Part 11: Slasher
Chapter 8 - Slasher
Music - "Horror of the Walking Bones"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
This skeleton was fast, and I could sense that it was a damn sight tougher compared to the other ones. My fireball spell wouldn't do much more than warm his old bones before he sliced me to shreds. I needed a plan. I needed heavier firepower...
6 Madaylum 1216
We were gathered in a field not far from The Mole. Master Groghammer was busy setting several training dummies into a cluster.
"What are we doing out here?" Eloric asked me under his breath. I shrugged wordlessly.
Tom whispered, "I think we're learning a spell too powerful to try near the buildings."
Groghammer seemed satisfied with the placement of the dummies and turned to the class. He cleared his throat and said, "Now, ye've all done well masterin' the spells a fire and lightnin' on their own. Now ye'll learn t' combine 'em."
Groghammer stood well away from the dummies. The class had long since learned that when Groghammer took one step back, we should take three.
Groghammer summoned his energies and uttered the incantation. There was a rumble as a swirl of energy appeared over the dummies. A half-second later, a stream of orange blobs crashed down on the group of dummies, then small blue lightning bolts discharged themselves.
"That," Groghammer said, "was Elemental Hail. A witherin' barrage of fireballs that'r charged with electricity. Very powerful, but it takes a lot more outa yer than yer standard spell. A couple of warnin's: As ye saw, it takes a moment fer the magic to coalesce, so if'n yer foe is movin' fast, ye could completely miss, and then ye'd be in a right fix. Second, this spell ain't exactly what ye'd call precise. Anythin' in the vicinity o' yer target will be pelted too, includin' yerself, so don't cast it at something close enough to hit with yer staff. However..."
Groghammer cast Elemental Hail on the dummies again, but this time, the center dummy was somehow completely untouched by the impact.
Groghammer continued, "However, if ye've got enough practice - and I mean a LOT of practice - ye can direct th' spell to avoid hitting somethin'. Don't let me catch ye tryin' this on yerself or there'll be hell to pay!"
A female dwarf student raised her hand with a question. "Does it work indoors or underground?"
Groghammer smiled. "That's a very good question, and the answer is -"
I abruptly lost the thread of memory.
I didn't have much choice but to try. Unfortunately, the skeleton was too fast. I wanted more breathing room to cast the spell.
Wait ... that spellbook I found!
I had to stop to concentrate, and the huge skeleton closed the distance. Just as it raised its axe behind its head I cast the Limbs of Lead spell. The skeleton guardian suddenly discovered its body was no longer heeding its calls for speed.
I moved to a safer distance and prepared the powerful Elemental Hail spell.
A dazzling rain of orange blobs crashed down on the creature and arced through it, snapping its bones beyond repair.
I checked the axe the skeleton had dropped, just in case, but it was a dull and unremarkable weapon, not a hint of magic about it.
"About the Game" posted:
- This is one of the few AOE spells in the game. It takes a half-second for the hail to rain down on the area, so combining it with Limbs of Lead or large groups is a good idea. It's also nearly impossible to hit a single target unless you're both moving on the same left-right plane. That's because the AOE isn't very big. Like all spells, it can be cast as fast as I right-click, although since it costs a fairly big chunk of my magic reserve, I have to use this fairly sparingly for now.
Later on, I'll have spells which lack the solid punch of hail, but they're both cheaper and more cost-efficient.
Elemental Hail is an example of how using the spellbooks is almost cheating. If I learned Elemental Hail the regular way, I'd need to wait until I was level 24 to put in one point. But thanks to the three books I found in Aleroth, I've got rank 3 Elemental Hail, which would require me to be level THIRTY-SIX. Currently, I am level FIVE. There's a bug with the spellbooks, the ones that are supposed to be for Elemental Bolt are actually also for Elemental Hail, so it's easy to get Elemental Hail spellbooks, and impossible to get Elemental Bolt ones.
Elemental Hail will basically be my boss-killing spell for quite a while. It can do several hundred damage, but that's somewhat balanced out by the huge magic cost. I can do heavy damage to a boss or tight group, but it'll take a hefty chunk out of my magic reserve. There are plenty of mini-boss enemies in the game that have over 1000 HP, and some of them start showing up really soon.
I was tired and had had enough exploration for one day. The orcs awaiting my return could go to Hell. I climbed back up the ladder to the caverns. I once again saw the stairs going up and frowned.
Where the heck does that door in the ceiling go?
I went three steps up the stairs, and found that the door was in the ceiling. I pulled at the handle. It was stuck. I pulled harder. It still didn't budge. Then I put my whole weight into it. There was a loud crack from the wood. The splintered door began to buckle, continuing to creak alarmingly, and dirt started to pour down through the cracks. Too late I realized what was above the door.
"Awww... thui fin-"
With one final loud crack, the door broke into pieces and a torrent of dirt from above the door swept me down to the bottom of the stairs.
I spit out a mouthful of dirt. Surprisingly, I hadn't been injured in spite of my idiocy. Sunlight shone into the hole at the top of the stairs. I waded through the loose soil up the stairs and hauled myself up.
I thought it was unusual that the headstone of this grave was blank.
The sun was heading for the mountaintops; I was tired, hungry and covered in dirt. I went back to Joram's, leaving a clear trail of dirt from the cemetery to his door.
What on Rivellon happened to you?
I sighed. "I opened the wrong door. I'll tell you over dinner."
I stretched my sore arms and dumped the four magic axes out of my pack.
"One of these is a special axe named Slasher, I believe because... uh..." I started. I decided it would do no good to worry him about the Orcs in the tunnels. "uh... I believe that for reasons I don't want to get into at this time," I finished lamely. "Can you identify these for me?"
"Aye", Joram said, "I'm sorry, but I can't do it for free. I need to eat - and if you're still staying here, so do you," he said pointedly. I didn't argue. Joram was already being more than generous to me, and I think the dirt I had tracked in was wearing out my welcome.
How much to identify an item?
One hundred and fifty gold. It's a fair price, many magical items are worth far more than that. With the right buyer, you could even get ten times as much for axes of that quality.
Hmmm... I don't have enough gold for all of those, but...
I looked into my coinpurse. The skeletons in the catacombs had been surprisingly charitable. I poured out most of the gold I was carrying and handed it to Joram. I fished out the star amulet and a pair of magical boots I had found from my pack.
"Here, 300 gold. What are these?"
Joram touched the items and concentrated.
The boots weren't enchanted with anything especially interesting, but they were a hell of a lot better than traipsing around a monster-filled dungeon in Joram's spare sandals. At least my feet wouldn't be cold anymore. I returned Joram's sandals with my thanks.
The amulet that the orc Golg had... 'dropped'... was much more interesting.
Ahh... this amulet enhances the vitality of the wearer. It should come in handy in the catacombs. Lanilor told me what you did for him. I think it's very brave of you to try and help us with Mardaneus, Jeremiah.
I shrugged. "Well, with the road too dangerous for travel, it wasn't like I had anything better to do with my time. And of course, not getting sucked into a hole in reality created by a crazed and delusional wizard has its perks as well."
"About the Game" posted:
As I mentioned earlier, you actually can learn the Identify skill yourself. I'll pick that skill up much later after I've gotten some other priority skills in place. It's only worth getting Identify to rank 3 or so, to save some gold. I found 2 items with +1 to Identify, and you can get one rank from a quest reward, so I can get by with only 2 points in it.
I went to George's shop. I laid out the non-magical axe I had found.
"What'll you give me for this, George?" I asked.
His eyes widened.
"Oh my," he said. Carefully examining the blade and shaft closely. He pulled out a magnifying glass from under the counter and looked even closer. "Oh my indeed," he said.
"What's wrong? Is it damaged?" I asked.
"What's wrong?" George said. "Nothing! Nothing at all is wrong. This is the most splendid piece of craftsmanship I've seen in years. Where ever did you find this?"
"In the catacombs under town," I said.
"Really?" he asked, "If I found some things like this, it could solve all my-" he caught himself, and finished, "Perhaps I should go down there myself some time."
"Did I forget to mention the army of skeletons?" I said.
His face paled. "Damn. Always a catch."
George sighed. "This axe is worth far more gold than I have on hand. Things are a bit tight for me at the moment, you understand. Perhaps we can trade for some of the other goods on hand."
He brought out some old, battered weapons and armor.
"What about that fancy magic armor," I asked, pointing to the display case at the back of the store.
"I'm afraid that's not for sale. It's - it's a family heirloom. I'm going to pass it onto my son. ... Well, that is, if I get married." George sounded depressed, as if the prospect of marriage was just a faded dream.
I interrupted his introspection. "Alright, let's see what kind of deal we can come up with."
"Yes, of course."
Finally, after a lot of running around and trading with the healers, I ended up with 600 gold, and a pair of gloves and crude belt from George's shop. I kept the magic dagger and returned the knife I borrowed from Joram.
Alright, Joram, tell me which one of these axes bears the name Slasher.
I went out to finish washing the dirt from my clothes and head while Joram checked each axe in turn. When I returned, he turned to me and shook his head.
Uh, I'm sorry, but none of these axes is powerful enough to bear a name.
I was tired. It took a good 30 seconds or so for me to understand what he was saying.
Joram shrugged. "Sorry."
"You're pulling a prank on me, right? Right?" I said with disbelief.
"No, I'm not," Joram said.
"So I go through a lot of trouble to find not one, not two, not three, but FOUR magical axes, and NONE are the specific one I'm looking for?" I asked incredulously.
"If this axe you seek exists, it's still out there somewhere." He paused and asked, "Why are you looking for a specific magic axe? You don't seem suited to wield one. Uh... no offense."
I ignored the question and sighed. "Nothing's ever easy. I'm going to bed. Goodnight, Joram."
"About the Game" posted:
Even though they aren't Slasher, the other magic axes are very valuable, although no one has a hope of using them until at least level 13 (Unless you get a few +Strength and +Agility armor items). The biggest problem with those axes is that they're so valuable that they're hard to sell in Aleroth. There isn't enough gold - even if you have NPC's repair and ID magical items - so you need to buy up a lot of worthless items as "change", and do a lot of trading with everyone in town.
You've seen some odd modifiers on the magic axes, like "Lightning Damage (2)". Those are references to Warrior skills that give a passive chance on every attack. The number in brackets refers to the rank of the skill attacked to the weapon. I don't know if it stacks with points in the appropriate the Warrior skill.
Lightning Damage / Fire Damage / Poison Damage [Passive]
- Rank 1, each melee attack has a 10% chance of inflicting 4-10 Lightning/Fire/Poison damage. At Rank 5, there's a 30% chance of inflicting 20-42 Lightning/Fire/Poison damage. If you get all of them and max them all, all these passive bonuses can add a substantial amount of damage. A "pure" Warrior doesn't have a lot of skills worth taking. I think this only works for melee, but I can check.
Spiritual Damage [Passive]
- This is like Lightning/Fire/Poison damage, except that it always activates, there isn't a percentage chance of it activating. Rank 1 inflicts 4-10 damage, Rank 5 inflicts 20-50 damage. It requires a slightly higher character level to put points into as well.
- At Rank 1, there's a 5% chance that enemy attack recovery is penalized by 10, if the spiritual resistance is under 10. For each rank , the chance goes up by 5%, the attack recovery penalty goes up by 10, and the spiritual resistance requirement goes up by 10, so at Rank 5 there's a 25% chance that an attack will penalize enemies attack recovery by 50, if their spiritual resistance is under 50.
In my sleep I had a nightmare... or maybe a memory.
18 Fengali 1214 - 16 O'clock
The carriage stopped. Samuel poked his head in the window.
"What's going on?" asked my mother Elizabeth.
"A tree is blocking the road," Samuel said. "It wasn't here on the trip up. We're going to try and turn the carriage around, but it's not a good spot. There's a very steep slope on our left, and the trees are pressing in out our right. Wait here." Samuel said
"You suspect an ambush? Is there anything I can do to help?" I said.
"You shouldn't put yourself in danger," Samuel said.
"I'm not defenceless," I said indignantly. "Do you want some help or not?"
Samuel sighed. "Fine, we could use an extra pair of eyes. Also, can you handle a sword?" he asked.
"Uh... give me a couple of goes and I think I could figure out what end to stick into someone," I said snarkily.
"Be serious, lad," Samuel said, handing me a spare sword belt with a one-handed sword.
I nodded. It wasn't a very funny joke anyway. "I learned a little bit of fighting, but I'm better with magic, I think I'm better sticking with that." I hesitated. "But you're not expecting trouble, right?"
"First rule of being a merc-" Samuel started.
"ALWAYS expect trouble," I finished. "Yes, I remember father saying that."
As I moved to get out, my mother put her hand on my arm to stop me. "Samuel, is it safe?"
"I can't say that it is, Dame Liro," that's why I need all the help I can to turn us around fast.
I got out of the carriage, strapping the sword belt on anyway. The air was unsettled, the leaves rustled in the wind. The sun had gone behind a large cloud. It looked like the drought may soon be over.
"Eyes on the trees, not the sky," Samuel snapped. He handed me a crossbow belonging to one of the men occupied with turning the horses. I got my eyes back on the woods along with another of Samuels' men, who had a nasty-looking glaive crossbow.
Two of the men expertly steered the horses first turning right the edge of the woods, then back to the left and the edge of the steep, rocky slope. The carriage was halfway through the turn - perpendicular to the road when someone hissed "Movement!"
Instantly, everyone else stopped and got into battle-readiness, readying shields and crossbows in the blink of an eye. I crouched down and aimed my crossbow into the woods.
"I don't see any-" I started to say when the first arrows started to fly from the woods. One of the horse wranglers was hit in the throat with a black-feathered arrow. He went down instantly, with a horrible squelching sound as a river of crimson flowed from his neck.
I'd never been in a real life-or-death fight before. The crossbow slipped from my trembling hands and dropped onto the ground. I don't know why I wasn't hit. I was making a perfect target standing there frozen in terror.
Samuel reacted instantly to the attack by slashing the lines that held the horses to the cart, and whacked thm with the flat of his sword to sending the animals fleeing down the road. "The front of the cart! Now!" he shouted.
I felt strong hands grab me and drag me back behind the narrow cover where the horses had been.
It took me a few seconds to realize that only Samuel's men were there. "Wait! What about my mother?" I said urgently. "She's still inside the carriage!"
Even writing this now, after every other horrible thing that I'd witnessed, when I look back, that moment is still the second-most terrified I've ever been in my entire life.
10 Sembten 1218
I woke up in Joram's cellar, once again sweaty with my heart racing. These nightmares were getting to be a really bad habit. I hoped it was morning, because I didn't want to go back to sleep.
Was it a nightmare or a memory? It had felt so vivid. I tried, but my godsdamned memory continued to be alternatively helpful and obscured. I gave up for the moment. I'm sure when my damn brain decided to stop sulking, it'd eventually give up the answers.
Still, when it did decide to co-operate, my memory could be extremely helpful. The Elemental Hail spell I had remembered would certainly be helpful in leaving Aleroth, but it was also very tiring to use. I could cast it ten, maybe eleven times. I'd wager a kidney that there were at least three times that many orcs in the woods. I would feel a lot more comfortable with more potions and better equipment.
After a small breakfast, I checked in with Lord Seth.
It's been two days, and no one's come to check? Don't they know your patrol is missing?
Even if they did, it's unlikely they'd send someone so soon. Manpower is... rather tight these days.
What, with weeding the fields?
You really haven't heard?
The dukedom is on the cusp of war! Vile orcs are marching on Ferol - in numbers far superior to these bandits, and much better equipped.
Bloody hell! I thought this was supposed to be a quiet, peaceful land!
Seth shrugged helplessly. There was nothing more that talking would accomplish, so I returned to continue exploring the catacombs, only with a greater sense of urgency than before.
"About the Game" posted:
At this point, I picked up a Golden Jug container from the catacombs to store some of my extra stuff, but it wasn't interesting enough to write about.
I looked into the open-sided rooms on my way to the stairs, and something caught my eye. Most of the floor were stone bricks, only in these two chambers were there large square slabs, and this was the only one with a marking on it.
I knelt by the edge. There was a crack along the edge, hard to notice at a glance. Given the craftsmanship of the intact sections of the ruin, it was clearly intentional. I inserted my new magical dagger into the crack, and easily levered up the tile, revealing a ladder down to a hidden chamber.
It was lit with a dim blue glow. I climbed down quietly and discovered a skeleton with its back turned. One solid swing from my staff shattered it.
There may be something valuable down here, that passage wasn't obvious.
I opened the door, and an absolutely huge group of skeletons was standing there. I smiled weakly.
"D'you mind holding still for a second or two?" I asked, and then I blasted them with a barrage of magic hail.
The blast took out some of the skeletons, but lots more were standing, including another really big one.
I kept casting until I was dizzy from exertion and half-blinded from the flashing lights.
When my vision cleared, I was alone among a pile of scattered bones. There was a tomb along one wall. I wondered if I should try and open it up, even though it would be desecrating the remains.
The corpse inside was probably one of the skeletons that was walking around this room. I don't see how I could desecrate it any more than that.
The point was moot, the lid was sealed tight and impossible to open. I headed through the only other doorway into a crumbling chamber. Just then I recalled once reading about some cultures that stored the treasures of the deceased tomb owner's passage to the Lands of the Dead.
If there had been any treasure here, it had been looted long ago... except for one special thing that glimmered in the dim torchlight.
The curved blade was elegant. If any weapon of killing could be considered beautiful, this axe was it. I focused my mind. The axe was enchanted with powerful magic, stronger than the other axes by far.
This had BETTER be that damn Slasher.
I had Joram identify it.
"About the Game" posted:
Slasher is a rank 4 magic item, which means high quality. Slasher does an extra 20 base damage on top of the 50-100 damage of the other axes, and it probably has a bit more durability, but the magical abilities, like those of EVERY magic item in the game are random.
Being a "unique" magic item only means that you find it in the same place every time, and that it almost always has Charm slots to add further enchantments.
It was about time I caught a break. I drank some restoration potions to clear the fatigue from my head, and then went back in to find Smiruk. I made sure that Golg's amulet was tucked out of sight under my robe. Smiruk stamped impatiently when he saw me.
"Uh... Golg is dead. There were many enemies and he fought valiantly -"
Smiruk interrupted with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Do human have Slasher? We not wait long..." he demanded.
You don't even care about the death of your fellow orc? Can't say I'm surprised.
Do not be so quick to condemn cultures you do not understand.
Orc culture? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. ... I don't have time to debate with an imaginary voice in my head, Smiruk's just about to betray and attack me. I hope this new spell will do the trick.
I slowly lifted the elegantly curved axe from my back and handed it to Smiruk.
He held it up with both hands. "GRUUUNK! THIS IS SLASHER! PRAISE TO SMIRUK!"
The orc by the ladder raised his crossbow and aimed it at me. Smiruk shifted his grip to one of combat.
Yup, saw this coming.
Next Time: Ulthring's Undead Ambush
Behind the Scenes:
I actually forgot about using Limbs of Lead in my playthrough until much later, so I had to go back and re-take some screenshots, to justify mentioning it.
What's fake in this update?
- I'm exaggerating about the aggressiveness of the Skeleton Guardian. You can easily outrun it, and it loses interest quickly, possibly because it sight range is 6, which is pretty short, the entire screen is less than 12 units wide. I had to keep luring the guardian to get its attention.
- The doorway up to the graveyard is never stuck. I made up the dirt falling on Jeremiah's head, but it's not that far fetched, the dirt filling that grave had to go SOMEWHERE...