Part 3: Swamps AplentyDear Diary,
Having made some progress toward making Lars into a useful member of our team, we set out for the passage to Moonbrooke. Across the water I could see not one, but two possible places where the tunnel might exit.
Although a fairly impressive work of engineering, the tunnel was crudely finished in comparison to the caverns we had explored more recently. I can only conclude that it was hastily constructed and never improved, as the labor and materials necessary for such a project would be prohibitive. The tunnel split, and out of curiosity we took the narrow side path rather than the main road.
I was frankly astonished to find that the passage led to a stairwell upwards, rising to the cave exit we had seen earlier. It is apparent that my ancestors did not become saner over time, as the idea of digging a tunnel under the sea and attempting to come up on an island is crazy by any stretch of the imagination. Any error would have flooded the tunnel and probably killed anyone working... and further, there wasn't even anything on the island!
After that detour we traveled along the main road, exiting the cave and heading southward. Low hills rose into sharp mountains, and the entirety of the land was split by rivers with many bridges crossing them. Could there be a hereditary bridge-building mania in our family? I certainly feel no such urges, but Lars appears to be fascinated by the constructions.
Nestled in the forest and located near the river, sea, and mountains we came to the small town of Hamlin. Although a welcome respite, its appearance meant that we were still a fair distance from Moonbrooke.
The people within were a superstitious lot, obsessed with signs and portents.
Rumors of exotic treasures floated in the marketplace, but most peculiarly nobody mentioned the destruction of Moonbrooke. Perhaps the townspeople were too terrified, but I suspect that many of them felt as though their lives hadn't been impacted in the least. I'd like to see how they feel if Hargon decides their town is next!
A friendly local dog took to following us around, and I was struck by her good temperament and fine appearance. If possible I may see about having her crated and sent to Midenhall so that she can be bred with some of our hunting dogs.
I find people who won't tell you secrets infuriating. One of the townspeople suggested that there was something amiss in town, but refused to clarify it further. I was tempted to throw the wretch in the pond, but without the option of staying with my uncle at Moonbrooke deemed it wiser to keep on the good side of the townsmen.
Hiding away in a corner of the village we found one of the guards from Moonbrooke castle. Given the horrors described by the guardsman who came to Midenhall I had certainly not expected to find anyone alive. His desire to find other survivors did him credit, but I had to wonder why a gravely wounded man had to deliver a message when this able-bodied fellow had also surived.
Whatever weaknesses my uncle's forces had possessed, the shops in Hamlin were stocked with fine quality weapons and armor that made me intensely regret our lack of funds. With Lars in tow I set out to the wilderness to remedy this situation.
I should mention that while traveling southward from the tunnel the creatures we had encountered in the wilderness had been remarkable only in their numbers as we had seen all of them before. Packs of cobras traveled the wilderness, with giant insects around every corner. One would think that such a countryside would breed rugged inhabitants, but that was sadly not the case.
The living dead also roamed the countryside, although they were a far cry from the campfire tales of old. Contrary to popular belief the common zombie is actually a relatively intelligent foe, being capable of taking a defensive stance to protect itself and utilize magic to confuse the minds of those trying to strike at it. Although they sometimes simply stare off into space, zombies are capable of fierce blows and their undead nature makes them capable of absorbing a great deal of punishment. They are slow, however, and again contrary to many stories it is not necessary to destroy the brain to destroy the zombie. Any sufficiently grievous combination of wounds will do the trick.
60 hp, 31 attack, 7 defense, and 12 agility. 25 gold and 40 experience
Lars, perhaps cluing in on my distrust for his choice of magic over the profession of arms, has developed a truly useful spell that prevents its targets from utilizing their own magic. I grudgingly approved of the ability, as it took the fangs from the various magic using creatures we encountered.
At last, having earned a few hundred more coins, I was able to purchase a new set of full plate armor at the store. Lars naturally took my old chain mail, and I sold the leather armor he'd brought with him and pocketed the proceeds. It would be some time before I could afford a new sword or shield, but with new armor I felt it was time to seek out Moonbrooke.
The trip was not uneventful. Vicious lizard flies, scaly creatures with frog-like feet, four wings, and tails accosted us. Although relatively weak in body, they were quick and could utilize a fireball spell similar to the one that Lars knew. Lars had no answer as to how he was no more magically capable than a lizard, but his Stopspell could affect their magic and force them to rely on physical attacks.
15 hp, 20 attack, 10 defense, 16 agility. 12 gold and 27 experience
We also encountered a new variant on the standard drakee on our trip, which were somewhat tougher than their dark blue cousins and could utilize magic to increase our vulnerability and temporarily weaken our armor. These Magidrakees were hardly more than an annoyance, especially compared with many of the surrounding creatures.
12 hp, 14 attack, 10 defense, and 14 agility. 10 gold and 12 experience
Nearer to Moonbrooke we encountered another zombie, this time accompanied by some kind of floating jellyfish that resembled slimes except for the long tendrils that dangled beneath them. Loathsome in appearance these slime-jellyfish hybrids preferred to not attack, instead utilizing healing magic in support of the zombie. So effective were these Healers that Lars and I could not take the zombie down without first killing them off. Luckily they were weak and easily dispatched, but we once again have encountered a creature that can essentially duplicate one of Lars abilities. Perhaps, in time, the Healer can be domesticated and be of service to humanity.
25 HP, 15 attack, 10 defense, and 20 agility. 5 experience and 15 gold.
At last, tired and weakened by the constant barrage of new wildlife, we looked upon Moonbrooke castle. I have to say that from the outside it looked relatively unchanged, as though it hadn't been recently razed by Hargon's forces.
The inside, however, was a different story. The walls were in ruins, with gaping holes in the masonry scattered throughout. The poisonous swamp surrounding Moonbrooke had begun to seep in, filling portions of the corridors and presenting a real hazard as we explored.
Some of the superstitious behavior of the residents of Hamlin made a great deal of sense when we encountered the ghost of our uncle in his throne room. As he told his story, I began to have a horrifying suspicion regarding the friendly dog in Hamlin. While I've maintained that my cousin is a bitch ever since that incident at my 8th birthday party, I never expected it to be the literal truth. Just as well that I didn't have her crated up and sent to the kennels.
The castle had been thoroughly ransacked. Although we searched for anything that could be of use or any clue regarding Hargon's whereabouts, nothing was forthcoming.
The castle was also haunted by malevolent Smoke, perhaps given life in the catastrophe from the ghosts of those who were slain by Hargon's forces. We would later encounter these haunts roaming the countryside, and made every effort to put them to rest whenever possible. They possessed the ability to seal away Lars magic, but I found that even though mostly composed of gasses their bodies were vulnerable to the touch of cold steel.
15 hp, 14 attack, 40 defense, 15 agility. 40 gold and 16 experience.
We had nearly despaired of finding any information when a gap in one of the outer walls led us around to the ruins of the Royal Garden. The black muck we trudged through sapped our vitality, but I was sure that the trip would be worthwhile.
In the basement beneath the garden another guard huddled, having not even had the courage to leave this place. His information, combined with the words of another ghost, pointed the way to see our cousin restored to humanity. I don't think much of the man hiding in the basement, as at least the ghost has an excuse for not being terribly useful. In my next letter home I shall suggest that father post-humously promote the messenger who came to us so that he might outrank these cowards among his compatriots.
Having exhausted all avenues in Moonbrooke, we returned to Hamlin.. that is to say, I returned to Hamlin while Lars passed away and I was forced to drag his corpse behind me. Unfortunately we had run short of medical herbs by that point, and Lars magic was no longer able to assist us. It was a hard decision, and expensive, but I knew that if I took the last medical herb I could see us safely returned to Hamlin while Lars would likely have simply died on the way.
During the return trip I encountered and slew a wild baboon, a creature which possessed incredible strength and endurance for something so far below civilized man. I should not like to encounter them in groups, and I am suspicious of their motivations. I'm convinced that they are capable of speech, but refuse to speak for fear of being put to work. Considering the fierce creatures we have encountered thus far, I wonder at the fact that Hamlin has not been overrun by wild beasts.
40 HP, 48! attack, 12 defense and 20 agility. 45 gold and 20 experience
Indeed, once Lars had been restored and we had ventured off in search of the Mirror of Ra, we actually came upon a band of baboons. Certain that they would likely tear Lars limb from limb and make a crude cup from his skull, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor in this instance and avoided them.
The directions of the guard's spirit were accurate enough to guide us to the Mirror itself, although I am quite glad that the swamp was no larger. Searching in a much larger swamp would have been an incredible trial.
The magic of the mirror was apparent when it reflected not a dog but our cousin, and then shattered as she returned to her original shape.
Peta was certainly extravagant in her thanks, although her help was welcome. My only worry was that she might have somehow forgotten in her time as a canine that we are 4th or 5th cousins.
Although weakened from her ordeal, Peta possessed good agility and great magical reserves. The only magic she could recall was healing, but her healing magic was far more potent than Lars.
3rd party member, once more at level 1 and now gaining levels noticeably slower than the rest. It takes 100 experience points to get her to level 2... but you can get that from a good battle out here.
With no leads to follow regarding Hargon, I decided that we should seek out the Cloak of Wind that one of the townspeople had mentioned. Before that, however, it was time to earn enough money for some new equipment and to give Peta a chance to toughen herself for the journey. Initially progress was rocky.
With a bit of care, however, she did quite well and we were able to earn enough money to buy a broadsword for myself. As has become standard practice, Lars took the chain sickle I was now finished with while my old copper sword was sold.
Peta's magical abilities developed quickly, and she soon had spells to put entire groups of enemies to sleep that they might be more easily slaughtered or to cut out the middle man and simply destroy them three or four at a time with magic. Lars was officially demoted to third in command.
My only wish is that she were a bit tougher, but I think that will come in time.
At last, we earned enough gold to afford a final upgrade before venturing in search of the Cloak of Wind. I considered saving up enough to get such a shield for Lars, but his noodly arms wouldn't have been able to bear the strain.
End of Update Summary
Level 12, Broadsword, Full Plate, and Steel Shield
Level 11, Chain Sickle, Chain Mail, and Leather Shield. Return is just as it was in DW1, except that now it takes you back to the last place you saved.
Level 6, Bamboo Pole and Clothes. Surround, which I didn't mention, increases the chance that enemies will miss when attacking. I don't use it much, but it's occasionally useful.