Part 12: Ulthring's Undead Ambush
Chapter 9 - Ulthring's Undead Ambush
Music - "Crypts and Catacombs"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
The orc by the ladder fired! There were times when training your senses and mind didn't pay. This was one of them; time seemed to slow down as I saw the crossbow bolt come right at my head.
I knew I had miscalculated, I couldn't move out of the way fast enough. Suddenly, Smiruk thrust Slasher out in front of the projectile. The bolt ricocheted and shattered on the floor!
I didn't know what was going on, even more so when Smiruk turned and charged the orc by the ladder!
Before the ladder orc could load another bolt, the sharp edge of Slasher cut him in half - literally. My stomach heaved and I quickly averted my eyes, trying intently to keep the contents of my stomach down.
"What- the hell- is going on?" I croaked out, as I wrestled my breakfast back into its proper place.
"About the Game" posted:
When you give Slasher to Smiruk, he really does test it by killing a fellow orc, who does shoot at him as he advances.
I think that there used to be an issue where if there were no surviving orcs to test the weapon on, the game used to hang, although that may have been fixed in a patch.
The next screenshot is extra bright because it really was hard to see Smiruk and Vradnir's corpse in the shadow.
Smiruk lied before. Smiruk is not chief of this clan. Real Chief say he lead clan to honorable combat, but instead clan hide in woods and steal. Smiruk thinks Chief is honorless coward. Smiruk spits on cowards. Honorless Chief hear of Slasher, tell Smiruk to get Slasher for Chief. He not trust Smiruk, send Vradnir to watch. Now Smiruk have Slasher and Vradnir is gore!
It was the longest speech I'd ever hear an orc make. I was almost completely at a loss for words.
And what will you do now?
Slasher is powerful weapon, many will listen to Smiruk now. Smiruk will lead honorable orcs away. But do not follow.
Why shouldn't I follow?
You Smiruk's friend. Smiruk tell human friend that honorless chief is very near cave exit. Many honorless orcs up there.
F-friend? An orc calling me a friend?!
Very well. Goodbye.
Smiruk and the rest of the orcs climbed the ladder, leaving me alone. The orc threat to Aleroth from beneath was ended.
I noticed that the orcs had left a sack behind. It was full of gold coins, one thousand gold pieces!
An Orc, keeping his word? Bah. Doesn't mean anything. One good apple in a barrel full of rotten ones doesn't change a damn thing. On any other day he'd probably have slit my throat without a second thought.
Is it so hard to believe that there is decency and honor in some orcs? In your heart you know this to be true, why can you not admit it?
Shut up! You're not real. Don't tell me what is in my heart. You can't trust orcs, any of them. Besides, this wasn't his gold; it was probably stolen from the travelers his buddies had murdered.
I didn't want any part of the blood money. But I was sure I would need it. And it wasn't like I could bring the victims back to life. And I had lost my money when the orcs ambushed me near Aleroth. For all I knew this was my own.
Sheloi... Look at me, I've only had this gold for a minute and I'm already making rationalizations for profiting off of orc butchery.
I headed back to the depths of the catacombs. I could afford to be disgusted with myself later - after I'd cured Mardaneus and found Jenna.
"About the Game" posted:
Of course, if you want you can simply keep Slasher for yourself and leave Smiruk waiting down in the dark... forever. If you're still going to hand it back, you don't have spend the money to identify it, just make sure it's the only axe in your inventory when you talk to Smiruk.
I didn't actually know until this LP, but completing the Slasher quest nets you 1000 gold from the orcs. That's in addition to the very valuable axes you find during the quest. If I HAD known about the reward, I would have been able to immediately pay to have all my magic items identified, and then sell the stuff I didn't want for gold, instead of running all over town doing trades. But in this game, 1000 gold doesn't translate into a lot of purchasing power. Ordinary, non-magical items cost hundreds of gold. This will mostly give us the ability to buy potions and pay to have magical items identified.
Meeting a friendly orc early on is a little suggestion from the game to not consider all orcs automatically evil. The main character of the game however is written (by the game developers, to make it clear) as disliking orcs.
Smiruk's warning is serious. You follow him up and you end up right next to a bunch of
orcs, including a (hostile NPC) Orc Chief who is much faster than the other orcs.
Zearoth is right. If they really had been intent on killing us, we would have been in deep poo poo. The lowest level orcs were level 9, and because they don't start out as hostile, they're considered NPC's, which means they get a speed bonus if they turn hostile. The only good news is that they do low damage.
Unlike normal Orcs, they are resistant to fire - which until Elemental Hail, was our only non-melee attack. On top of all that is Smiruk, who has 1500+ HP and does 24-56 damage per hit. Jeremiah has a max health of just 80 right now. With full magic, it'd probably be possible to kill Smiruk with Elemental Hail, but it would take at least 6 full blasts.
SPECIAL LP ARCHIVE NOTE: This and the next two chapters are more dungeon crawling, which may not be that interesting. I still hope you'll read and enjoy them, but I did add in the option of a chapter exclusve to the LP Archive version which only includes the most interesting things, although it doesn't include minor parts of Jeremiah's backstory.
Abridged Chapters 9-12 (Dungeon Bypass)
18 Fengali 1214 - 16'10 O'Clock
"Wait! What about my mother?" I said urgently. "She's still inside the carriage!"
"Please, someone help!" said my mother from inside.
"Dame Liro, just stay down and away from th' windows," Samuel said loudly. "We've got things under control for now. Just try t' stay calm."
I didn't believe him.
Then to me, he whispered "Get a hold on yourself, lad. She's safer in there than out here in the open with us. Now start thinkin' about a way to be useful. If that fancy school of yours taught you mor'n how to pull a rabbit from your pointy hat, now would be a good time to demonstrate."
One of Samuel's men spotted who was shooting. "Orcs!" he said. I heard a piggish squeal as one of the mercenaries took one of the greenskins down. More orc bandits in crude gear charged, but Samuel's men had good aim, and their crossbows went right through their light leather armor.
It turned out that the schooling hadn't been a complete waste.
"Orcs," I recited, staring straight ahead. "Tough, strong, masters of physical combat."
"Oh, the lad's just gone," said one of Samuel's men disgustedly.
"... weak to all kinds of magic, especially spiritual attacks... also weak against fire and lightning-"
I had an idea. I knocked on the carriage. "Mother, we're going to get you out, hold on a second and be ready to move, okay?"
"A-alright. Please hurry!" came the faltering reply.
"What are you doing?" Samuel demanded. I ignored him and stepped out of cover.
I launched a barrage of fireballs blindly at the woods. The drought had made the area very dry. Several small fires started burning with thick smoke, obscuring the vision of the hostile archers. The orc arrows stopped.
I wasted no time opening the carriage doors, and hustling my mother back behind the cover, although it wasn't very adequate for five people.
My mother hugged me. "Oh, Jeremiah. Thank you!"
"What'd you do that for?" Samuel demanded. "She was safer in there than out here, you fool!"
The orcs had fled the burning trees onto the road itself. They no longer had cover. Several of the greenskins were cut down by well-placed shots from the mercenaries.
But the bandits had realized that we didn't have cover either, not if they attacked from both sides. Samuel suddenly raised his shield in front of us, and an arrow bounced off it with a clang so loud it was disorienting. Another arrow felled a second one of Samuel's mercenaries.
Thunder boomed, and rain started to fall. My 'rescue' had only made things worse.
So that nightmare I had was a memory after all. My mother... She... she didn't make it, did she? ... I can't afford to worry about that. I've got to keep moving. What's past is past. I have to worry about the present. ... Don't think about it. Keep moving. Worry about the present.
After a minute, I was able to shove my introspection aside once again. I retraced my steps back to the area further down, where the nasty axe-wielding skeleton had ambushed me. Sure enough, those were stairs I'd seen.
The staircase went down quite a distance.
I opened up a book in a circle of candles and recognized Mardaneus' handwriting.
Great. Would it have killed the old fart to say how he planned to get past the trap? No of course not, that's just silly-talk.
For about the thirty-ninth time since descending into the darkness, I contemplated turning back, and for the thirty-ninth time I decided to continue.
Even if Mardaneus didn't know some extremely dangerous spells, I had promised Lanilor I'd help. But more importantly, I was getting memories back, spells I had learned. Fighting my way to the bottom of this mystery might awaken enough of my old knowledge to get past the orcs in the woods.
I passed through a doorway into the largest room I'd seen so far. In the dim light of fire braziers, I could see steppes rising up, with columns at the summit supporting the ceiling. It was a true engineering masterpiece, given how much dirt and rock was above my head, and how few columns were supporting the weight.
"Incredible!" I blurted out before I caught myself.
It echoed in the depths of the room. There was a moment of intense stillness, then the clatter of many skeletal feet could be heard.
Sightseeing would have to wait, there were skeletons everywhere.
I sure hope that the healers aren't short on supplies to make potions, I get the feeling that I'll be buying a LOT of them.
This part of the catacombs seemed to be reserved for important people, or dwarves, or whatever. There were only a few tombs, but they were on raised platforms. I peeked inside a tomb, but it was completely empty, which I was expecting; what with all the walking dead in this place.
My summoned skeletons cleaned up the trash while I smashed open some locked vases. There wasn't much to speak of, a few coins and old potions, there was little left. It seemed like most had already been looted by treasure hunters and skeletons.
I moved along the northern edge of the room, and found a door. The antechamber inside was small and completely free of the undead, which made it immediately more attractive than the big huge room I was standing in.
Unfortunately, the next room was occupied by a skeletal conjurer and some minions. The lesser skeletons blocked the door to keep me out while the conjurer summoned in reinforcements. My own skeletons fought well, but they were whittled down under weight of numbers. I retreated, and the conjurer chased me.
Perhaps chasing me was a move of desperation, or perhaps pure stupidity - once the conjurer was free of the crowd, it could no longer hide from my fireballs.
The room it was guarding may have been its own private burial chamber, there wasn't anything but dusty vases, ancient plates and a tomb inside. I climbed the stairs to the top of the nearest platform.
I could see that this was one of four such raised platforms surrounding a pair of tombs in the center. I surmised that the tombs on top of the platforms were one of the four trapped tombs Mardaneus's note had mentioned. Sure enough, if I focused my mind carefully, I could faintly detect an aura of magic emanating from the tomb.
I decided to leave it alone until I was sure there was no other way.
I inspected the tombs in the middle of the chamber. They were sealed beyond my means of opening. There was a paper on the ground nearby, but time and the passage of skeletal feet had reduced the writing to illegibility. Perhaps it had once been Mardaneus's instructions on how to bypass the trap, but it was no help anymore.
I was getting tired from the exertion, my magic reserve was all but spent, but still I pressed on.
"About the Game" posted:
The note by the exit is just a treatise on Natural Alchemy. It tells you that red/pink plants produce health potions, blue plants produce magic potions, yellow makes stamina potions, and grey mushrooms make poison. You can find a copy in Lanilor's garden, but I'm ignoring it for this story until I get Alchemy rank 2.
The words Seth had said earlier were still with me. Orcs were preparing to invade Ferol. If Jenna was still... I didn't have time to laze around. I forced myself to continue and found new reserves of strength.
A skeleton dropped a set of lockpicks.
Now that I remember how to pick a lock, these could come in handy.
With the use of staff, spell and summoning, I cleared out the other half of the giant chamber.
The main room was symmetrical. If I was really, really lucky, then the corner opposite of the one I entered from might hold a way down deeper into the catacombs.
I entered the southeastern room. There was a scuttling sound from the shadows.
So much for being lucky. Three spiders the size of my head scuttled towards me. They didn't seem to be friendly or intimidated by me.
Blasted things. Go away!
I stomped heavily on the nearest one and it squealed in pain. My foot felt like I had just stomped on a stone, but to my surprise, I hadn't crushed the arachnid. A second spider reached my foot and nasty fangs chomped through my new boots.
I sure hope it's not - *sigh* what am I saying, of COURSE it's poisonous.
I backed off hurriedly. I brought my staff through a long sweeping arc square on one of them. The staff bounced off and the spider squealed, but it still didn't seem willing to back off.
These things are tougher than the damn skeletons!
I wasn't about to waste perfectly good fireballs on mere arachnids, so I retreated back to the safety of the skeletons I had summoned.
The sound of blunt instruments whacking filled the air, and after several minutes, the spiders eventually stopped moving for good. It was a reminder not to get overconfident.
Breaking some ancient rotting bones barely holding together is far easier than killing a living thing. Those skeletons may be getting close to their expiration date. In a few more years, they'd fall apart on their own.
There was no staircase down past the spiders, just another empty tomb. There was only one door left to check.
That led to another room essentially identical to the one guarded by the spiders, except this one was permeated with a sickening stench of decaying flesh. I switched to breathing through my mouth. I spotted the glint of gold in one corner, but I failed to check the corners carefully.
I was used to the skeletons which mindlessly charged, I wasn't expecting something that hid. I heard fleshy footsteps retreating back through the door I came in. I paused for a minute, my heart pounding in my chest. I doubted that was a friendly explorer.
What new horrors do these wretched chambers hold?
There was nothing left to do but head back. I looked carefully around the antechamber and saw nothing lurking in the dark. But as I walked through, I heard an odd squeak
A small device that looked like a little mechanical egg with legs had unearthed itself from the floor. It hopped toward me...
...And exploded! Hot gases and metal shards enveloped my legs, and I bit my lip to keep from screaming out. As if the sound of the explosion wasn't loud enough to draw attention.
There was no permanent damage, but it would take some time for my leg hairs to grow back in.
That's another item for the list of wonderful discoveries I've made down here.
I returned to the main chamber. I sniffed the air. Whatever had passed by left behind such a stench I could follow it with my eyes closed. I followed the smell to the eastern side of the room, heard the fleshy footsteps again, and spotted my quarry.
It was a Ghoul! The rotting, shambling abomination moved to attack, but my wandering skeletons had also spotted it and needed no commands from me.
"About the Game" posted:
Ghouls have a nasty habit of laying Spider Mines all over the place. When you get close, the mines unearth and charge at you. They explode after a few seconds, so you can just run away in most cases. The Survivor's Deadly Gift skill lets you lay Spider Mines of your own if you find an "Egg".
The ghoul seemed to relish the prospect of a fight and attacked my skeletons furiously, ignoring me completely.
My skeletons were not tough enough to withstand the abomination, but I had prepared a fireball. The thing collapsed, and could no longer hold itself together. It melted into a foul-smelling sludge.
There was no point putting it off any longer, I hadn't found any way out. Mardaneus might have known a trick to avoid setting off the undead ambush spell, but I didn't. I'd just have to hope I could survive the Ulthring's Undead Ambush traps on all four of the tombs.
I took a deep breath and pushed opened the lid of one of the trapped tombs. There was a surge of magic and at least a dozen angry skeletons materialized around me.
The biggest threat was the conjurer, and I didn't spare my energy as I brought magical hail crashing down.
I grabbed the last restoration potion from my belt - realizing too late that I should have checked that before opening the trap - and drank it down as the now-leaderless skeletons, ignoring what just happened seconds ago, formed up into a nice little group to attack me.
There was no time to fumble in my pack for a potion, the survivors were already on top of me. I fought them off with my staff in an inefficient, but effective manner.
I sensed magic in the leggings. Only then was I reminded that I had been wearing buckled leg armor for quite a while. I'd actually gotten used to the chafing and the armor digging into my leg.
My stomach growled. I returned to Aleroth for a quick meal and paid Joram to identify the leggings.
They were nothing special, but they were intact, which was all that mattered.
Suitably refreshed, I opened a second tomb.
This time among the dozen lesser skeletons was a towering skeleton with a horned helmet, a bow and flaming arrows.
This lord of skeletons stood still to draw the arrow back and aim, which was its mistake.
After the carnage was over, I discovered a magical staff. It had an enchantment to help me channel my magic better, not by much, but I needed any advantage I could find, no matter how tiny. I made a note to return Joram's old staff next time I was aboveground.
I went to the third tomb, preparing myself, I pushed the lid open.
This time I was standing in the wrong spot and took a heavy blow to my shoulder from a guardian. I knew I couldn't get away in time, so I dropped the blast right on top of it - and me.
I was getting to be an expert at slaying skeletons, well, at least the small ones.
The guardian had dropped his magical axe. That would probably be worth quite a few potions in trade. I winced as Restoration closed up the wound on my back, reknitting the nerve endings back together.
I went to the last tomb.
Without even turning around I could tell by the sudden stench that a ghoul had materialized behind me.
It was tougher than the other one I'd slain, blasting it cost me nearly all my remaining energy. I was getting a headache, to match my backache, legache, footache and everythingelseache.
The skeletons were closing in; I just needed a few seconds of breathing room.
I used my last energy to summon a rat. The incessant squeaking annoyed the skeletons, a few of them started chasing the rat. It didn't last long, but long enough for me to find a potion.
Finally all was still.
I sure hope this wasn't all for nothing.
I returned to the center, and pushed open one of the tombs. It slid smoothly. A familiar putrid stench wafted up. Ghouls.
Swallowing my trepidation, I went down the stairway.
Next Time: Crypt of the Scorpion
Behind the Scenes:
The Four Tombs is a geographically simple level. Here's the map:
Skeleton Conjurers, Ghouls and Spiders start appearing as regular enemies now. The Conjurers aren't as tough as the one on the second level of the catacombs was, but the Spiders are level 5 and are sometimes much harder than the skeletons. And these are the little spiders. They get much bigger and nastier from here.
My first pass of the ambush flashback had the orcs cutting down the experienced mercenaries pretty easily, and it was Jeremiah's magic that nearly saved the day. That was far too Mary Sue-ish and competent of him, so I re-wrote it to make the mercenaries more competent and Jeremiah's attempts to help being much less helpful.
What's fake in this update?
- The ladder orc doesn't shoot at you, he shoots at Smiruk, because Smiruk tests the blade by trying to kill the ladder orc. I decided to make up a reason why, and a reason why Smiruk would be helpful.