Part 66: Aranea Cave"Let's finish up exploring around here, then I suppose we can go to Kyass."
"Sounds good to me. No more lizards or slimes or anything like that, right?"
"Elly, you realize what you just did, right?"
"Me and my big mouth."
There's really only one other item of interest on the little plot of land we're on...
"One has to admire their enthusiasm, anyway."
"Does one? Does one really? Let's just get this over with so I can go take a nice, long bath."
"Holy shit that is a lot of spiders."
"What do they eat? The smallest mite wouldn't last ten seconds in here."
"Maybe they domesticate insects? The friendly talking spiders did that."
"Or maybe they team up to take down and eat giants."
"Ha! I'd paid good money to see that."
Servitors can spray webs, ensnaring us, and they're marginally harder to kill than the basic Aranea that are all over the place down here.
There's small piles of money all over the place, along with the occasional corpse that the spiders haven't eaten yet.
"Coins, crystals, skulls, candles, and a magic circle."
"I don't know, I'm not the magic type."
"I think this is just someone's idea of interior decoration, actually."
Note the bloodstains everywhere: remnants of what might charitably be called "battle". One-Eye is one-shotting these aranea more often than not.
"Hullo, what's this...?"
"Wait, let me see that."
"How curious. This has the same resonant structure as the crystals in the cave north of Cotra."
"But we already fixed that cave! Every breakage point was repaired!"
"I know. And yet here we are."
Yep, a spare crystal. You only need to find 5 of the 6 to fix the cave.
"We appear to be back where we started. Here, look at my map:"
"There must be a way into the middle of the spire."
"Well, there's a switch right here."
"Any more ideas?"
"Make another circuit, paying closer attention to the walls this time."
I'm on vacation, at the beach, and did the first loop while out in the sun. It turns out it's really hard to see secret switches when there's glare on your screen!
"Now this is just silly."
There's a Spineshield scroll in this web.
"Maybe there isn't a way into the spire."
"Nonsense, I can still hear spiders."
"This isn't even the right direction!"
"Oh, you poor dumb bastard."
The undead are both Ghasts. The Seer sounds threatening, but One-Eye kills it with three shots. We might be a tad bit overleveled for this place. Aranea Seers are level 16...we are level 29.
Our reward is in the webs: a Scroll of Return Life, and this:
"Hm, how curious. Well, let's try the left..."
"Ow, my head!"
So far as I'm aware, there's nothing you can do to read the left side.
"Hey Byff, the right side seems more your speed."
"Well, I suppose that's something."
"Man, thinking about bugs all the time makes my skin itch."
"So now it's time to crush them all!"
Two Aranea Seers and two Arachnid Servitors. They last, uh...three-fourths of one turn. Sorry.
"Huh. One of these things had a cloak."
"You're not going to wear that, are you?"
"It's better than that slime-stained tunic you used to wear."
"Now, let's take a look at this altar."
"Oh buddy, finally a decent payday!"
"I really, really wouldn't."
"What, because of your crippling fear of spiders? It's fine, relax!"
"No, don't --!"
"Go fuck yourself."
"Whoof, that's a sticky one. Sorry guys, this is outside my range of expertise."
"Don't look at me, I flunked out of Revenge Magic."
"Wait, you failed to learn something?"
"In my defense, the professor was the last surviving member of a heretic culture that the Empire exterminated. Nobody spoke his language. Also, he wrote the textbook."
What does Dread Curse do? Go into your traits to see:
As best I can tell, it basically acts like anti-Luck, reducing everyones' effectiveness at everything by a small amount. It's not crippling, fortunately, so we can still finish this dungeon.
"Okay. Let's get our revenge, then get this shit fixed!"
"Revenge for being cursed for stealing from their altar?"
"Their evil altar! It's supposed to spawn demons or poison us or something like that, not stick some gooey curse on us!"
"Are those...eggs? On her back?"
"Confirmed. She must be the Aranea Queen! Fascinating!"
"Holy shit that thing is ugly."
"Any chance we could get this curse removed?"
"Okay, that's enough! Talking time is over! Killing time is now!"
It's boss fight time! We'll just get started laying down the groundwork for our offensive, and --
-- son of a bitch.
"Kane! Get your fuzzy butt back over here!"
"I'm a bit busy!"
"Never mind, I'll toast this thing myself!"
"HEY QUEENIE, w͉̫̟̯̆́͆ͩh͈̝̳̮̎̈̐ͪ̂ͯy̰̝͕̌̃̿͗́ͥ͑ ͚̣͉͍̭̏͊̓́̈́d̘̹̘̟́́̍̅͒̇̚o̥̬̟̜͇̜ͨ̉̽̅̾̋̉n̤̰'̳̯͕͔̹̜͂ͥt͎̘͔͎̟̹̝̑͊ͮ̃́̇ ̖̟͕ͥyͥ̆̾̀͋ͩ̚o̠͙̜̱̫̞u̠̼ͨ͊͛ͭ̔ͨ p͕̮͙̤̟͇̊̑i͇͐ͨ͗͒̓ͫc̙̙̮͙ͬ̓k̗̠͖̎ o͖̮̥͍̿n͎̥͙̮ ̜̘̃̄̏s͇̹͍̆ͫo͉̞̲̲m̹̟̞̥̉ͅe̱͈͓̪̍͆͐̈͆͂̈o̗̮̱͇͎n̰͕̬̙̟͇ë̥́̉̈́̈͋ͨͦ ͙͕̭͛ͥw̯̖ͤͨ̓ͬi͎̻̙̟͍̾ẗ̝́͌̔ͅh̪͈̱̘̲̖̓ͩ m̻̠̯õ͙͙̦̺͒̊̔͗ͯr̄̈́̉e͉͍̼̪̬͐̊ͯ̑ ͚̗̥̜̎͊͂͊̂ͤl̬̭̉͑ͤ̅̏̂e̖ͧ̎ͣg͔̖͍̪s̭͙͈?̰̯̆̆ͦ̎̆̒ͅ"
A couple of Divine Fires from Elly kill off the queen's Cave Widow escorts. Then Byff rolls in with a flurry of Arcane Blows. We've barely spent any resources in the dungeon up to this point, and we'll be heading to town afterwards, so why hold back?
The Aranea Queen can cast high-level spells, naturally, but only once per turn. She's threatening in the sense that she's a caster that you can't kill quickly, escorted by two heavy melee spiders. But if you can survive at least one spell and have Group Healing, then she really shouldn't be able to stop you. A younger party might have trouble with the queen and her escorts, though, especially with their frontliner being teleported to the opposite end of the room.
Speaking of, Kane's killing one (out of three) Spider Hatchling per turn, and we still kill the Queen before he's done.
"And good riddance!"
"Hm...I think I'll make a shield out of her thorax."
"Must you? Must you really?"
"There, done! Here you go, Kane:"
Sometimes I really don't understand the price differentials on these items. Is the Shadowstep Chitin really five times more valuable than the Nullity Shield?
"I don't really understand why you're so worried about me being charmed. It hasn't happened in ages."
"Having recently been disemboweled, I've no interest in repeating the experience, thanks."
And that's it for the Aranea Cave. Here's the map:
!s are, left to right, the web with Summon Aid; the altar; the staircase.
"Okay, let's go get this curse lifted now."
"The Tower of the Magi would be a good place to start."
"And the fastest way there is by Formello's teleporter."
En route, let's go drop off all the Aranea Fangs we won from this place. Aife, in Fort Draco, is paying a bounty for them.
"Hiya, honey! Want some more fangs?"
50 coins a pop is not bad; we got 450 from this trip.
"Incidentally, would you have any use for the fangs of an Aranea Queen?"
"Oh Byff. Just follow me."
"Oh, right! The recluse!"
Phyllea, here, was a stopping point on the quest to get the Graymold Salve recipe. Assuming you didn't just accidentally stumble on it while exploring, anyway.
"Pardon our intrusion, please, but would you like to have gigantic spider fangs?"
"He means to give you some we found. Not mutate your face or whatever."
There's no other use for the fangs I'm aware of, so we may as well.
"...hang on, this is caster armor!"
"What? It's a suit of full plate!"
"Yeah, but it's a suit of full plate that doesn't get in the way at all!"
Mage casters can't have more than a -5% to-hit penalty across all of their gear, or they'll be too encumbered to cast spells. Too bad Byff needs the Mercuric Leather to maintain his two-spells-per-turn capability. Elly, as a priest, doesn't have the armor restriction, but in any case she's wearing the Robe of the Magi we got from killing Drath, which has even better caster stats. Worse armor rating, but she's going to fold like a wet paper towel if anything attacks her anyway; one piece of good armor won't help that much.
"Kane, it's all yours."
"Okay, suit yourself."
Kane's old armor's riposte ability isn't remotely relevant; it deals minor damage to the occasional melee attacker, without reducing the damage Kane takes at all. Losing 5% crit rate is more relevant, but I'd rather Kane keep stacking on more Mental Resistance. He's now at 73%! Resistance stacks multiplicatively instead of additively, so a few big boosts is better than many small boosts.
Naturally, this reward would be a lot nicer earlier in the game, when you haven't found other top-tier caster armor yet.
Next up, Formello!
There's something non-canon I want to cover real quick here. It involves the mayor's quarters in Formello.
"One-Eye, what exactly do you have planned here?"
"He said it's non-canon!"
"Oh, okay then. Hey, can I get a cigarette here?"
"Go straight to the back rooms, got it."
Amusingly, the townsman in the kitchenette here says the same thing:
Nothing in the desk worth stealing, especially since the guards can see you.
The mayor's cabinet has some money, a sword, and a Spellward scroll, all of which could be handy if you came here early in the game. And nobody can see you steal them. You do need to have enough Tool Use skill to open the doors, though, since they're both locked.
More interesting, of course, is the secret passage.
Uh oh, a trap! Let's just raise our Tool Use skill to deal with it, just in case.
Oops, I lowered it instead. Kane's fine, and Elly hangs on with 1 hitpoint left! Pity about the smears on the wall that were One-Eye and Byff, though. The point of this little demonstration is to show that you need to have a fairly high Tool Use skill to get back here, or else a lot of HP. If you can't make it, one way or another, then you don't belong here.
Anyway, ahem, that didn't happen.
"I think this is the bit where I get overcome by greed and do something unwise, to the detriment of the party."
"You're not complaining about your archetype being overplayed, are you?"
"Eh, it's a living."
That...is impressive. Everyone's covered in acid and lightning and magically slowed, and there's two Spectres and a Divine Shade attacking us. On the plus side, we got 2000 coins! Also, we have an excuse to use our Mass Curing spell/scrolls and Purging Crystals.
This fight is flat-out not survivable at low levels; you just can't tank the enemies' attacks while you dig your party out of the hole they've been tossed into. Even if you arrange your party ahead of time so the frontliners are the ones taking the assault (and we didn't), you're still looking at a lot of big damage, and since it's cold-based, it can't be dodged. And the Divine Shade can give his pals Battle Frenzy!
Elly dies, is what I'm saying. I mean, the border of town is right there, so she's easily-revived, but still. I suppose in theory you could open the chest while in combat mode, run one of your party members around the Spectres (using the Blink spell, if available), leave the rest of your party to die horribly, and then lure the undead into town for the guards to fight. That would probably lead to the death of the entire town. Let's try it.
"I didn't see this in the script anywhere."
"Script? I've been doing improv since day 1."
"See you at the buffet!"
Too bad the Spectres stayed behind. Oh well; the Divine Shade is plenty.
The Divine Shade is remarkably bad at killing soldiers, lending credence to the idea that summoned monsters would make good meatshields in combat. The soldiers are of course utterly hopeless at hurting the Shade. Bless them for trying.
Here we are, City Hall! The guards here are the first townsfolk that can actually hit the Shade. But they're pretty bad at it.
"What exactly is going on here?"
"Not to worry, "Mayor Evelyn". It's just a demonstration of why you shouldn't summon things you can't put down."
"My guards are getting slaughtered."
"It's all special effects!"
And this is where our little rampage-by-proxy ends. Mayor Evelyn is apparently completely invulnerable. The Shade's area-of-effect spells don't hurt her, and it won't target her in melee. I guess that's because she's a plot-critical NPC: without the Crown Token she gives you, you can't talk to King Micah and get the Sss-Thsss quest. And we can't have the game be rendered unwinnable, now can we?
...I miss the days when games gave you the freedom to really fuck yourself over. Oh well, back to looting!
Hooray, now everyone has two layers of Dread Curse! At least the gloves are nice. I mean, really, really nice.
Oh my yes. Kane gets them.
Okay, fun's over. To the Tower of the Magi! And more specifically, Throndell the priest.
"Throndell, my friend. We have a problem."
"Okay, this is totally not because we did anything illegal or larcenous, but we got this nasty curse put on us. Can you help?"
"Sold! Make with the curing, boss."
"Ahh. That's much better. Thank you, Father."
This cures any amount of Dread Curses, which is why we did the Formello theft when we did. Not that spending an extra 500 on getting cured a second time would break the bank; we have about 28k coins right now.
I believe the only other source of Dread Curses in the game is assaulting the mage on the overworld just south of the Tower of the Magi, the one who throws a bunch of high-level undead at you if you attack him. We're not going to do that.
Next time: Kyass' Stronghold.
"You forgot my bath!"