Part 9: Aleroth Beneath
Chapter 6 - Aleroth Beneath
Music - "Halls Beneath the Ground"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
Well, I can't say Lanilor didn't warn me.
Facing one skeleton with a club with an escape route nearby was one thing. Facing a dozen skeletons with bows, on unfamiliar ground was something quite different.
I didn't know if undead creatures had any reflexes to dull, but I hoped that they weren't used to having targets to shoot. I moved behind a column to shelter myself from arrows. I only had a few seconds before they would reach me, so I reached for the teleporter pyramid I picked up from the floor, and...
Sheloi! I never picked the blasted thing up!
I peeked around the column to see if I could spot it, then immediately ducked back as an arrow sailed past.
So much for dull reflexes.
The clattering of bone feet on the stone floor began to spread out a bit. They were trying to get a better angle, and the column was not very wide. I ran for the next column, watching the skeletons, and more importantly, watching for arrows. When a volley came, I was mid-stride, and I 'expertly' rolled into the cover of the column. Except that an expert wouldn't have sprained their wrist.
Damn! That hurts!
I gingerly flexed it. Probably not broken, but I wasn't going to be much good fighting with it.
That'll be sore later... but I'll just be glad if there is a later. Blast.
The pain triggered a recall of some training.
"We've been training you to focus your mind. Now you can learn how to wall off pain temporarily so you can maintain your focus."
The techniques helped. The pain and injury were still there, but it was no longer distracting me.
Magic, magic... what can my magic get me? If I want to try fireballs, I'll need to stand still, in the open. Damn. That might work if they only had clubs...
A skeleton approached, almost... reluctantly, trying to flush me out from cover. The others hung back, unwilling to advance.
That's it! They don't like fighting up close. If I keep circling they'll stay in the middle and eventually fill me with enough arrows to make me shed leaves in the autumn. Here goes...
As the circling skeleton drove me out, I did the unexpected and charged, readying my staff.
Some of the archers fired, but they weren't expecting a charge and most arrows missed. Unfortunately, 'most' wasn't the same as 'all'.
One archer blocked my way, so I gave it weak whack with my staff and reached for the teleporter stone at my feet.
Arrows struck me in several places.
This was a STUPID plan ... Which way do I turn this thing? Left or right...right away! That's it!
I clumsily twisted the top of the pyramid to the right and felt the uncomfortable disorientation wash over me just before the next set of arrows hit.
I rematerialized in Aleroth, back beside the stone I'd left on the ground.
...three, four... and five.
I plucked the last of the dull, flimsy arrows out, and cast the healing spell Goemoe taught me.
I was hoping I wouldn't need to use that for a while.
The spell worked its miracle, rejuvenating the blood I had lost and sealing my wounds shut. It even fixed my wrist up. I wasn't quite as good as new; the puncture wounds were pink and tender to touch, and my wrist was the slightest bit sore... but it was good enough.
I was already feeling tired and the day wasn't even half over. I picked up the original pyramid from the cobbles and returned to Joram's cellar and lay on my bed for a minute, drinking in the softness of the mattress and examining the two pyramids. Turning the tops in either direction did nothing; they were both already at the same place.
Lanilor said that this thing would be perfect for getting away from dangerous situations in a hurry. It's probably safe to leave one of these pyramids here. Joram said I could stay as long as I liked. ... Alright, rest over.
I got up. I'd already wasted three days asleep; I didn't have the luxury of wasting any more time.
"About the Game" posted:
If you ignored the warning to drop the teleporter pyramid, there's a teleporter panel in the mystery area that takes you to the safety of Mardaneus's cellars. That explains how the skeleton got in there, at least. The pair of teleporter pyramids is incredibly useful in ways that a town portal scroll could never hope to be. You can toss one past a guard (or another dialogue trigger) to gain access to an area you can't normally walk through. You can toss one through a set of bars into a sealed room of treasure so you can loot it.
The second most annoying thing about the pyramids is to use the pyramids and forget to pick it up afterward, only to discover later, when you're loaded down with loot that you'd left it gods-know-where.
It is possible to fight and defeat the skeleton archers, but it can definitely get you killed.
Since when playing you get hurt a lot, and since healing back up to full is pretty trivial, what with your healing spell, potions, and sleeping, I decided not to make getting wounded a big deal in the narrative.
Like many RPG's, resting fully restores your Health and Magic. But in Divine Divinity, you can't abuse that. You must wait a while between uses. Trying to rest before then and your character says "This is no time to sleep!"
I returned to the statue garden and climbed down the narrow stairs that had been concealed beneath the statue of Mardaneus.
The narrow stairs ended in a small antechamber, with a wider set of wooden stairs leading down further. The wood was rotten and creaked underfoot.
It was definitely cooler underground, I could feel it in my toes.
I'm exploring creepy old catacombs, and the only thing I could find to put on my feet are Joram's old sandals. I can't believe this.
The rock walls were wet with condensation, and the dirt floor was a bit damp. A rotting wooden cudgel was lying on the dirt floor.
"About the Game" posted:
This is the start of one of the longer dungeons in the game. Doing this dungeon is pretty much required to get us up to level 8. After we get outside the walls of Aleroth, all our foes are level 8 or higher. The dungeon also has some nice set pieces and traps worth showing off, it's got a bit more interesting character than is normal for a dungeon.
Entering another chamber, my eye was immediately drawn to a book sitting on a rock surrounded by candles, it seemed oddly untouched by the dampness.
How long have these candles been going? Are they magical?
I opened the book and saw the scratchy handwriting of Mardaneus.
If Mardaneus and a half-dozen men couldn't handle whatever was in here, do I stand a chance alone? ... It's too late now; I already unsealed this place when I sent the statue flying. I should at least see what's down here.
The gate out was sealed, but I noticed a lever on the wall, shaped like a skull and torso.
Elaborate levers in the shape of skulls and other body parts are never a good sign. Someone took the time to make a casing for the mechanism that practically shouts out "you're not welcome here." ... Although I could think of worse shapes to pull.
I pulled the skull-and-torso lever and the gate slid open.
The non-descript corridor made some winding turns and ended at another gate. Suspiciously familiar rattling sounds came from the room beyond. Skeletons.
Well, there goes my hope that this place was empty.
The skeletons were slow to attack, and never got close enough to connect with their clubs. Despite their hostility, the skeletons were downright pleasant compared to what else I found in the room.
It seemed to be an old torture chamber. There were bones everywhere, and chained to a wall were my favorite kind of skeletons - the kind that stay dead.
The most prominent feature was a slab with rusty iron restraints attached. Bloody stain layered upon bloody stain left little doubt as to its purpose. The layer of dust did little to conceal the grisly past, but at least it indicated that the torture slab was well out of use.
My stomach turned uneasily; I couldn't keep myself from speculating what barbarities were performed in here. The yellowing note beside the slab was only too kind to elaborate in graphic detail.
Thelyron, the former master of this place was apparently as terrible with logic as he was with compassion and human decency.
That name... where have I heard Thelyron before? ... Oh crap. Thelyron Hashnitor. That's the name Mardaneus was raving. ... I don't like where this is going. Everyone in Aleroth seems to think Mardaneus is one of the most powerful wizards around. If this Thelyron Hashnitor can reduce him to gibbering insanity... than how powerful is HE?
"About the Game" posted:
If you've noticed the green "Experience" bar in the middle of the HUD, it's almost full. Killing Zombie Jake twice, completing all the quests in Aleroth and retrieving the Teleporter Pyramid gives you enough experience to put you right at the verge of level 5 going into the dungeon. Since most enemies in the dungeon are skeletons of only levels 2 to 4, it's a useful advantage.
Normally, you only get one skill point per level, except for multiples of 5, so we got TWO skill points for reaching this level, not one.
Elven Sight [Passive]
- Each point increases your sight by two units. Your default sight range is very small, so two or three points into this is pretty much mandatory for rangers and mages, but if you get +Sight suffixes on items you may not need much. A total of +7 sight should be sufficient. Female Warriors get a free point. I put a point into this offscreen. You can scroll the screen to see farther in one direction, which is where having a high sight comes in handy.
Ranger Sight [Passive]
- It's like Elven Sight, except it only gives you one extra sight range per point. Since you can use skills from any class, this is useless unless A) you've maxed Elven Sight, B) are swimming in extra skill points, and C) you want to shoot things that are 20+ units off the screen. Also, you need to wait longer than Elven sight to put your first point in, and you'll need to be at a MUCH higher level to max it out than Elven Sight. So yeah, this is stupid skill design.
You'll NEVER be swimming in enough skill points to make both Elven Sight and Ranger sight sem like a good investment.
I came to a very large and very empty room. There was no sign of habitation, save a few empty barrels.
As I shattered one skeleton with a fireball, more lost memories swam to the surface of my mind.
12 Madaylum 1214
I flipped the Liber Monstrorum open to a random page. An drawing of a skeleton stared back.
Master Ames paced back and forth at the front of the class in his usual manner. "A wizard's greatest weapon is neither fireball nor shackled demon. His greatest defense is neither Invisibility nor Aura of Guarding."
He paused, and turned to face the class for emphasis. "No, a Wizard's greatest weapon and defense is knowledge."
Master Ames resumed pacing and lecturing, "What good doth it do to cast your most powerful fire spell on a demon whose hide sheds molten rock like water? Why waste your energy turning invisible to sneak past a foe that can't see you?"
He paused and faced the class again. "Knowledge is your greatest ally, and ignorance your deadliest foe." He resumed pacing.
"There is no substitute for book learning," he said. "But there are techniques. I can teach wizards how to reach out with their minds to see the strengths and weaknesses of their foes."
I snapped out of the memory, still in time to watch the skeleton finish falling to pieces.
About the Game" posted:
Know Creature [Passive]
- Useful for mages and players who don't want to memorize the vulnerabilities of everything in the game. Each rank lets you identify attributes for targets of Skill Level * 10, so even if you have 4 points into Know Creature, you can't even see the level of a creature of level 41+. Rank 1 lets you see the level and exact current hit points of the target, Rank 2 lets you see how hard it hits and how well it's armored. Rank 3 lets you see the offence and defense numbers of the target, Rank 4 shows your chance to hit, as well as the hearing and sight range of the target. Rank 5 shows the resistances of the target. The third and fourth points aren't very useful, but we'll be maxing this to see the resistances. It works on everything, enemies and allies alike.
If you want to steal from an NPC shopkeeper, knowing their sight range is handy. It'll take until level 19 to max this, and we'll be doing it as soon as possible. Picking the right elemental attack to target a weakness can save you a lot of mana.
I relaxed my guard too early. From behind me came the clattering of more bony feet. I whirled around just in time to catch a blow.
I felt the armor on my leg buckle and dig in. Two quick blows from my staff crumbled the creature, but the damage was done.
Rubbing my bruised leg, I needlessly checked my equipment and supplies.
As if I somehow just overlooked a suit of armor I had in my backpack. Damn... the only protection I've got and it's practically broken. But it's not like I have many good options.
I shook my coinpurse. It made a pitifully small jingling sound.
I can't get this armor repaired without some gold, and I don't know if I can get some gold without finding something to sell down here.
"About the Game" posted:
The leg armor I picked up in Aleroth has in poor condition and needs repairs soon or else it'll break. Hence the yellow and white hammer icon on my HUD. Unfortunately, I haven't got enough gold to repair it yet. I'm saving my gold because there are magic items coming up that I'll need to identify. Even if I did have the gold to repair it, I'd probably not want to spend the money in case I found better armor.
There is a Repair skill in the game which I could have chosen, but I didn't because I wanted to conserve my skill points. If you're not planning on using much magic, though, getting Repair as soon as you tackle the dungeon is a really good idea, as non-mage equipment suffers a lot more wear and tear.
In one of the rooms, there was a glowing blue sphere. I focused my mind to see if there was any magic in the orb. Sure enough, there was a pattern of magical energy present in the orb, although it was odd, though; there were strange gaps in the pattern, like the enchantment was broken or incomplete.
As I approached the orb, a pair of skeletons armed with clubs quickly moved to defend the sphere, their bones clacking in a furious rhythm. They seemed more determined than the ones I'd met so far.
I don't know what this strange orb is, but these skeletons don't want me to have it, so it must be important. Or maybe it's just some mage's old glow-in-the-dark paperweight. Who the hell knows why the reanimated dead do the things they do.
The first two skeletons were easily dispatched, but the much larger group that came charging out of a door was another matter.
I get the feeling that skeletons will not be in short supply around here. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my potions.
"About the Game" posted:
Sound and hearing matters - both for you and enemies. Both you and enemies have a hearing radius (that statistic is hidden for yourself), and fighting makes noise that will draw any additional enemies which can hear it towards you.
Also, right now, I do have to be pretty conservative with my magic and health. I only have 2 restoration potions and nothing to trade to get more. Because unlike Oblivion, my magic doesn't recharge, my health-restoring spell can't be used at will this early.
But by the end of the update, I'll have started abusing the game. After the next chapter, I will no longer be short of resources, in fact I'll have the opposite problem!
I retreated in an attempt to make the skeletons come at me one at a time through a doorway, but they swung aggressively, forcing me back. I managed to block most of the blows with my head, arms and chest; I would have preferred the quarterstaff.
The skeletons blows were weak, which I was glad for because I wasn't good at avoiding them. While I had remembered enough training to lessen the effects of pain, I unfortunately couldn't find any skill in melee combat coming to mind.
I gave up trying to defend and instead focused on ignoring the pain as I threw myself relentlessly into the attack until only scattered bones lay at my feet.
As the healing spell eased the worst of my wounds, I sighed.
Maybe I shouldn't be pushing myself so much. Two days ago I was lying in bed unconscious, and yet somehow I found myself volunteering for this, and why? Just to be doing something?
Next to a skeleton, coins glinted in the torchlight where an ancient pouch had spilled its contents. At the very least, further exploration might be able to alleviate my poverty. That was more than enough reason to press on.
I continued on further and saw that one of the walls had barred windows. I peered inside and saw what looked like stairs leading down, but the door into the room was locked tight. When I looked through the door I saw another set of stairs... going up?
Stairs going up? Where do they go? I never saw any mysterious doors in the cellars.
I rattled the door again, trying to get it open, but it didn't budge. I gave up and followed the passage south.
More skeletons awaited deeper on, although at least these ones seemed more laid back than the ones by the orb.
I don't have the time or patience to slowly beat these wretches to death. In any case, I prefer to not add a fresh layer of bruises.
I used a few fireballs to dispatch the skeletons, but I took some bruises anyway. I sighed and cast Restoration again.
Sure, I feel almost as good as new, but this will take forever if I have to stop and heal myself every other room. I'm already starting to feel the strain.
Another magical orb. I still don't have any idea what they're for.
I took a magic orb in each hand and experimentally moved them closer together, then apart. They didn't respond to proximity, they must have another purpose. I used my mind to probe it, and I discovered a second pattern. When I concentrated on both orbs, the second orb's pattern of magical energy filled in many of the gaps in the first pattern. Many, but not all.
So, not a broken enchantment, just an incomplete one. I wonder what the purpose of these are?
I cautiously sniffed the red potion I found among the bones. It smelled like the healing potions from Joram's house.
These potions pretty much last forever, right? I hope so. Who knows how long that walking pile of bones was carrying this around. Damn... I wish I could remember more alchemy.
It didn't really matter if it had gone bad. If I was going to continue going through this dungeon, I'd need to use everything it provided.
This sure is a lot of skeletons. I'm getting a nasty feeling in my gut exactly what the place is...
I entered a room that was still furnished with tables and shelves. There was a magic pentagram painted on the floor in a circle, with a candle at each point. It looked to be a laboratory of some kind, although long abandoned - like everything else I'd seen down here. There were several bookshelves full of dusty papers and tomes. I couldn't help but notice piles of bones next to a rusty cage.
There's yet another one of those orbs. Maybe there are some notes on those shelves that tell me what they're used for.
I examined the third blue orb. The pattern of the magical energy in this third blue orb filled in the remaining gaps when I focused on the pattern of all three orbs at once.
Nothing else happened, so bringing them all together didn't seem to be enough.
If I can't figure out what to do with them, maybe I could sell them. There's got to be someone interested in glow-in-the-dark paperweights.
The open book on the table caught my attention. I swept a thick layer of dust from the pages. It was a journal, with surprisingly neat handwriting. The last entry was dated slightly over 11 years ago.
Well, that confirms it. This is the lair of a necromancer, probably the Thelyron Hashnitor who Mardaneus mentioned in his ravings. Despite myself, I just can't help but admire the man's mind. It takes a really special kind of mind to actually pick up a pen and carefully write down - in neat, tidy letters - the sound of maniacal laughter in your journal.
I investigated the bookshelves. Most of the tomes and scrolls were extremely ancient and too faded to read now, some were even so old as to crumble at a touch, and most of the rest were of no interest. But my eyes lit up when I spotted a familiar cover.
"Limbs of Lead
For the NOVICE Wizard"
It was an instructional text describing the "Limbs of Lead" curse. The instant any warrior (no matter how agile) moved to attack a wizard versed in this spell, they would find their body would feel as if it were made of lead.
"About the Game" posted:
Limbs of Lead
- First available at level 5, this spell slows the target down and makes them hit for less damage. It needs two points to get it to a useful duration. Get two or three points and cast it on some of the boss-creatures in the game. Some enemies can cast this on you, and it can be just as lethal. Maxed out, Limbs of Lead will make is possible for you to take on enemies who are extremely powerful melee fighters with relative safety. One note of caution: you can't recast it on enemies already afflicted with it; you need to let it wear off before you can hit them with it again.
I reloaded until I found a spell book on one of the bookshelves, because this is the first opportunity I had to find a book when taking it wouldn't be stealing. I had reached level 5, which is when you can first put points into this spell. I put 1 earned skill point in and used the book to get it to rank 2 immediately (it doesn't really last long enough to be useful at level 1 anyway). That's why I said it was for a Novice and not a Non-Wizard.
You can't get the entire Wizard line for free, though. Not all of the Wizard's spells are available as books, including the most powerful ones. Like the Warrior and Survivor, you'll only get those by spending your skill points manually.
This will only be worthwhile to cast on something really nasty, but it's a lucky find regardless.
I picked up the piece of paper lying on the floor near the pentagram. It seemed to be describing a summoning ritual involving the pentagram. There was a spell, although the tiny writing was hard to read. It felt familiar. It felt sooo familiar. I looked at the pentagram.
Casting this spell is a probably bad idea, but it feels familiar. I know if the casting works, I'll remember what it does. It's probably a bad idea, but I just can't say no to another spell. I need all the help I can get. So here goes.
I lit the candles.
Bones from the nearby pile flew into the circle, came together and formed into a skeleton.
The skeleton looked uncertainly at me for a second, and then attacked without warning.
Oh, right. NOW I remember... that last syllable is pronounced the OTHER way. Come to think of it, I think I remember having trouble with it when I first learned it at university. That certainly cost me a bruise or two.
This skeleton was a lot tougher and meaner than the others ones I'd encountered so far. After it went down I rubbed feeling into my fresh bruises.
Maybe they all used to be this tough. Maybe they've gotten weaker because the necromancer abandoned this place. But... I'm remembering something...
26 Febirium 1214
Master Shaluthion called the class to attention. "All right. I know everyone is getting bored with the... rats, but summoning is extremely... delicate. It's vital to have control at all times," he said. "It may not seem important with rats, but if you're dealing with a slavering demon weighing 30 stone..."
Shaluthion let that thought linger in the air for a minute before continuing. "Ahem. Well, anyway, everyone has made... satisfactory progress, so I think it's time for the next summon: the basic skeleton. As I mentioned before, we do not teach... necromancy. Necromancers use actual remains, and their summons are therefore of a... more permanent nature. Today, we will use the principles learned via the rats to create skeletons out of the dust in the air..."
"About the Game" posted:
- The first Rank lets you summon one level 4 Skeleton. Subsequent points increase the number of skeletons you can summon and raises their level by 4, to a max of 5 skeletons of level 20. Skeletons do not have a time limit, but do NOT follow you unless you cast the Aura of Command skill on them. Higher level skeletons are harder to hit, so a level 8 skeleton can last quite a while in the Aleroth Dungeon. One free point is available from a spell book later on.
If you find a Raise Skeleton book in Aleroth, you may want to put a point into it manually, use the book, use the skeletons in Aleroth's catacombs, and then ignore the skill after that. This is what I've done. I wouldn't normally put a skill point here, because as mentioned before, later on you get Skeletal Wall, which always gives 5 Skeletons which start at level 16.
The Skeleton that appears when we light the candles is actually a non-speaking NPC with a Hostile disposition to us (-100). NPC's which turn hostile are much faster than "always hostile" monsters.
If I can keep the correct pronunciation in mind, a skeletal companion or two should help even the odds a bit.
A search of the room revealed nothing else of interest, so I headed down a darkened hallway.
I didn't hear any more of the telltale bone clicking, so I stopped paying complete attention, lost in thought.
Every new thing I find down here just makes this excursion seem like a worse and worse idea. I'm not keen on meeting a necromancer, particularly one as nasty as the notes down here suggest. Maybe I should turn back and take my chances with the...
Thanks to my lack of attention, I had walked right up to a group of big, powerful-looking orcs. I tried to think of a plan, but all I came up with was the thought:
Next Time: The new Ghoul-Friend and my 'xes
Behind the Scenes:
Here's the map of most of the first floor of the catacombs.
I skipped over a part where you find a Sapphire Key which unlocks a door you passed by on the way in, it's a shortcut back to the way you came in.
This update was hard to write because the majority of it takes place in a long, but really easy dungeon. Worse, it's a cave dungeon, and most of the rooms are completely non-descript. I also only had one offensive spell at the start.
I think I mentioned that I've been gathering spellbooks from Aleroth's bookshelves by abusing quickload. Here's my collection before using any:
From left to right: Summon Skeleton, 2 x Elemental Hail, "Spark" (Actually is our third Elemental Hail), 2 x Fade from Sight (Invisibility), Lightning, Limbs of Lead. I've now put one of my level up points into both Summon Skeleton and Limbs of Lead, then I used a book on top, so I have two points into each of those. The rest I'm saving up to help the narrative.
What's fake in this update?
- I adjusted the levels of the dungeon screenshots from the originals because everything outside the player's light radius is really, really dark. It's fine when playing, but if you were to sit back from the monitor and look at the update, you wouldn't see anything in the edges.
- The locked room with the stairs is not found where I imply it's found. I'm correcting a geographic error in the game.