Part 64: River HeadlandsThe audience has decided: it's time to explore the headwaters, source of the central lakes and the sea around the Eastern Gallery.
The party is currently at the crossed axes, investigating an old stone tower near the Slith Fortress they just cleared out:
"I don't think so..."
"Huh. Well, nobody'll miss this."
"Uh oh. Get ready to run, boys!"
"What? There's nothing here but these statues. These...disturbingly life-like...statues. Oh dear."
Cave Lore saves the day! Not that the basilisks would have been much of a threat to us. The ring is an Armor Ring (+6% armor, +2% evasion). We have better.
While we're in the area, let's go clean up an encounter in the Waterfall Warren that we skipped previously.
"I always did wonder what that sign said."
"And we probably shouldn't let eyebeasts wander around unmolested."
"You leave your sick hobbies out of this, Elly."
Four Banshees and an Eyebeast. This was an impossible challenge for us when we first came through here, due to the Eyebeast's nasty spells and the Banshees' powerful area-of-effect abilities. Now, though, we're able to kill the Eyebeast in the first round and then weather the Banshees' counterattack.
"Ha, you call that the withering grasp of a frozen corpse? I'm only slightly frostbitten!
"Back to the grave with you! And don't come back until you're sorry you attacked us!"
"There, that's done! Let's see what that sign says."
"Right. Anyone got an axe or a saw handy? This is coming down."
"Kane, no! This is an important historical relic!"
Time to loop around past Sss-Thsss' castle again. Which reminds me, there's a bunch of fishing villages around the castle, chock-full of sliths:
"Time to finish the war! Again!"
"These are farmers. Look at them!"
"I agree, there's no need to attack these folk."
"Hey, you know how I operate. They have to strike first. Otherwise it's unprovoked aggression."
If we did attack them, we'd have a sizable fight on our hands:
But they're only basic enemies (plus one mage and one priest), and there's no reward to speak of, so why bother? We'll leave them be, and let the friendly sliths at Gnass come through here someday to try to convert these guys.
We will, however, walk right past the villages and loot the treasures they're standing in front of!
The cache (small circular lump of dirt) just northwest of the party has a Shielding Potion (shield chant / regeneration / spineshield for 6 turns). More interestingly, there's a little nook off to the side here:
"Well well well, what have we here?"
"I think I know what's going to happen!"
"Too late. It's an unconscious reflex, I swear."
"I guess we'll just have to hope nobody notices."
"Now what fun would that be?"
"Oh, ick! Worms! And a slith that won't bleed properly!"
This iteration of the series doesn't seem able to tag the party with debuffs before overworld battles, despite what the flavor text said. So this is just a straight-up fight with a Slith Avatar and a bunch of Frozen Worms. Slith Avatars are straight melee enemies, no special gimmicks beyond the combat disciplines that all melee enemies have. It can't hit Kane reliably, and neither can the worms.
"Are we done desecrating graves now?"
"I guess, for now."
"You never know when the gravedigging urge might strike!"
"Okay. We've let One-Eye and Elly choose the destinations. Now it's my turn."
"Where do you want to go?"
"I want to track down that patch of Graymold! Think what could be done for society with a reliable supply of graymold salve! Infections could be a thing of the past!"
"But we have gobs of the stuff already."
"We don't have a renewable supply though. And that's what we'll need if we're to really advance medical magic."
"Hey, fair enough. North it is!"
"Hang on, what's that fortress there?"
"Hm. I don't know for certain, but I'd wager that's the Keep of Kyass."
"Some Avernite separatist, trying to form a new nation down here."
"I thought that was, uh, Langley."
"That imbecilic bandit we put down."
"Nnnnot really narrowing things down any there, buddy."
"The one that really liked to talk."
"Anyway, no, Kyass isn't a bandit. Apparently. He just decided to found a town in the middle of the wilderness. And...let's see here, Captain Houghton of the Castle Guard wants us to find out what his plans are."
"And Thantria, One-Eye's imperial handler --"
"-- wants us to find out if there's anything he needs assistance with."
"That makes me think we shouldn't be helping."
"Moot point anyway, because we're not stopping there yet."
"Because I don't want to, and I'm in charge! Now keep rowing!"
"Benevolent Dictator Byff is kind of a jerk."
"Hm, ogres on the eastern shore, and an Eyebeast on the island."
The Eyebeast doesn't have anything special going on, it's just out there so you can find out what assholes Eyebeasts are, in case you've never encountered one before.
"Wait, is that...?"
Two bits of Graymold.
"Ah ha! Excellent."
"That was easy."
"So now where to?"
"Ah ah ah! We're not done here yet! The patch must be secured so that the Castle can send a delegation here to analyze the soil and arrange cultivation!"
"So...what do we do?"
"We kill everything in the area!"
"Or negotiate and ensure they'll let travelers past unimpeded, yes."
"...no way up."
"It looks like there's something up there."
"Mysteries for another day. C'mon, let's keep moving."
That's the northern lake up that way, but we can't reach there from here. The only access is via the Giants' Docks near Pyrog's Cave.
"We should at least clear out those ogres. I doubt they'd be willing to negotiate with us."
"...and those nephil. Huh. What are nephilim doing out here?"
Ogres are no more of a threat to us now than goblins were to us at the beginning of the game. As for the nephilim, they're so grossly outleveled that the game won't let us fight them; they flee automatically.
"Now, what's this farm doing out here in the middle of a hostile wilderness?"
"Ah! An excellent opportunity for cultural exchange! Hello? We come in peace!"
"So much for cultural exchange."
"Be glad they're not exchanging thrown boulders with us right now."
If you really feel like attacking a bunch of hapless fishermen, you'll get tossed into a fight with a half-dozen standard Cave Giants. And after that, you get to loot their huts.
40 coins and 3 fish.
What did you think a bunch of fishermen would have in their huts? You monster.
"Maybe we'll have more luck with this town."
"Hello there! We come in peace!"
"Well, that was remarkably civilized of him."
Again, you can attack if you choose. Feel free to feel less guilty about this one: they consider humans to be food.
Also, they're a lot better at defending themselves If you've forgotten, green is a Diviner, a spellcaster, red is either Slingers or Overseers (the one Overseer in this fight presumably representing the chief), and grey is normal.
"Wait, what happened? Who pissed off the giants?"
"Not to worry, it'll soon be academic!"
This would be a big fight, if we didn't have Elly. More specifically, Elly's Divine Retribution.
Three of those kills everything except for one Diviner (which was out of range), the Overseer, and a couple of Slingers, and none of those last very long either.
"Elly, you're scaring the crap out of me again."
"Look, if you want to learn to make your own holy earthquakes, I can teach you. It's not that big a deal!"
"I think I'll stick to dodging things, thanks."
"Nice work, Elly. You wrecked the entire place."
"Dodging and looting. Those are really my specialties."
That got us 400 coins and the First Expedition Bow:
That's pretty dang nice, but I think the higher crit rate on the Possessed Bow means that it does more damage usually. And One-Eye's ridiculously huge DEX score means he doesn't really benefit from Quick Action much. The First Expedition Bow is probably the second-best bow in the game though.
Incidentally, One-Eye's inventory is absolutely packed:
I think we're clear to sell the Ever-Rotting Bow (puts acid DOTs on enemies), the Bow of Storms (puts lightning DOTs on enemies), the Farsight Longbow (+5% damage bonus, but strictly worse than the First Expedition Bow), and all of the javelins that, frankly, One-Eye's never going to throw. But we're keeping the food, especially the bags of sugar and the cake.
Speaking of javelins, he has 425 Crude Javelins, 195 Iron Javelins, and 4 Steel Javelins, which is basically every stack of javelins we've found over the course of the game. That sounds like a lot, but One-Eye's been making at least four attacks per fight for a long time now, and usually substantially more. And we've been in a lot of fights. The Crude tier deals 69-276 damage, compared to a nominal 77-231 from the Possessed Bow (before criticals are considered), Iron is 71-284, and Steel is 75-300 (to be clear, all these numbers are before enemy damage reductions kick in; the actual damage dealt is always much smaller). Javelins are just not enough of an improvement over bows to be worth dealing with the ammo constraints and the lack of cool magical abilities.
While we're mucking around with One-Eye, I silently swapped in the Mercuric Plate awhile back, which boosts his AP by 1. That means that he doesn't really need the Molten Halberd any more (+2 to Gymnastics, which is +4% evasion and 2 10% chances at +1 AP each turn). It uses both of his hands, too, so we'll swap it out for the the Nephil Warblade (+1 STR/DEX and +10% fatigue recovery rate) and Assassin's Shield (+21% armor, +3% melee damage, +2 to Lethal Blow for even more frequent crits). That puts him over his weight limit, so he swaps out the Girdle of Life (+2 Endurance) for the Girdle of Strength (+2 Strength) that Kane's been carrying around. Byff, who had been using the shield, instead gets the Drakeskin Shield (+15% armor, +10% fire resist).
"Why did you decide to change your gear now? Couldn't this have waited until we were in town?"
"Look, unlike some people I prefer not to trot around mostly naked where everyone can see me."
"That is not the same thing and you know it."
Further exploration on this little isthmus turns up a giant shepherd. Surely this will be peaceful.
Two Fire Lizards, two Mutant Lizards, and one very dumb, very dead Cave Giant.
"Lots of fungal life around here. I bet this could make some good farmlands."
"We'd have to finish pacifying the locals before anyone would be willing to move in, though."
"Case in point."
"Okay, I'm done! Let's go visit Kyass."
"Oh no you don't, sister."
"Hey, that's Grahk's Peninsula!"
"Some Imperial explorer from the First Expedition. Point is, we've been there before -- that's the caves west of Fort Draco. Here, look at the map:"
"If we had a boat handy, we could sail south of here and reach the Eastern Gallery. And I bet the spiders here are related to the aranea we fought way back when we were helping the friendly spiders."
"LA LA LA I'm not liiiiistening!"
"If they're aranea, then we should probably do something about them."
"Well, let's keep exploring for the moment."
"The moment would appear to be over. Shall we?"
"C'mon, Elly, let's squish some spiders!"
"Oh sure, appeal to my bloodlust, why don't you. Fine, but I'm doing this under protest!"
Five Cave Widows, and four Aranea in red. Aranea are weak foes now; One-Eye can one-shot them with a critical hit. The Cave Widows are more durable and have an AoE ensnaring web/acid attack, but it doesn't do much damage.
250 coins and a Crystalline Wand, which does cold damage. If you come here early then the wand conceivably could still be useful, as aranea are low enough level to not automatically dodge it, and young parties have few options for AoE damage.
"We know, sign, we know."
The Cave Lore cache in the pit there has a Speed Potion; the wandering humans to the north are more interesting:
Slightly more interesting.
"Aww, that's no fun! Come back and attack me!"
"Let it go, man. I can't imagine they have many targets to pick on out here anyway."
"Then again, I could be wrong."
"Anyone you recognize, Elly?"
"This is the best monastery ever."
"With wine like this, I'm inclined to agree."
This is by far the earliest way to get access to Restore Life. All you need is a boat and a little luck to get from the river shore to the monastery. It's an expensive spell, though, both money- and energy-wise, and you need to have a high Priest Spells skill to be able to cast it.
Two bunches of Healing Herbs. This is very near the monastery, explaining why they settled where they did.
"Oh, great. Undead."
"It could be a bunch of frost lizards."
"Do such things exist?"
"I'm...not sure. I feel strongly that they ought to, for some reason."
The original game had fire and frost as its two primary damage elements, so there were ice lizards in addition to fire lizards. This version sticks to fire/acid/lightning instead.
"Hang on, those are slith statues. But we haven't seen any sliths around here."
"C'mon, let's get in there!"
"Hello, we...come in peace? Please?"
"Hooray, they're willing to listen to us!"