Part 2: Yakety Sax Cousin-Chasing BluesDear Diary,
Early the next morning, after spending the night at another inn whose scurrilous owner dared to charge royalty to stay in an empty inn, I set off to the local shop in search of provisions. I anticipated that the trip to the Spring of Bravery would be toilsome, and the universal availability of antidotes suggested that there were venomous creatures about. The shopkeeper gave me a coupon for some kind of gambling operation, but gave no clue as to when or where the lottery would be held.
Immediately upon departing Cannock my suspicions regarding poisonous creatures were proven correct when I encountered a pair of babbles. Although their mouths appear to be fixed in a permanent smile they are malicious creatures, and their very touch is poisonous. The noxious fluids that make up their bodies can eat through armor with ease, making them a considerable threat in numbers. Further, the fluid makeup of their forms makes them damnably difficult to destroy.
13 HP, 16 attack and 13 defense, 8 experience and 4 gold
Following the directions of one of Lars guards, who must have felt his prince needed a minder, I headed eastward from Cannock. The terrain continues to be strange, with a large desert stretching between the ocean and an inland sea.
Unlike most creatures, babbles appear to have no set habitat. Crossing the desert I was set upon by another pair of babbles and a rodent of astounding size, which I presently assisted in transforming into a ghost mouse. The fact that so many creatures that would presumably be prey to babbles travel with them is a great curiosity. Another great curiosity is the fact that the wild mouse is actually less of a threat before death. Other than that, however, they are unremarkable and cowardly creatures.
10 hp, 5 gold and 5 experience
Near the mouth of the sea I was grateful once again for the bridge building initiative that my great grandfather and great grand uncles set out upon. While most of these bridges are miles and miles from any human civilization and were an incredible waste of tax moneys, they certainly are handy now.
Eventually I came to the Spring of Bravery, a clearly manmade cave with twisting passageways and a number of small alcoves carved in the wall. I'm not sure which, if any of my more insane relatives was responsible for its construction, but they certainly do add something to the landscape.
This one was also full of venomous snakes. Big Cobras are relentless hunters of vermin that occasionally determine that humans qualify as vermin. In addition to possessing fangs more than long enough to pass right through a human being, they also inject a potent venom that begins the digestive process before the prey is swallowed. Antidote herbs are advised.
14 HP, 9 gold and 9 experience
A masked man in overalls appeared to live in the cave, and had an unhealthy curiosity about the purity of my body. Such degenerates are best pushed to the fringes of society or institutionalized for their own good.
Whoever was responsible for the construction of this cave was also kind enough to stock it with chests full of medicinal herbs. I am beginning to suspect that the entirety of this cave is a place for men to test themselves in a struggle against the wild. If so, I might have to revise my appraisal of the insanity of whomever designed it.
The keeper of the cave claimed to have seen Lars moments ago, but it's possible that like many elderly people he simply lost track of time and Lars has in fact been gone for some time. There is only one path that leads to the spring, and I am quite certain I saw no one on that path or exiting the cave.
Visiting the spring results in a free HP refill, but doesn't refill MP.. not that we have any. That makes this an excellent place to grind if you're so inclined.
In order to be certain I traveled down another branch of the cave, following it to the end and discovering naught by a chest full of coins. I'm quite certain it was placed there intentionally. Could it be that the keeper of the spring, driven by some peculiar compulsion, refills the chests here on a regular basis?
Returning to Midenhall I traveled along the eastern seaboard, relishing the chance to see for myself untouched land that only a few hunters and other travelers dared to experience. These wonders should be preserved for future generations for they belong, not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people.
Refreshed from my journey through the wilderness, I was reminded once again of my father's dotage as he appears to have forgotten where he is. If Lars were on his way to Midenhall then he would already be here. With no fresh leads, I set my steps toward Leftwyne to purchase new equipment with the profits from my travels.
An error of some kind in the translation?
Upon arriving at the inn, however, I found that my search for my cousin was ended. It appears that the tendency of his subjects to tell everyone of his whereabouts is only matched by his own desire to trumpet his identity from the rooftops.
At the very least his intentions were good, and I could only hope that he would be a great help in defeating Hargon.
Unfortunately, a quick appraisal of Lars abilities proved that I was being optimistic.
Surprise! Here's your level 1 character. Have fun with that. On the plus side, since the experience charts are almost logarithmic, he'll soon be almost the same level we are.
There was clearly no other choice but to take Lars out into the wilderness and make a man out of him as quickly as possible. My funds were sufficient to buy a new chain sickle, while Lars could now make do with my old copper sword.
Training montage time. If it helps, you can play Eye of the Tiger or Be a Man
The nice thing is that experience per creature isn't divided between your characters but is simply a flat value given to each.
For its rejuvenating effects we traveled toward the Spring of Bravery, stopping briefly to speak with Lars sister and reassure her of his safety. I'm inclined to think that she wasn't particularly worried about him.
As weak as Lars was when it came to the use of arms, on occasion his magic was quite useful. In particular his abilities to cure poisoning, heal wounds, and set various creatures aflame with a gesture are much appreciated.
Two sets of hands made light work of numerous scourges on the countryside, although we certainly left enough to ensure that others who come after us will not be deprived of a fight. Lars had his own leather armor, so rather than passing mine to him I sold it and used the proceeds to purchase him a shield.
To the west of Leftwyne was one of the greater projects that our family had embarked upon, a tunnel beneath the ocean linking two continents.
The passage entry was sensibly guarded and locked away, although the old man who appeared to be in charge of the check point gave no explanation as to why he wished us not to speak about visiting the monolith south of Midenhall. His words, however, reminded me that further to the west there was a Silver key waiting to be found.
The journey was not without its perils, with the countryside to the west being far more wild and unsettled than any we had previously traveled through. Large rodents, occasionally haunted by what I can only presume to be their dead friends or siblings, assaulted us on a continual basis. In addition to being larger and greener than the wild mouse, rats can also be easily identified by their hairless tails. In all other respects they are simply a slightly more dangerous kind of vermin.
15 HP, 5 gold, 9 experience
Near the western end of the continent we came upon a likely cave, considering that the most likely place to find a hidden key would be in a cave that had obviously been improved by the hands of man and had not one but two bridges for access.
The interior of the cave showed similar construction to the cave at the Spring of Bravery, suggesting that the two were created at around the same time. Numerous small rooms branched off the main hall, many of which contained useful healing herbs.
The beasts within the cave were fascinating, including several species of large ant obviously related to the Iron Ant. These pink ants possessed a native magical talent in the use of deceptive spells, earning them the title of Magic Ants. They were altogether far more sturdy than the Iron Ants they resembled, but were still relatively fragile in the face of weaponry more advanced than a copper sword.
12 HP, 7 gold, and 18 experience
Not content with a simple maze, the designer had deigned to add a second floor located at the bottom of a broad set of stairs. The decision to build vertically limited their ability to expand, however, resulting in a simple hallway with a number of tiny rooms off to the sides.
Enormous insects roamed the complex, resembling centipedes although having a relatively small number of legs. Their shells were far too tough for common weapons, but displayed a gratifying weakness to Lars' magic. It is fortunate for the people of Midenhall and Cannock that they appear to prefer to live in caves, for they could present a formidable menace if they roamed freely on the surface. Like the cobras at the Spring of Bravery they possess a venomous bite, although not quite as potent.
21 HP, 25 attack, and 40! defense. 14 experience and 30 gold.
We encountered a second variety of ant, colored green and possessed of an even more elaborate social structure than the previous varieties. These ants appeared to act as a unified force, even going so far as to call for reinforcements when their numbers were thinned. As far as threats to humanity are concerned, the numbers and organization of these Army Ants make them a menace that should be destroyed at every opportunity.
12 hp, 19 attack and 13 defense. 2 gold and 4 experience
There were even human magicians living within the dank confines of the earth, drawn there in search of strange powers and weird ingredients for their spells. Even as we put them to the sword I hoped that Lars would take a lesson from their fall and avoid focusing on magic at the expense of sanity, although actually saying so would have been rude in the extreme.
15 hp, 5 mp, 17 attack and 11 defense. 10 experience and gold, and casts Firebal
Had the treasure here been likely to belong to any but the royal family I might have felt somewhat more guilty for taking it, but as matters stand I believe that in keeping the two of us alive and speeding our return once our quest was completed these treasures served a worthy purpose.
At last, near an underground spring, we discovered the Silver Key that I had heard tale of and made haste to return to civilization in order to seek out the mysteries that had eluded us without it.
Such mysteries were few in number. The first was an underground gambling operation located in Leftwyne, which I made note of so that I might use the lottery ticket that I had received earlier. Although hidden behind a locked door, this racket was obviously well known to the merchants of the two kingdoms.
Returning to Midenhall much of the castle remained locked behind another kind of door, but following a winding pathway and opening one of the three silver doors in the castle led to a hidden staircase.
Some things are perhaps best left secret. I'm unsure why there is a dungeon with a leather glad man wearing a horned mask and what appears to be some kind of clown within the castle walls, but such a thing can only have been done with my father's permission. I'm not sure what to think about that.
Rather more welcome was finding a young woman I hadn't met before locked away in her room, suggesting I should return when I felt the need.
A fat merchant in the room opposite shared a rumor of some kind of powerful talisman, but failed to explain what spell the Dragon's Bane provided protection from. Lars was baffled as well, but we shall certainly keep an eye out.
Before leaving Midenhall and Cannock behind and traveling to Moonbrooke, we took a moment to explore the old travel gate within the palace walls. The island it led to was tiny, but within view a town on a small island beckoned my sense of exploration. I have no idea what this town is called or where it is, but one day I shall travel there.