Part 76: Remote Caves; Tower of SulfrasBefore we go meet the last dragon, there's a few more items in the Remote Caves to check out.
"Hello! We come in peace!"
"Looks abandoned to me, Byff."
"Oh, no way. Burn it!"
"Wait! Not until I can read it!"
A bunch of Cave Widows and Aranea Seers, plus two Lancing Fungi for spice.
"How many times has Byff's curiosity gotten us into trouble?"
"Frankly, I don't think Byff is even up to par compared to the rest of us. Keep on keeping on, buddy."
"Will do! C'mon, let's dispose of this interruption and get back to reading."
Well, that's not right! This is one of those few Arcane Lore checks in the game that you need actual ranks in Arcane Lore to pass, as opposed to just slapping the Sage Lore trait on each party member and having done with it (remember, Sage Lore counts as 3 Arcane Lore for purposes of reading spellbooks).
But that's okay. We can cheat! 3 cheated points of Arcane Lore later (bringing us to a party-wide total of 8):
"...oh. This is just a very inefficient way to encode the Dispel Barrier spell."
"But you already know that spell."
"Yes, well, they can't all be winners."
Level-1 Dispel Barrier, just sitting out in the open for anyone strong enough to survive that encounter and with lots of Arcane Lore points. But if you can do that, why haven't you done the actual Dispel Barrier quest? Having the spell at only level 1 isn't very useful anyway, since Piercing Crystals duplicate that ability.
"Oh look, another body."
"Currently being gnawed on by yet more drakes."
"Lemme at 'em!"
One Elly later...
Just a Battle Crystal; casts group Regeneration and Spine Shield. Junk!
"Wait, didn't we just do this a bit ago?"
"Must be lots of crystal-carrying couriers chancing these caves."
"And getting combusted for their efforts."
Incidentally, there are a huge number of wandering encounters in the Remote Caves. They're all various lizards and drakes, and they're all trivial for us now. But we're getting interrupted every 20 steps or so. I guess I'm glad that random encounters were toned way down on the rest of the world map.
The cache here contains the First Expedition Ring:
Kind of amusing how this cache contains an item that boosts Cave Lore, helping you open more caches. Not that we need it at this point.
"Ho hum, more drakes."
"Looks like they killed a soldier, too."
"Wait...this sounds familiar."
Way back in Update 37... posted:
"So, since it looks like we'll inevitably be hunting down this Chasm Drake..."
"Don't you know it!"
"...anything we can do for you in the process?"
"I guess there's not much point in killing them now."
"Screw that! In memory of Bronwen!"
Just four Drakes and five Crocolisks.
Free invulnerability potion!
If Bronwen were still alive, at this point we could go report our success to her. In addition to 250 coins and some experience, she'd toast our success -- to the tune of 3 bottles of ale and a bottle of Almarian wine.
That's it for the Remote Caves. Have a map of the southern section, to give you some idea of what the place is like:
Left to right, the !s are the Pit of the Drake, Fort Remote, and an old ruined city, one of Avernum's first settlements that was abandoned for more fertile ground.
"Golems? That's new."
"Convenient how they're stopping the lizards from getting to us."
"Yeah. Too bad we need to go this way. Sulfras and the surface exit must both be back here; we've explored everywhere else."
"Wait, there's a wizard with them..."
"Woof, that man's mind is long gone. It's mercy kill time, boys."
"The Empire is sending crazy wizard assassins after us now?"
"Aw, crap. That didn't take long."
"This is clearly revenge for us killing the Emperor!"
"Relax. Garzahd's in charge now. I doubt he cares that much about us; he's far too arrogant."
"Then why the assassin?"
"It's probably just pro forma. Either that or he had another wizard he wanted dead. Tossed the poor sod down here with some escorts and a geas just to make certain."
"If it's all the same to you, I'm gonna sleep light for awhile anyway."
"Hon, you always sleep light. I've never met a more neurotic, paranoid man."
"And despite everything, I'm still alive. The system works!"
"DOMAIN OF SULFRAS"
"Well, here she is. Shall we go say hello?"
"Too bad, the question was rhetorical."
"See, now this is a proper entrance. Magma floating in the middle of some water, big crystal totems, skulls on sticks, it's got everything!"
"Including a pile of random bones, I see."
We could steal a couple of gems here; there's nobody to see us (and yes, they're marked as Not Yours). Otherwise the altar doesn't appear to do anything.
"Aw crap, a demon!"
"Wait, this one wants to talk!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, no stealing from the dragon. It's a fuckin' dragon, what do you think I am, stupid?"
"What I want to know is, how'd you get stuck in that magic circle?"
Uh, pronoun trouble there, chief? Amusingly, the original game had trouble keeping Sulfras' gender straight. I like to think that this one sentence is a nod to that, rather than a typo.
"Okay, sure, let's hear about the other dragons. See if you've kept up with current events any."
"Erika consorted with demons?"
"There was that pack that guarded the teleporter augmentation thing."
"She's going to raise more demons to fight the Empire, isn't she?"
"Anyway. So you used to work for Erika?"
"Ooh! You mean tell it to divulge?"
"What do you mean about the statues being guardians? That sounds ominous."
"Oh, well, thanks for nothing asshole."
"So what's that warning?"
"So hey, there's something I've been wondering..."
"What was your question?"
"Where does he go to the bathroom? He's got, like, zero privacy, and I don't see any pipes or anything. Does Sulfras drop off a kitty litter box once a day or something?"
"I think some things man was just not meant to know."
"C'mon, let's explore!"
"You're a horrible person, Kane."
"It's fine! So long as we don't steal anything and don't head down that easterly passage, Sulfras won't care! Otherwise her demon would've said something."
"Also, by exploring, we find Erika's statue."
"Hi, honey! Care to divulge your secrets?"
"A sceptre...if we're lucky, that's the Onyx Sceptre we took from Adze-Haakai's chambers. But a circlet? What circlet?"
"And what's this about treasure? I ask purely out of curiosity, I say for the benefit of my highly-prejudiced companions."
"Interesting! Thanks, statue."
"Let's go chat up the demon again. Hey, demon! What's this about a circlet?"
"That's right! A guy named Scab wanted us to steal Mayor Meena's circlet! I completely forgot about that for some reason."
Byff forgot because I forgot: it wasn't in our quest log and thus slipped my mind entirely. The only reason Scab wanted the circlet stolen was to mess with Meena; Sulfras is of course the primary reason why we'd need to get it. Speaking of...
"And there she is."
"Holy shit that's a big dragon."
"Hail, mighty Sulfras. Thank you for deigning to speak with us."
"There go the fancy words."
"How could we possibly help you?"
"Great Sulfras, we request permission to pass through your domain to the east."
"Just us? Or others? I think there's an awful lot of people who would like to go this way..."
"If the sceptre we have is the one you want, then in my opinion it should pay for thousands to pass through this gate. It's the most powerful magical artifact I've ever seen!"
"Really? Then how come you haven't ever mentioned it?"
"I can't figure out how to get the blasted thing to function."
"Your generousness is inestimable. The people of Avernum thank you, great Sulfras."
"Not that we have the circlet yet. Could you tell us of it?"
"D'you know where it is?"
"And the sceptre?"
"Wow, that's some serious balls on whoever dared steal from you. Ahem. Why'd they want it?"
"Very well, we will give you this sceptre."
"We died, like, a half-dozen times getting this for you. I hope you appreciate it."
"And we'll be right back with that circlet!"
If you ask her what's beyond the gate:
This is interesting. Who would bribe Sulfras to hide that she guards the passage to the surface? On the face of it, the most likely option is the Empire...but the Empire would simply send a small army down here to kill Sulfras if they knew she was here (and if they knew about the surface exit).
If we ask for magical training:
Why is it a waste of time?
Try demanding she train you...
Sure, this sounds like a good idea!
And she goes hostile. It's nice to see that gormlessly demanding that every remotely magical creature train us has finally come back to bite us in the ass!
This is in fact one way to get to the surface -- just kill Sulfras, and the gate will open. But we aren't going to pointlessly slay Sulfras (like we did Athron). I'll just show what happens (on Casual difficulty), for completeness' sake.
Her gimmick is that she can reanimate every single one of those statues that fill her halls, making a massive golem army to punch your hapless party members about like so many soccer balls.
So yeah, screw that. The main purpose of this ability, besides making the fight
Anyway, that treasure room!
Forget what the statue said about the southeast chest being safe; that's a leftover from the first remake, where the chests were sitting out in the relative open, but opening the wrong ones would cause Bad Stuff to happen. In this game, all the chests can be readily looted. Items of note include some razordisks, a Speed Burst scroll, Return Life scroll, and this necklace:
It's nice, don't get me wrong, but there's no real point in getting it legitimately so close to the end of the game.
The rest of the treasure is just random vendor trash and low-grade consumables. Really not that impressive.
"Guess we'd better go steal that circlet, then."
"Which means walking all the way out of these caves and back to Dharmon for the teleporter. Yay!"
"Hang on, let me check my notes...ah. The circlet is in Spire, yes, but to get to it, we need a passphrase, and the only person we know of that knows it is Asp, in Cotra."
"Okay, so we go to Cotra first. Still a bunch of walking."
Seriously, the Remote Caves are kind of a pain in the ass to navigate. The click-to-move autopathing helps a lot, but it has limited range.
One teleport to Cotra later...
"Wotcher, chief. Fellow name of Scab said you could help us."
"Got it in one. Looking to inconvenience someone named Meena by borrowing her circlet, indefinitely. Know anything about that?"
"You're going to charge us? Really? C'mon, man, we're fighting for the good of Avernum here!"
"Oh, just pay the man! It's not like we don't have more money than we know what to do with!"
"Oh, fine. It's the principle of the thing, though."
"Yeah, we all know about you and your principles. S'why you never get the first hit in."
"Thanks, chief. You're a true patriot."
And now to Bargha, and from there to Spire.
"Okay, if I remember my way around this town, there's a hidden entrance along the northern wall..."
"We cleared this path ages ago. This'll be easy."
"I'm surprised Meena didn't replace the guards."
We found this key in a small cave west of Spire, as you may recall.
"Well, here goes nothing."
"Like I said. Easy."
"I'll note you stood back like thirty feet when I grabbed the thing."
"Okay, time to start the hike alllllll the way back to Sulfras!"
But first, an amusing diversion! Let's go talk to Meena now that we've robbed her!
"Hi Meena, you pretentious jerk!"
"Aww, what's wrong, darling? Honey baby girl?"
"Oh, you mean this circlet?"
And the entire town turns hostile. If ever there was a town that deserved annihilation, it's this one. There's even a bunch of treasure chests lying around with "Not Yours"-marked treasures in them so you can get some benefit out of it. Aside from shanking Meena in her smug face, that is. Speaking of.
...I miss being able to assault random NPCs whenever I feel like it.
Thanks to Truthkeeper for correcting me on this one. You can't target friendly NPCs with spells, but you can shoot them or hit them in the face with your sword as much as you like. Makes the town go hostile of course, but you can go screw yourself out of quests via indiscriminate slaughter! Hooray, all is well with the world again. And also this dialog isn't completely pointless. That's good too.
Anyway, Meena has a second copy of the Mercuric Leather armor (+1 AP, -1 STR) that Byff is wearing, and a Steel Broadsword. That's about all of interest there is here. Let's just rewind time instead of actually slaughtering an entire town full of hapless assholes. Now that we have the circlet, it's a walk back to Bargah, teleport to Dharmon, and then retrace of our steps through the Remote Caves.
"Hi boss, got your circlet."
"You've become noticeably more casual around dragons."
"Eh, I figure if they're gonna roast me, they'll at least give me a running start. And that's all I need."
"That's the sceptre and the circlet. May we pass through now, please?"
"Well this looks safe!"
"It's covered in bones."
"Not like we have a choice of path. Let's get this over with."
Three Gazers and three Eyebeasts. This would be a horribly dangerous fight...if we were still at the point where we didn't have ready access to non-cold, non-energy AoE spells, as they're immune to both of those. As it is, One-Eye draws and dodges every single attack, and Elly and Byff perform mass ophthalmectomies.
"Wow, these guys picked a bad spot for an ambush. They can't get a meal more often than, what, every few years? Maybe?"
"Byff, honey, sometimes monsters are just monsters."
"I refuse to believe that they don't fit into the ecosystem somehow!"
"Well, we were looking for an exit. This seems promising."
"Well, that tears it. The Empire must know about this way into Avernum."
"Either that, or someone got really lost."
"...a fortification? What fresh hell is this?"
Next time: the Final Gauntlet.