̾͊ͯr̙̱͇̹̘̘̪̔̓̑ ̮̠̫̼̪̬͎̓̋͋k̦̼̼͓͉ͮͭ͗͗ͥ̋̓e̤̲̿̎n̦̘͗͌̓̋́͑̇n̘̝̲̊ͥ̀ͧeͫ̍l̃͗̇̒̄ͩ!͖͛̔"
"It seems I am not, in fact, leading the charge. Anyone need a heal? No? Okay, I'll just sit this one out then."
80 coins and a Steel Halberd...which is worth 1300 coins and is one of the best polearms in the game. Too bad Kane's our only melee guy and he uses swords.
"Now, what the fuck is a house doing out here?"
"Might as well investigate."
"Ye -- oh."
Why they put such a shitty spell way out here, I have no idea.
"Wow. Where are we?"
"Lost, hundreds of miles from civilization, that's where."
"I know, isn't it great?"
"My word, someone spared no effort sealing this place."
"And we have no kind of authorization or key to get through here. Guess we'll have to come back later."
"Or never. We could come back never."
"Don't be silly, One-Eye."
"Hm, guardians. Something important must be that way."
But before we check that out...
"That is steep."
"Yeah, no kidding."
"This could be a way out! Come on!"
"It's okay, Byff. We'll find an exit someday."
"No, this was sealed intentionally. Which means someone actively sought out all the passages to Avernum they could and closed them off. There may not be any remaining ways out."
"So? Fuck 'em then, we'll dig our way out."
"I can't imagine you swinging a pickaxe, buster."
"Okay, maybe not, but c'mon man, you got this huge magical prowess and you're gonna let a little thing like a few miles of solid rock stop you? I bet you can figure out a way to get out!"
"Hmmm, no...but...wait, no, that wouldn't work either. Hmm..."
"Nice job, One-Eye."
"Spend enough time with nerds, and you'll learn how to snipe them. Dude loves his puzzles."
"Anyway, what were those guards guarding?"
"Hello, dears! My, my, my. How are you doing?"
"Dragon? What. No. No no no no no -- !"
"Oh come on, grow up man! You've spoken to one dragon, what's another? Elly, grab his other arm, would you?"
"Can do! C'mon, hon, this'll be fun!"
"Says the lady who won't be standing in front if it decides to eat us!"