Part 60: The Burning Reaches"...I really hope Grah-Hoth doesn't run away again when we find that keep of his."
"We'd better start walking. It's a long way to Grah-Hoth's domain."
"Wait, you know where we're going? All I've heard is ''northwest''."
"This is just an educated guess, mind you, but I'm assuming Grah-Hoth chose the Burning Reaches as his stronghold. They certainly sound demonic."
"That's demons for you. No sense of subtlety."
Time for another long trek! Most of this is retreading what we explored after visiting Erika's tower.
I suppose I could have waited until now to visit Khoth, who is right next door to the Burning Reaches. But dammit I wanted Dispel Barrier level 3. And no, the barriers in Grah-Hoth's prison are not level-3 barriers; there was nothing stopping us from uncorking him as soon as we reached the Abyss. You only need level 2 Dispel Barrier to beat the game.
"D'you think we can ask Erika for help?"
"I sincerely doubt that her monomania will allow her to be distracted."
"He said she's too obsessed with killing human tyrants to care about killing demonic ones."
We'll still snag a rest in her guest quarters though. Easier than returning to town; the closest town is that dump, Spire.
"Well, here we are."
"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to going somewhere cold when we're done here."
First things first, there's a secret passage that bears checking out.
"Hey, maybe this leads out!"
"Someone likes playing games. They could have caused that cave-in at any time, but they decided to leave it waiting for the first person to try to take this route."
"Probably hoping to catch some poor explorer in the explosion."
"We're getting off-track, literally. Let's go kill Grah-Hoth!"
"Oh sure, now you don't want to explore all the nooks and crannies. Now you want to go straight from point A to point B, and damn the diversions in-between!"
"Ha ha. This is me laughing."
"Byff? Orb us, if you please."
"Wait, what are you --"
"Is this really necessary?"
"Not at all. But it does amuse me. And since we're about to go fight a demon king, I figure I deserve my amusements while I can get them."
"Besides, the curse on these undead is so wonderfully chilling. Almost makes it temperate!"
Holy crap. That's...let's see, 8 Skeletal Warriors, 8 Pustulant Zombies, and 1 Lich. This might just be the only lich in the game that isn't a named boss monster.
Events in the fight proceed predictably.
"You okay in there, hon?"
"Oh, just peachy! Come on in, the water's fine!"
"Uh oh. Get down!"
"W͖ͮ̄̈́̊ͪ͗̒h̖̱͎̙̟͊̓̚o͖͔͓ ̓ͨw̻͚̻̪̫͕̐͗a̘̼̥͍̥͂̈́̄̀ͯ̈́̒n̤̩̲̭̜t̙̜̘̍̐ͭ̌ͭs͇̯̜͛̆̎͂ͨͩͬ ̥̫͚̬̗ͧͬ̍ṣͪ̊o̗ͭ͐̓̒͆̀m̍ͫe͖ͬ̅ͦ?͎͌̀͑̂̂̊̃!̟̋̓̃̆̀"
"Holy shit, Elly."
ONE TURN. We killed all those undead in ONE TURN (Byff got the stragglers Elly left behind). Triplecast Divine Retribution is a scary thing. And sure, it cost Elly 120 energy -- but she leveled up from the fight, which is a full heal/energy restore!
In fact, everyone levels up. One-Eye only has 4 more skillpoints to invest to max out his core competencies (viz. dodging shit and shooting shit), which leaves him with 4 spare points to invest in whatever over the course of the rest of the game. Let's start teaching him to pray better, because why not?
"Hey Kane, wear this too."
"Can I clean it first?"
"If you must."
The hidden cache, that you might have noticed, had an Invulnerability Elixir. Another thing I really ought to remember to use more often.
"Okay, fun's been had. Now can we go kill that demon?"
"Man, what are you going to do with your life once he's dead?"
"Might I suggest learning a hobby? Like needlework, for example."
"I see the gates that Micah had installed have been suborned."
As you may remember, last time we came this way, these gates were barred and had huge flaming letters telling us to go bother someone else.
"Guess we'll just have to cut our way through!"
A Haakai, four Fiery Demons, and seven Skeletal Warriors. For a change of pace (and because we want to conserve her energy), we have Elly hang back this time. This just leads to her getting blasted by the Fiery Demons and killed.
These guys honestly aren't really all that threatening; even the Haakai goes down pretty quickly when stabbed with Demonslayer. The problem is that our only effective means of countering multiple AoE attacks on the first turn is to position One-Eye so that they aim at him and leave the rest of the party out of the blast radius. The sticky bit with that strategy is the knockback special attack that Skeletal Warriors have. He dodges the damage from it trivially, but still gets knocked back...back into the middle of the party. And then he gets doused in flame. And Elly dies.
"We're heading back to town after this, aren't we?"
"I suppose so."
"No sense holding back then."
I dunno, it's just not Divine Retribution.
"Dude, we're not doing this without Elly."
"I know, but it still grates."
Back to Erika's Tower!
"No need to apologize. That was my bad."
Back to the Burning Reaches!
The gate we came in from is to the west in this shot.
"THE FATE OF THOSE WHO DEFY GRAH-HOTH IS DEATH"
"Wait, I thought he wanted to torture us for a thousand years? Are we not defying him strongly enough or something?"
"Oop, hold up! It's orb time!"
"Poor dumb bastard. How'd he even get over here? Oh well. Yoink!"
Invulnerability Elixir, again, and an Iron Broadsword. ...oh well, they can't all be winners.
"There's no shortage of guards."
"You know, we could just go around them."
"How? They're blocking the route forward."
"Really? We can fly."
"Oh yeah, I keep forgetting about that."
"We just used that ability five minutes ago!"
"Okay, okay, you don't have to shout, yeesh."
Well I mean, you could do that, but we'll just fight our way through. The guards really aren't anything much -- we can actually avoid most of them via our Cave Lore skills! And the rest are just more demons of the types we've been stomping for awhile now.
"Hello? Who are you?"
"I wonder who that was."
I think I know, but we haven't met them yet.
Oh, come on! A quick check with the save editor indicates that this cache has some gloves:
I guess +50% acid resistance is impressive, kind of, and more mental resistance is always nice, but we'll cope without.
"Hey, there's another one!"
"I can't help but feel we're doing things out of order."
"Wow, overcompensating much?"
"Come on, let's get in there and get this over with."