Part 15: The Dark Hall
Chapter 11 - The Dark Hall
Music - "Halls Beneath the Ground"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
The magic was much stronger down here. I could taste it in the back of my mouth - which is even more unusual than it sounds, it is rare to find places where magic is thick enough to taste, and none of them are natural. The taste continually shifted. First it tasted thick and blue, and then it tasted of wildflowers and rain, then of dry sand. I fought the instinct to spit out the sand which wasn't really there, and tried to ignore the odd sensation.
There's great power here of some kind.
This room was certainly wide, and very, very quiet. Even though my eyes had adjusted to the gloom, I couldn't see the walls on either side. There was so much magic around it was hard to be certain, but the strongest concentration seemed to be coming from the southwest, south, and southeast. There was a door directly south of the stairs from the previous floor.
To my left was a macabre sculpture made out of human skulls and spinal columns.
Some kind of altar? A warning? No, not a warning. No one nice makes a warning out of remains.
I was reluctant to enter the obvious door. The strength of the magic I felt weakened my earlier resolve. Honestly, I was scared to face a necromancer of such power. The vile man had powers over the very dead themselves, all I had were a handful of spells. Delaying the inevitable, I picked a direction and strode into the darkness.
The eerie quiet was broken by a gang of skeletons. A conjurer busied itself summoning more skeletons. Annoying, but the struggles through the dungeon had helped me remember how to channel my magic better - an extra fireball or two mattered much less than before.
Four fire braziers surrounded a pattern of floor tiles.
At this point, the room went south; it wasn't a room, but a very wide hall. In the center of the pattern of floor tiles was a familiar floor tile inscribed with a familiar 8-pointed star. This was an indication of a hidden ladder. I removed the tile and climbed down.
The chamber was small, but there was something HUGE in it, dimly illuminated by the dim blue mineral glow. It looked like a gigantic Conjurer, only its bones were blood-red.
Yeaaaagh! Uh, I mean, hi! What's happening down here? I bet you've got some interesting stories, right?
The huge skeleton showed no indication of friendliness. It began casting a spell.
Gotta think fast!
HAVE YOU EVER PONDERED THE NATURE OF YOUR OWN EXISTENCE?! IT'S REALLY QUITE UNLIKELY! YOU HAVE NO FLESH HOLDING YOUR BONES TOGETHER! YOU REALLY SHOULD BE FALLING APART! THINK ABOUT IT!
The skeleton didn't seem to be inclined to deep existential thoughts.
*sigh* I figured as much, I guess I'll have to do this the hard way.
The giant Conjurer summoned a skeletal archer, but I ignored it. If this worked, the archer wouldn't be a factor. I cast Limbs of Lead on the Conjurer Lord...
...then quickly followed up with several volleys of Elemental Hail. I let out breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I was lucky that time. It could have gone a lot worse.
There were no doors from the room save the ladder up, but the corner held a variety of small potions.
I wonder what this green potion is? I'd better not drink it until I know for sure.
"About the Game" posted:
This is one of the boss pits on this level. They always contains a specific miniboss and some fixed loot.
Skeleton Conjurer Lords are nasty foes because they can summon Skeleton Conjurers, who can in turn summon more Skeletons. If they're not disposed of fast, things can get out of hand. Luckily, this one summoned an archer first, and I didn't give it enough time for a second attempt.
The green bottle is poison. no, you can't try to drink it.
I headed south down the wide hall. The magic seemed to be coming from inner wall, no longer just. The only decoration was a small square platform with statues on it. The small nod to decoration only emphasized how... empty this floor was of debris and signs of habitation, even ancient habitation.
There were plenty of skeletons, but that also meant there was plenty of room to move away from them.
I'd lost count of how many skeletons I had reduced to inanimate bone fragments, but not even the once-formidable conjurers were much threat any longer with all the experience I'd gained fighting in the past couple of days.
An alcove off to the side contained a sturdy-looking metal chest, not tarnished at all by the neglect of years. It contained a small sack of gold coins inside and was otherwise uninteresting.
I reached another turning in the hall at a pattern of floor tiles. The hall went westward. I still hadn't seen any doors leading away from the center of the area. The dark energy was definitely centered from the inner wall of the hallway.
I decided to see what lay in the room beneath my feet.
It was my old axe-wielding friend from way back.
I remember you when you used to be scary.
One quick barrage of Elemental Hail took it down.
I finally caught a break. By two tombs set into the wall I found some leather armor in excellent condition, with its most important quality being that it was light enough run in. I gratefully put it on over my robe.
As I turned to leave, I saw something shiny in the dim light, by a spider web.
There was a dragon amulet next to a skull, set with an emerald, large ruby and sapphire, and it was definitely magical.
This amulet was imbued with powerful and complex magic. I probed it with my mind, trying to understand it, when one of the interwoven patterns became clear, a pattern I recognized. It was a more powerful variation of the Limbs of Lead spell.
"About the Game" posted:
The Amulet of Glory is one of several unique amulets in the game. I reloaded many times and these modifiers are what I eventually decided on. I could have picked something better, I forgot to use the Freeze Spell at all, and the Feign Death is only useful for faking images, and I could have just put a spare point into that later.
The extra point into Limbs of Lead was useful for a while until I found enough spellbooks to max it out. I'm almost at the end of Act 2 and I still haven't found a good amulet to replace this, although I'm coming up on a unique one soon.
There is always a set of light leather armor down here, the condition just varies (it can also probably be magical).
Leaving the second sunken chamber behind, I spotted something glittering in a huge cobweb.
It seems that the oversized spiders of the catacombs also had a compulsive habit to collect shiny objects, heaven knows why. I snatched a ruby, a few gold coins and a set of lockpicks from the dusty webs, wiping the webs off onto my new armor.
I suspected that this hallway was symmetrical and looped back to the stairs. Further along I found another alcove with more chests. There was a wrinkle, these ones were both locked. I wasn't inclined to search the giant area for tiny, easily lost keys.
Well, I've got the tools here, time to see if I really do remember how to do this...
22 Febirium 1217
The gang gathered around the door. I fidgeted nervously, looking around. I didn't want to be here, but I didn't really have anywhere else to go.
Handy peered at the lock, "You sure this is the right place, Simmons? I could pick this in my sleep," he said quietly.
He reached for his picks.
"Hold there, Handy. Let Edwin give it a try," said Simmons. All the eyes turned to me.
"Huh? M-me?" I stammered.
"You've been practicin' with the picks, 'aven't ya?" Edwin asked.
"Well, yes, but -" I started, but Simmons thrust Handy's picks into my hand.
"Then have at 'er, lad."
I nervously fumbled the picks as I crouched in the dark by the door. We didn't dare light a torch and risk being spotted.
"Hurry up Edwin, we don't want the guards to catch us, now do we?" someone said.
I thrust a pick into the lock. It was the wrong one. It didn't help that my hand jiggled uneasily.
"This is a mistake," muttered Old Bill. Simmons silenced him with a glare. Everyone was watching me intently. I took a deep breath, and then let it out again. I inserted another pick. A few careful movements and the locked clicked
I turned the knob and the door swung open. I handed the picks back to Handy, who swiped them from my hand with a glare. Simmons went inside the warehouse first. I made to follow, but Big Bruno grabbed my arm hard.
Bruno practically growled at me, "You may have saved the boss's life, but don't think you can just wander in and take over, freshmeat."
He let me go.
"I got it," I muttered, resisting the urge to rub my arm. I headed inside, well aware of the hostile glares which followed.
Who was I? Who am I? How'd I get from student adept to thief? What don't I remember?
The silence provided no answers. My fingers had remembered how to pick a lock as if they'd been doing it all my life.
The latch clicked and I opened the lid. Inside was some light quilted armor, and I sensed some magic in it.
Excellent! Better than the plain armor.
The lock on the second chest yielded as easily as the first one. It contained a pair of magical weapons. I had no use for them, but I'm sure George would be thrilled to take them off my hands to expand his selection.
"About the Game" posted:
Aside from Aleroth, these are the first locked chests in the game. Before there were just locked vases, and you could bypass that by smashing them. These are also some of the only locked chests that require only Rank 1 in Lockpick to open. Most others require Rank 2 or higher.
The Storm Scythe is a Staff-class weapon, but I won't be using it for reasons I explain later this update.
Several skeletons later, I came to the third corner. The hallway headed north, and I headed down the ladder.
The biggest spider I'd ever seen came crawling from a corner. I could tell it was nasty. I had a feeling that hitting it with my staff would have about as much effect as insulting its mother.
Then the vile creature spat at me. The burning venom covered my face, stinging my eyes. It clung to my face, choking off my nose and mouth. I backed away, desperately clawing at the sticky mess. I started to panic as I used up the air in my lungs.
Finally, with my vision dimming, I managed to tear enough away from my mouth to get some air, and most importantly, cast a spell.
The thing seemed to shriek as the magical hail pounded it, shriveling it up. I collapsed onto the floor, and gasped for air. I wiped off the remnants of the spider's sticky venom.
That little bit of treasure was not worth it!
"About the Game" posted:
The Giant Spider is level 19, and is by far the most lethal thing in the Aleroth catacombs, because it does up to 50 damage. Notice how much my health dropped between shots. The spider also gives the most experience of any single monster before "Act 2". If it wasn't for my abuse of Elemental Hail spellbooks, I could not have reasonably defeated it before dying.
All the exercise from beating skeletons with my staff was starting to pay off. I was feeling some of my old strength again.
In an alcove strewn with piles of bones, I found more chests, which yielded up a few potions and some gold. I was more grateful for the potions.
I came to a fourth corner in the room, identical to the other three, except for a book on a small pedestal.
It provided just as many questions as it did answers.
Hmmm... This magical device must be the source of the energy. It's been storing up magic for nearly 11 years. The book says it needed at least 10 years... Maybe the device is ready by now, but if it is, why is there still energy stored up? ... Maybe it isn't ready? Is the spirit of Thelyron Hashnitor trying to take control of Mardaneus? That may not be much improvement on Joram's worst fear. Hashnitor may not be a demon, but he seems just as nasty.
I looked at the removable floor tile and sighed.
Alright, one more, then there's nothing left but to fight Hashnitor or whatever it is, I guess.
I descended the ladder and was nearly knocked off by a flaming arrow.
Oh, one of you. Not a problem.
The only thing of interest in the small room was a pile of bones and armor. I kicked at the pile and there was a wooden *thunk*. I peered closer and retrieved a sturdy magical club.
About the Game posted:
If I had been thinking clearly at the time, I would have done my save & reload tango to get some good stats on the bat. It doesn't matter too much, since I got the most important one - 5 Charm slots. In the late game, an item with 5 Charm slots can make up for lack of good stats (and in the case of a mage, it can also make up for a lack of damage).
I decided at the start that I wanted to use a quarterstaff (two-handed). I forgot that I also wanted to use a shield later on. My second mistake with using a quarterstaff is that the base damage is really terrible, especially combined with the terrible strength of a Wizard, and better staffs require you to pump more points into Agility than I wanted to.
Once I realized this, I had taken screenshots up to a point where it was a bad place to arbitrarily switch, so it'll be several more updates until I switch weapons.
I had come full circle back to the entrance. There were no other doors, and I was in as good shape as prepared as I was going to be.
This is it. I'm scared, but I've -
22 Declianum 1216
"-made up my mind. There's no turning back now," I thought, looking at the book in my hand. There was a familiar tapping knock on my door. I barely managed to hide the book under a pile of old papers before the door opened and Tom and Eloric came in.
"Hello, fellow graduate!" Tom said enthusiastically, tossing an apple up and down.
"Um... hi!" I said, "I'll hang out with you guys a bit later. I've got some packing to do."
"Oh, no, packing can wait. Now it's time to celebrate!" said Tom. "Here!" he said, tossing the apple at me. I reached out my hand, but the apple bounced my outstretched fingers and landed on my desk.
The papers scattered, revealing the book I'd tried to conceal. Tom and Eloric saw it and their faces turned grim.
"Jer, what is this - is that the book on demon summoning from the restricted section of the library?" Tom asked.
"It's nothing. Mind your own business," I said curtly.
Eloric asked, "Jeremiah, did you steal that?"
"I'm just borrowing it. No one knows it's missing yet, in all the busy-ness of the end of the year. It's none of your concern. I was just curious, I'll put it back," I lied.
They wouldn't let it go.
"Are you going to summon a demon?" Eloric asked?
"Jer, that's crazy!" Tom exclaimed, picking up the book. He waved it at me accusingly. "Students aren't allowed even allowed to read this, let alone perform any of the rituals in it!"
I snatched the book from Tom's hand. "I know what I'm doing. Besides, we're not exactly novice students, we already graduated, remember? And with high marks, I might add."
Eloric had a way of finding the heart of the matter. "This is about what happened with the orcs, isn't it," he said. It was a statement, not a question. I flinched, he'd hit the mark.
Tom saw it too. He said, "Jeremiah, it wasn't your fault what happened."
"You were only a second-year adept," Eloric said. "No one expected you to handle that many orcs on your own."
"Jenna did! She still blames me," I said sharply.
"Do you?" Tom asked.
"No, at least, not completely," I said. "I know that probably couldn't have killed them all. I knew that then."
I slumped down in my seat, tired.
"Your sister wasn't there. It's wrong of her to blame you," Eloric said.
I ran my fingers through my hair. "But that's the thing - she's not wrong. I didn't even try. I might have scared them off. I could have changed things, I'll never know. What happened wasn't all my fault, but I can't pretend that I don't bear any blame for my own decisions."
"Look, Jer-" Tom started.
I continued, interrupting what he was about to say. "It's been two years, and Jenna has barely spoken two words to me. And father, he just hasn't been the same since. He barely eats and rarely sees visitors. It's almost like he died too."
"Yeah?" Tom asked, "And do you think this... this demon-summoning... madness will help?"
I stayed silent for a moment.
"No. I'm doing this so that next time I'm in that kind of situation, I will have enough power to make sure no one else dies. I don't want to be a coward who runs from the hard decisions."
Eloric tried to be the voice of reason. "Jer, if the university council finds out, expulsion is the least they'll do to you. You've got to put that back and forget about all this."
I nodded. "Maybe you're right. I'll put the book back and give up this nonsense," I lied.
I got up and headed for the door. I didn't need the book anymore anyway, I'd already copied out the instructions.
I survived that demon... well, if I went through with it, I obviously survived. I can survive this, too. I don't think it will be easy, but I didn't come this far to back down now.
I mentally prepared myself for a nasty fight, and headed through the door to face the powerful necromancer.
What I got instead was a skeleton. I raised my staff to attack, but the skeleton paid me no heed even though it was looking at me with those glowing red coals which passed for eyes. It seemed to be preoccupied in thought.
"Uh... hello?" I said cautiously.
The Skeleton snapped out of its ponderings.
"Leave me alone. I'm very busy, as you should be able to see," it said irritably.
This was not at all what I was expecting.
Next Time: Thelyron Hashnitor MUST DIE... again
Behind the Scenes
Map of the level:
There are no Ghouls on this level. But there are a lot of Skeleton Conjurors. But they're pretty easy to dispatch because their HP is under 150.
As I mentioned, I'm not showing every time I rest, or every time I drink a potion. I'm also not showing every time I teleport back to Aleroth to have an item identified or repaired. All of that stuff happens a LOT, so I usually only mention the first couple of times that I do it. It's not important now that I have some money. So behind the scenes, I am resting, id'ing items, trading for potions/gold, and getting stuff repaired.
As is standard, time moves faster in the game world than the real world, so while this is only day three for Jeremiah the character, it's been several more in-game days (resting is cheaper than potions).
I have had to go back dozens and dozens of times to re-take screenshots to get better ones, so don't worry too much about the way my health, magic, stamina and experience bars fluctuate. I sometimes fix it up, but it happens so often, and it changes so much on its own in normal gameplay that it's not worth fixing every time.
The quilted armor and light leather armor look the same on your character, there are only like three or four different looks for armor on the third-person view of your character, and those are light, medium, and heavy.
The next update will be FUN.
The Amulet of Glory we got had two new skills.
- This is the only "cold" spell in the game. It's actually classified as "Spiritual Damage" though. Unfortunately, that reduces its utility. At Rank 1, IF the target's Spiritual Resistance is less than 10, it does 20 damage and freezes the target for 3 seconds for a magic cost of 4. The magic cost skyrockets, though. At Rank 5, IF the target's Spiritual Resistance is less than 30, it does 60 damage and freezes the target for 15 seconds for a magic cost of 25.
I don't use this skill much at all because it's simpler to just kill the small enemies, and most of the big enemies are immune anyway. The reason why it's got such strict requirements is because immobilizing enemies renders them into helpless, easy kills. that. Don't bother using this on ranged enemies or casters, they can still attack and cast spells - but on the bright side, if you get hit by this, you can do the same.
This skill can be found on weapons, and when it is, it's completely broken. It ignores the Spiritual Damage check, so it paralyzes everyone. Combine it with a Poisioned Weapon for even more game-breaking goodness.
- It makes enemies think you died, and they go back to their idle wandering. Whoopie. At Rank 1 it costs 6 magic to cast, and drains 80% of your current total magic. Each rank the drain goes down by 20%, and the magic cost rises by 3 until at Rank 5 it costs 18 mana, but no longer drains any magic. You should never have a need to use this skill.
On the other hand, finding this on an item is GREAT skill for my LP, because I can pretend to be dead or passed out at will anywhere with no photoshop required. I'll get a bunch of use from this.