Part 75: Remote Caves and Pit of the Drake
"We should probably check in on Erika. Doubtless she'll want to gloat a little, but hopefully we can convince her to start preparations for the coming war."
"Guess we'd better start walking, then."
Some time later...
"Hail, Erika. The deed is done; Hawthorne is dead."
"Oh. Well then. Guess we'll be going."
"The important thing is that she's doing the right thing. Maybe she'll even contact the Tower of the Magi and start working with them."
"Now, let's check out those tomes! They have got to have something good in them!"
"Good ol' Byff. Never change, hon."
And another tome grants Divine Host. Level-3 Arcane Blow dazes its targets, and level-3 Divine Host grants haste and spineshield to the summoned shade. The only spells left to learn are Cloak of the Arcane and Divine Restoration -- and conveniently, Erika has two more tomes that she won't let us read yet. They're the rewards for finding the surface exit.
"Y'know, I've been thinking."
"Always a fraught prospect."
"Yeah, yeah. If we're going to war with the Empire, then that means they'll be attacking us, yeah?"
"That is what usually happens in war, yes."
"How are they going to get here?"
"Mm. Teleportation is an option. But it is incredibly energy-intensive. The Fort Avernum portal only handles a few exiles a day for a reason."
"I think we can assume that portal will be rather thoroughly guarded on our end."
"That teleportation augmenter that Erika used might be relevant. We'd better tell Micah to guard it as well."
"But what about more direct routes? Like, walking. We never did find that surface exit. Couldn't they send an army down that way?"
"That does sound plausible."
"It'd be a long march, but that's still probably faster and safer than trying to teleport an entire army down here."
"So we'd better find that exit first."
"Then we'd better head to Fort Remote."
"Poor bastards. At least Grah-Hoth is dead now."
"These tunnels are largely unknown. There's a ''Chasm Drake'' out here somewhere, and Sulfras the dragon as well. Other than that, who knows?"
"Hey, c'mon! We've faced far worse than a drake and a dragon before; what's to worry about?"
"Look, the greatest badass in the world can be killed by a goblin if he gets unlucky, right?"
"That seems unlikely to happen to all of us at once, so worry not! We can bring you back."
"Will you people let me be grumpy for once in my life?"
"Aww, love you too, buddy!"
The Remote Caves, west of Fort Remote, are another maze of narrow corridors with scattered points of interest.
"One moment. Byff the Magnificient and his Flying Companions, away!"
"Oh, there's a passage back here too. I guess we didn't need to fly."
"Any excuse to fly is a good excuse."
"A woman after my own heart."
"Hm...old, but not old enough to date from the First Expedition, I think. How curious."
"Bet they were supposed to keep a lookout for anyone looking for the exit."
"And now they're dead."
"Someone's clearing the way for us! How kind."
"That's one possible interpretation."
"Brr. Now I'm regretting that curse."
"Not to worry, I can keep you warm with some Divine Fire!"
"I'll just shiver, thanks."
"A shop? Out here?"
As usual, this isn't really worth buying. I guess we could turn a miniscule profit by buying those fangs and taking them all the way to Fort Draco on the opposite end of the map.
"Interesting. Sulfras is female."
"And this matters because...?"
"Look, if we're ever to start rebuilding the dragon population, we need as many females as possible! ...and at least one male of course. I think Khoth has that covered."
"Heads up, I think those're the guys that were tailing us."
Pustulant Zombies, Skeletal Warriors, and an honest-to-god Lich! I didn't think there were any unnamed liches in this game! One-Eye and Kane almost manage to kill it before it gets a turn, but it spent its turn casting Slow, so who cares? Poor dumb bastard.
The rest of the undead are completely inconsequential at this stage in the game.
"Okay, someone wants to kill us."
"And they have no idea what they're dealing with."
"So much for clearing the way."
There's also some bands of Mutant Lizards wandering around. They're even more inconsequential than the undead.
"Some of those lizards are blue. That's probably not a good thing."
Basilisks and Crocolisks.
"Hello! Dead body!"
"So was this the drake or the dragon?"
"So long as Elly uses that elemental shield spell of hers, I don't see as it matters much."
"...that is a lot of lizards."
These are both random wandering encounters. First: a Cryodrake and some Gremlins. We had enough Cave Lore to avoid this fight, but why would we do that?
Second: three Cryodrakes and some Mutant Lizards. They don't fare any better than their sibling did.
"Hm, more dead people. Shame we never knew them."
A Purging Crystal? Junk! It just casts Mass Curing.
"So, drake nest or dragon lair?"
"I vote drake. A dragon would have a more ceremonious front door. And a tidier one. There's bones everywhere!"
"Personally, if I lived in the Remote Caves I doubt anyone would care much about my interior decorating skills."
"Yep! Drakes, definitely."
"Was it the drake that clued you in?"
We won't go charging up the middle like a pack of dumbasses, though. Just because we're ahead of the level curve is no reason to be reckless! Circle around the edges instead, so you don't get surrounded.
"I object, these aren't drakes at all!"
"Well, except for the drake in the back. He's a drake, I guess."
"Graves? With offerings?"
"What, like they're putting flowers on the graves of their loved ones, except there's no flowers in the underworld so they leave corpses instead?"
"Look, I'm just hypothesizing here."
That basilisk is an Ur-Basilisk, incidentally. It's more dangerous than the drake. Marginally.
And another Cryodrake around the corner. Look, there's a lot of drakes in the Pit of the Drake, okay?
"This is an unusually large colony. I wonder how drake social dynamics work?"
"Poorly, once we're through with them!"
"Look, it's either this or they kill random passers-by, right?"
"In the Remote Caves?"
"Help me out here, One-Eye."
"Hey, I'm with Byff. Live and let live, right?"
"Then why are you killing that drake right now?"
"Dude's got treasure."
"Such refreshingly reductive ethics."
"Hey! Shoo! We're adventuring here."
"I don't think it cares."
"Stupid ghosts. No consideration for others."
The body it's guarding has a Steel Breastplate, Steel Shield, and Armor Elixir. That sounds pretty nice, but one problem with this game is that it does kind of deluge you with magical items, which means that high-quality but mundane gear is of less interest. So you just end up selling it instead.
"Too bad nobody's paying us for this extermination job."
"That's why we loot everything in sight."
Not that we need the money. There's nothing left to buy except maybe potions, and those cost ingredients, not money.
"Whoa whoa whoa what the fuck is this?"
"That woman is wearing the robes of a second-circle mage! They're from the Empire!"
"I wonder if they've heard about Hawthorne yet?"
Iela has some Blademasters and Daniel Third-Circle hiding around the corner...I guess Daniel is probably in charge. Iela's a reasonably powerful mage, and Daniel's a good enough priest to cast Divine Retribution. Apparently priests and mages fall under the same Circle-based organizing structure.
"So why is there an Imperial outpost in the home of a powerful drake?"
"Dunno, but here, Byff, you should have the bow this one was using."
And Byff gives his old bow to Kane, who can finally ditch the Cavewood Longbow he's been carrying and not using, ever, for the entire game.
Switch opens the wall in the northeast.
"Man, bodies everywhere! Good thing only one of 'em decided to become an undead horror, or else we'd have another Spiral Pit problem on our hands."
"Spiral what now?"
"C'mon, you remember this! The area around Mertis was infested with undead, we dove to the center of a horrible dark cave, beat up some ghosts, and they calmed things down for a bit?"
"Look, you can't expect me to remember every time we save some town from destruction."
"I'd argue, but honestly it's kind of ridiculous at this point how many times we've done that."
Anyway, the body has more steel armor, a Speed Elixir, and a Powerlash scroll -- utterly useless now as everything dodges the energy damage it deals.
"I think we've checked everywhere except the center cave now. Shall we go knock on the front door?"
"Heck yeah, let's see what the Chasm Drake looks like!"
"Huh. Smaller than it was in my head."
The Chasm Drake starts by breathing fire at One-Eye, and missing entirely.
That mention of the caldera is important, by the way. See those fumaroles around the pit the Drake is in? Every few turns, a bat will fly out of one of them. On other turns, the calderas just radiate fire.
I've no real interest in sticking around to see if any other kinds of bats pop up, but this Unstable Firebat can breathe fire, and explodes when it dies. Yes, that sounds biologically plausible.
Behold, the one-two-three-four-five-six punch of Elly and Byff chain-casting Divine Retribution and Arcane Blow. What do we care for preserving spell energy? We can alchemize another ten Energy Elixirs back in Dharmon if for some reason we run out of the ones we have. And despite this being the endgame, Energy Elixirs are still nearly a full restore, so we can keep chugging on, flinging expensive spells with wild abandon.
I'd complain about this kind of trivializing the endgame, but a) I've been pretty stingy with energy potions for most of the game, and b) we can only make so many potions to begin with because we've scoured literally the entire game for alchemy ingredients.
"Right. Who's for some drake steak?"
"Did that feel...kind of anticlimactic to any of you?"
"They can't all be battles royale, Kane. Not every fight is for a great cause."
"More's the pity."
"Hey, you want to know what a real pity is? That none of us use spears."
Behold, probably the best spear in the game! Actually maybe worth using on One-Eye, despite the fact that he'd lose his shield. Cold resistance is always helpful, and the extra AP would help him get double shots more reliably. The only character who really needs more AP is Kane, though, and he's much too invested in swords for Smite to make sense.
Incidentally, Smite used to be a giant-slaying hammer, but the blunt weapon category got removed in the reremakes, so now it's a spear (well, maybe a glaive) instead. And as far as I know it doesn't slay giants. There's none left to test it on, but it doesn't have a "75% Extra Damage to Giants" like Demonslayer has for demons. Honestly, giant-slaying was kind of a niche ability anyway, so I'm fine with it gaining a more generically useful AP bonus instead.
How come Demonslayer and Smite keep their cool names, but the Alien Blade got renamed to "Venomous Blade", huh? Huh, Jeff? Why do you hate fun?
"Buncha other valuable crap here. Nothing interesting though."
The map of the Pit of the Drake:
It's surprisingly easy to accidentally wake the Chasm Drake, so make sure you stay well to the outside in your first reconnoiter. Our party is too powerful to worry much about angering everything at once, but it's very easy to get overwhelmed if you can't brush off all the fire and cold attacks from the drakes and cryodrakes. Basilisks and crocolisks are no fun to deal with either.
Incidentally, remember Sabrina, the drunken adventurer priestess in Blosk? She was part of a party that tried to raid the Chasm Drake. We weren't able to get anything useful out of her because she was too busy drinking on an epic scale.
Next time: we'll go say "hi" to Sulfras.