Part 67: Freehold of KyassLast time, we flattened a bunch of spiders, got cursed by their Spider God, figured we should double down while we were cursed anyway, and robbed Formello blind. And then used the Formello treasury to pay off the uncursing fee. We are Good People.
Now, it's time to go say hello to Kyass.
"Credit where it's due, this is a lot more competently-built than I would have expected."
"Sounds like my kind of town."
"These frontier lands tend to frown on troublemakers."
"Hey, I don't cause trouble."
"It just follows you around, like a smoke trail."
The Freehold is the major new content added in the re-remake (remember that Lost Bahssikava was added in the first remake). There's a few other scattered new things, like Thantria and a few sidequests, but this is the only real new location in the game. Unless you count the tutorial "dungeon" underneath Fort Avernum, at the very start of the game.
The Freehold is...kind of a libertarian/freeman-on-the-land screed? Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
"Look, with guards like these, I'll be very careful and circumspect. I promise."
"See that? That's the kind of person that'll kill you if they don't like you. It's maximum charm offensive time, folks."
"History suggests that we should have Elly and Kane lead, then."
"How ya doing, cutie?"
"...Kane should lead."
"Ooh! Laws! What kind of laws?"
"Wait, where's the legal system? Who decides who's guilty? Who -- "
"Never mind. Take it away, One-Eye."
"Heh. You're in charge of punishing people, then?"
"Right you are. With that whip of yours?"
"Mmm, that's a cute butt."
"How can you tell under all the armor?"
"My vision can pierce the veil between realities. You think a little chainmail is going to stop me?"
"That sounds like it would be a useful ability. Why haven't you mentioned it before?"
"Most of the things we fight are already naked, and the ones that aren't are all ugly. Why would I want to check out their butts?"
"No, I mean --"
"Yeah, I know. I can't see through walls or anything, Byff."
"Then what was that?"
"I have the ability to see booties through anything! And that one is -- mmm!"
"Give it up, Byff. The ways of women are mysterious. Especially this woman."
Hornby's other bit of dialog just tells us he's from the Abyss, and he left there because it was too lawless for his tastes.
"Hey, chill, no problem lady. We know about peaceful sliths. They're the ones we haven't killed."
"Ahem. So! So....where are you from?"
"That makes sense. Kind of a long trip though. And not safe. How'd you make the journey?"
"Why leave Gnass? It's a nice place!"
"I'm guessing you aren't a freeloader, though. So what's the business?"
"Magic! You teach magic?"
"Which we haven't done yet. Okay."
"And who do you have to defend against?"
"Huh, could've sworn we've dealt with all of those already."
"Problems can't just be solved by killing things, One-Eye."
"If you still think that, you haven't killed the right people."
"Ahem. You said you're looking for a magical tome?"
Three different people want Pyrog's Tome: Evysss, Rita in Patrick's Tower, and Thantria, the Imperial agent. Thantria isn't going to get the tome, just on matters of principle, but if she did, we'd get 1000 coins and the Chaotic Halberd, which is the strongest polearm in the game by raw damage. Nobody on this team uses pole weapons except as stat sticks, though, and it's a lousy stat stick. Rita's reward is a crappy attack scroll, rather less money, and a reputation point. And Evysss gives you spells, eventually at a cheaper rate than anywhere else in the game. The choice is not hard.
"No! It's mine!"
"You can't even read it!"
"I've been working on it! I've made progress!"
"I'm pretty sure I have a complete list of all of the glyphs in the text. There's, uh, about 1300 of them."
"And do you know what they mean?"
"...no. Not yet."
"Face it, Byff, this isn't something you can solve on your own. You're going to have to collaborate."
"And if you're collaborating anyway, it makes sense to leave the tome somewhere where your helpers can devote their full attention to it."
"Hey now --!"
"Evysss, enjoy your new tome!"
500 coins and a Drakeskin Cloak, which gives +10% armor, and nothing else.
"I just got played."
"Like a harmonica!"
"If it is any consolation, I would be happy to teach you spells now."
"At these prices? Pass."
"Suit yourself. If you help us more, I won't charge as much."
"Hmph. C'mon guys, let's go."
"Wow. Trust is in short supply here, I see."
By carefully arranging the party, we can get out of line-of-sight with Evysss and open her desk. Which has a pen and ink, three sheets of papyrus, and a sprig of Graymold. You may remember that the regenerating Graymold Patch is almost literally right outside of the Freehold.
Incidentally, while reading a guide about this place, I discovered that at least some of these barriers are level 3. Evysss takes her privacy seriously! Too bad for her she ran into our party.
"That is a lot of bivoacs."
"And a lot of merchants."
"I guess that answers how this place is able to stay in business, so to speak."
"THIS TOWER BELONGS TO CENAC. TRESPASSERS DIE!"
"I wonder what this is about?"
"Eh, probably just internal politics."
"Don't think I don't see you, switch!"
"Weird. Wonder what that did."
Whatever it was, we couldn't see it.
"Ah, excellent! Can we trade?"
"My, how mercenary."
"Yeah, yeah, let's see the goods."
"...that's it? Just a bunch of junk? I want alchemical recipes, woman!"
"I think you got misled by the setting, hon. She's just a trader, not an alchemist."
"Damn it. This place continues to disappoint me."
"Hey honey, why are you here anyway? You don't seem like the Freehold type."
"Say, you don't suppose the thug was Lagrange?"
"Hm, could be. How that idiot managed to get anyone to follow him is beyond me, though."
"Ahem. What kind of skills?"
"That all sounds pretty normal. How would someone like you end up down here?"
"Oh, honey. The Empire's tax accountants are not to be trifled with! Even the Way of the Word always made sure we were fully paid-up!"
"Anyway! What do you need? Maybe we can do a little quid-pro-que-pasa?"
"You don't know what that means, do you?"
"Good news! We just happened to find some graymold not five minutes ago!"
A Speed Elixir and an Invulnerability Potion. We now have 9 Invulnerability Potions/Elixirs. Those are going to come in very handy someday.
Incidentally, we're perilously close to the money cap of 30k coins. I need to hunt down some trainers to spend our dosh on -- if we try to sell much of anything to Kendrew, the money will just disappear into the aether. And we have a lot of things to sell. I'd complain about the existence of a money cap, but I guess it does give you an incentive to actually spend your money rather than hoard it. Like I've been doing.
"Huh. A nephil."
Well, that's convenient!
"Of the Fang? Is that a family name?"
"Yeah, yeah, hey, do you teach?"
Evidently, turning in Pyrog's Tome isn't enough to unlock this.
"What's a cat like you doing here, anyway?"
"Aww, driven out of your own clan? How horrible!"
"It would be nice if Avernum and the Nephilim clans could become friends."
"Guess we'd better go see Kyass, then."
"I wonder which one of us he meant by that."
Haha, the dialog only barely fits in the window. Also, say hello to a black-and-white photo of what I assume is one of Jeff Vogel's LARPer friends. Wielding a sword, not a halberd, and with no "long, shaggy black hair" in sight.
"A new nation?"
"And what is your nation based on, then?"
"And who will lead it?"
"Ahh, the Strong Man approach to government. Historically not very stable."
"Seems like we already have a separate nation down here: the Abyss."
"Hey, Bargha's not a bad place. Especially now that the giants are under control."
"Which reminds me, you guys should be sitting pretty right now. What threats can you possibly be facing?"
"Okay, I'll bite. How is Avernum a threat?"
"In principle I don't disagree, but --"
"Let's just leave it there for the moment, Byff."
"How can the sliths possible be a threat to you now? There's nothing left but a few fishing villages!"
This dialog is obviously a little out of date. Oh well.
"Backing up a tick, where'd you come from, that you decided it was a good idea to try to found your own nation down here? Because we met a guy who said the same thing. Wanted to make a "bandit nation" down here. He was a few jurists short of quorum, let's just say."
"Yeah? And what'd you get tossed into the clink for? That's kind of relevant if we're going to respect your authority as a leader."
"Someone who can't play politics decided to be a political leader, that's real smart."
"And then what?"
"Look, your friends aren't all that friendly. They're charging ruinous rates for their services."
"It's not cheap, keeping a nation running in this hostile environment. However, if you can prove to the Freehold that you are a friend, then we will be more friendly in turn."
"Uh huh. And how do we do that?"
"Okay, so what do you need done?"
"Wait, you can't even control your own freehold? They're in one of your towers?"
"And you can't handle this yourself?"
"Okay, I'll admit that's at least a little subtle."
"Seems to me you've got them isolated, so why not just starve them out?"
"Eh, we're no fans of the Empire. We can take care of this little job for you, no problem."
"Excellent, I'll await news of your success."
"Meanwhile, the Castle tasked us to find out what you're doing here.."
"I think we have a pretty good idea now, but do you have an official statement as to your goals, that you'd like to send to them?"
"Okay, but they're not going to like that."
"Well, okay then. Seeya."
"Let's go root out that Cenac guy."
"...not, mind you, that I know how to get in."
"Check the outside of the walls; there may be a secret way in."
"Ooh, or just plain secrets."
This was opened by that switch we pressed earlier. The cupboard back there has a Platinum Ring and a Battle Crystal (a consumable that gives the party regeneration and spineshield).
"Maybe we should check upstairs?"
The most prominent stairs are in the council room.
"Kyass's Quarters. KEEP OUT!"
If we did try to walk in, the guards would turn hostile, naturally. There's nothing really interesting in there anyway; just some minor treasures.
"This isn't even the right direction. I think we're in the wrong set of towers."
Wrong ladder, but perhaps the right idea. There's another ladder in the eastern guardhouse.
"This looks more promising!"
The door is locked, and requires a Tool Use skill of 12 to open (and we only have 11). Or we could just hit the switch, which opens up the wall adjacent to the door.
"Time to earn our pay, folks."
The other enemies are a bunch of Rogue Warriors and Rogue Archers. Rogues are the upper-tier bandits; they're level 16. As for Stanous, it's hard to say; Elly kills his buddies with three Divine Retributions and stuns him, so while he survives more than one round, he doesn't get to do anything with his turn.
In more interesting news, Kane hits level 30! That's the soft level cap for the game -- you can keep gaining levels past this point, but you'll only get new skillpoints every 5 levels, so all the other levels really gain you is some more HP, energy, and an occasional stat boost. We'll look at Kane's skillpoint distributions, and those of everyone else, once they catch up.
"I can't help but feel somewhat superfluous in these minor conflicts."
"It's not my fault you chose to study how to get hit over and over again instead of how to manipulate the fundamental forces of the multiverse!"
"Yeah, that seems like a weird choice."
"I'm important to the group, I know I am."
"You know what'll help you through your midlife crisis? Killing more bandits!"
"Then you're having your midlife crisis awfully early. You really should aspire to live longer."
"Oh look, more bandits. Go get 'em, champ."
"We'll stay back here and cheer you on!"
"You have our full support. Morally, I mean."
"Oh great, I'm working through my frustrations against a Skribbane addict?"
Kane can handle these guys singlehanded, no problem.
"This is pathetic. I wouldn't even defend you lot as a charity case!"
It's not quite singlehanded, because some of the bandits choose to attack One-Eye and Byff, but Kane's the only one attacking. And it's not like the bandits can do much to him anyway.
"Okay, you drug-addled simpleton. Prepare to face the wrath of a lawyer!"
"Go Kane! Smash his face in!"
"Teach him the power of the legal system!"
Cenac is just a beefy melee enemy. He can't even pull Lagrann's technique of drinking a potion partway through the fight. He is more accurate than his lackeys were, but that just means Kane has to pause a couple of times to cast a healing spell.
"I mean, I guess? You could have flattened them all in a few seconds if you'd felt like it."
"Well sure, but who's going to protect me while I do so? You held their attention very well, hon."
"Thanks, I think."
Cenac drops a Girdle of Avoidance (5% armor and +2 Dexterity), a Gold Necklace, and a broadsword. There's also a bunch of ale, miscellaneous gear, and food scattered all over the floor.
"Might as well tell our Benevolent Dictator that his little coup problem has been solved."
"You don't sound very impressed by the setup here."
"Kyass is holding this place together through personal charisma and threat of force. I don't believe his "nation" will last five seconds after he dies. And given how dangerous the surrounding area is, I don't expect he'll last long, even if he doesn't get assassinated by one of his supposed allies."
"Well, then we'll just have to hope the people here return to Avernum rather than turn to banditry, if and when that happens."
"Cenac's dead, chief. Kane here killed him personally."
Shut up, game, I've clearly heard of skribbane before.
Skribbane was originally introduced to the series in Exile 3, the third game of the original series. Thus it's not really a strong part of the first two games' remakes. It's more or less methamphetamines (or maybe cocaine) in chewable leaf form. Avernum is not currently able to find a steady supply of the stuff since it's strictly a surface good.
Also, Evysss' prices are down from Exorbitant to Expensive, and Hrror of the Fang now agrees to train us:
I know we have money burning a hole in our pockets, but we can do better.
"Okay, so what else do you want, Kyass?"
"Lethem? The researcher who made us fight through his fungus-based artillery before he'd talk to us?"
"Yeah, fuck that guy. Why don't you get him yourself?"
"Eh, fair point."
"I guess we can go see if he wants to work somewhere else. Patrick is best off not having him around anyway."
The game is trying to make this into a big "ambiguous decision" type of thing, which is a hallmark of Jeff Vogel's later series Geneforge and Avadon. Avernum needs all the magical assistance it can get, but this upstart micronation will pay you cool rewards if you poach some mages for them. So it's made out to look like if you help out Kyass, then later on Avernum will be unable to deal with some threat because of the talent you poached.
But in reality it's very straightforward: you can do tasks for Kyass, and get some nice rewards, and nobody else really cares much. Aside from deciding what to do with Pyrog's book and one other item, both of which are desired by multiple different parties, there's no tradeoffs here or any long-term ramifications for helping Kyass.
"The big problem now is, what's the fastest way to Patrick's Tower?"
"Hmm...I think Bargha's teleporter is our best bet. As it happens, we're right outside the giants' lands."
Indeed, just to the west of the Freehold:
"Oh, giants. Never change."
This is our planned route:
While we're here, we should finish exploring this cave; we only hit up the northern half previously.
"Is there any part of Avernum that doesn't have random dead bodies lying in the corners?"
A Steel Broadsword, just lying around for the taking. This is probably the best non-magical sword in the game; its physical damage is better than the Flaming Sword, for example. If you know where to go, there's a lot of really quite good gear just lying around that you can get as soon as you get a boat.
In unrelated news, there is a squad of goblins, of all things, roaming around in this cave.
"Uh, what do we do here?"
"I'm not going to attack them."
"That was odd."
"Ooh, a reflecting pool!"
This gives the lead party member +1 Cave Lore. Kane now has 5 ranks in Cave Lore, not a single one bought with a normal skillpoint.
"Oh, right! Khoth wanted us to track down some Imperial spies that stole a scroll from...him? Her?"
"Shall we take care of that now?"
"Sure, why not? Kyass can wait."