Part 10: The Daily CommuteDear Diary,
The only path left open for us was behind the House of Healing in Beran. The magical barriers in place would have torn us to shreds without stepguard, a clear indication that something of import lay beyond the travel gate.
Any doubts about our course were dispelled by a helpful old hermit who for some reason had chosen to make his home on the other side of the travel gate. I question how he came to this place, but I suppose that as frail as old people can be the effort of crossing the barriers would probably kill him even if he wanted to leave.
A foul atmosphere surrounded the western half of the valley. From the legends we had heard I wasn't sure quite what to expect, but I certainly hadn't believed that raising the Eye of Malroth high in this place would cause a mountain to split apart. Mighty sorcery had gone into the hiding of this road, that the coward Hargon might escape punishment.
The inside of the cavern showed clear evidence of deliberate and careful design to maximize confusion. The most helpful principle to keep in mind was that Rhone lies on an elevated plateau. As a result, going ever upward should lead us there.
Going downward, however, led to a valuable treasure in the Life Crest. Within the first basement level, in fact, although retrieving it was far from simple. Numerous Horks inhabited the gigantic room it was hidden in, and attacks came from the darkness every few moments.
Seriously, nothing but Horks down in this room attacking 3-4 at a time every few steps. It'll be very useful later..
Horks weren't the only creatures to be found in the depths of the passageway, of course. In a maze of passageways two floors above the Life Crest we encountered Dark Eyes, close relatives of the Evil Eyes that had guarded the Eye of Malroth. Despite their fragility their magical powers to cloud our senses, send us to sleep, and steal magical energy made them among the most dangerous monsters we had yet faced, especially in large numbers. After our struggle against the Horks defeating these five left us so exhausted that we had to return to Beran to rest.
67 hp, 74 attack, 22 defense and 55 agility. 81 gold and 93 experience.
As a break, we traveled up the coast to the Dragon's Horn for a side project I'd had in mind for some time now. As I'd suspected, more of the Dew's Yarn had collected in the northern tower. A quick trip to Zahan found us another magical loom. Afterward, we made another expedition into the passageway to Rhone.
The passageways required careful exploration, since it was quite possible that other treasures from ages past lay hidden within them, but the effort was hampered by the fearsome inhabitants. Degenerate humans with their faces painted black to better hide in the darkness threw themselves at us in frothing rages, while Orcs bigger and more fierce than any we had ever seen attacked with a more measured and strategic approach. As fierce as the berserkers could be, the fact that we several times observed an Orc King casting Healmore on another creature made them the higher priority target.
Orc King: 110 HP, 99 attack, 35 defense and 60 agility. 135 gold and 154 experience.
Berserker: 88 HP, 119 attack!, 23 defense and 65 agility. 123 gold and 117 experience.
My belief about the danger posed by the Dark Eyes was justified when another ambush of five killed both Lars and Peta. I barely survived the battle, only to collapse just as I reached Beren due to the magical barriers. Luckily some kind soul pulled us out, but it was an expensive encounter.
Undeterred, we returned for another trip into the passageway. I'm quite proud of the fact that I finally managed to kill a Metal Slime. Several, in fact, something I'm quite sure few living men can brag of.
At this point, Caim can actually one-shot a Metal Slime with a normal attack. I don't think that happens before or since in the Dragon Warrior series, but if they stick around they're toast. Unfortunately, by this point the reward they give is relatively trivial.
Greater dangers lay in store as we traveled further into the passage, including dragons and vampirii in great numbers. The dragons were particularly intriguing as our ancestor had made much of his fame fighting such beasts, and their fiery breath made for a challenging fight. One wonders, however, where the blue and red dragons that he faced have gone to. Could they have been hunted to extinction, or simply retreated from the world of men? The Magic Vampirii, likewise fire breathers, were a great threat with their magical ability to send us to sleep or strip away our defenses, but the fact that a good stout blow could send one crashing to the ground made them a non-issue.
Green Dragon: 95 hp, 130! attack, 56 defense and 69 agility. 147 gold and 350 experience.
Magic Vampirus: 65 hp, 77 attack, 21 defense and 79 agility. 103 gold and 182 experience.
The treasures guarded by such fierce monsters should have been great and valuable, but were in fact trapped disturbingly often. Exhausted, we once more retreated from the cave and made a side trip.
The Water Flying Cloth, which we had commissioned so long ago, was finally ready. Peta took possession of it immediately, proclaiming that it was exactly what her wardrobe needed. With the ingredients for another in hand, we straight-away set Don Mahone to weaving another. I can only hope that recent practice speeds his hands.
Our repeated trips along the road to Rhone had not gone unnoticed, and on the way through the valley we were set upon by sorcerers, presumably sent by Hargon. I can only say that he should have sent better agents, as they didn't even compare to the Evil Clowns we had previously destroyed despite being much the same in terms of magical ability.
55 hp, 61 attack, 28 defense and 43 agility. 40 gold and 72 experience.
More disturbing was evidence that Hargon was experimenting with mechanical creatures to mimic life in a bizarre blasphemy against the order of nature. We first encountered one along with two saber lions, which I can only imagine were fleeing in terror and attacked us in rage and confusion. The metal hunter was swift and deadly, but was far more defensively oriented than offensively. With some luck we were able to dismantle the creature before it could pose too much of a threat. The lions, regretfully, had to be put down as well.
70 hp, 55 attack, 80 defense and 61 agility. 150 gold and 82 experience. May attack twice.
The road to Rhone was filled with twists and dead end passages, but to my great rejoicing one of the side passages held another precious relic of our ancestor, which I was able to identify due to the distinctive crest emblazoned on it. Its quality remained unaffected by time, and I donned it happily.
Best armor in the game for Caim, with the added bonus of providing additional protection from fire and preventing damage from barriers and swamps.
Unfortunately, we also encountered a more advanced version of the metal hunter nearby, with stronger limbs and an even tougher metal skin. My sword could barely penetrate to its inner workings, and Lars and Peta were helpless without their magic. Regretfully, we had to escape from the creature and leave it to fight another day.
120 hp, 115 attack, 230! defense, and 90 agility. 120 gold and 723 experience. May attack twice.
Our escape was aided through a pit in the floor that we fell through quite by accident, although it didn't land us in a safer situation by any means. The berserkers of the cavern were also accompanied by undead soldiers bearing the device of Hargon and creature of living flame. Hargon's Knights were fierce foes, with powerful sword arms augmented by the ability to cast healing spells and repair each other. They were by far the greater threat, although the living Flame possessed an unfortunate tendency to spread their flames throughout an area. Like many such creatures of magic, however, they were quite vulnerable to cold steel.
Hargon's Knight: 80 hp, 125 attack, 36 defense and 71 agility. 135 gold and 201 experience. May attack twice.
Flame: 55 hp, 99 attack, 32 defense and 78 agility. 101 gold and 245 experience.
In our weakened condition we were no match for such foes, and had to continue in our attempt to escape. Down yet another pit we obtained some breathing room, and also discovered the Thunder Sword we had heard rumor of in Beren. It was a magnificent weapon that only I had the strength to wield, and I naturally took it upon myself to wield it. With this new weapon in hand, I finally felt that we could push through the road to Rhone itself, with some provisioning.
In particular, I had something in mind to help Lars out. On the way I was able to test the Sword of Thunder, finding that its power was quite gratifying to use. I can understand the allure of such powers, but still find it more satisfying to cut a foe down than anything else.
Basically, a duplicate of the Infernos spell as far as effect goes.
Using the proceeds from selling the last sword I had purchased and no longer needed, I was able to afford a new shield for Lars, something which was long since due. It's my hope that carrying an item called the Shield of Strength will encourage him, but that may be too much to ask of a shield.
Regardless of its inspirational qualities, however, the shield was a fine piece of protective equipment with the additional useful property of being able to heal the wearer. Hopefully it shall keep Lars alive more often so that we don't end up dragging him out of caverns as often as we do now.
Returning to the Road we pushed on further, using the knowledge of our previous forays to avoid dead ends. The later stages of the road were narrow and twisting, with dead ends and sharp curves to limit visibility. It was an atmosphere ripe for ambushes, but we pushed through regardless.
Eventually we came upon a stairway distinguished by the cold air blowing down its steps. The exit was in sight, although Lars collapsed from serious wounds only a few moments before we left. I was reluctant to use our Leaf of the World Tree on him given the unknown dangers we would be facing in Rhone, but we would be safer with three people than two. All three of us emerged on to the wind swept plateau of Rhone, to see a bleached landscape transformed by snow and powdery white sand.
A welcoming committee, composed of one-eyed giants whose loincloths were unfortunately not terribly concealing from the height of a human, arrived while we took in the scenery. Although civilized enough to attempt to wear clothing, they preferred pounding upon their opponents with their bare fists. Lacking in brains, they more than made up with this deficiency through prodigious strength and hardiness. Peta did not survive the welcome.
115 hp, 121 attack, 32 defense and 63 agility. 99 gold and 327 experience.
Having just used our Leaf of the World Tree we were forced to stumble onward in search of some kind of shelter or aid, without knowledge of what we might find in this strange land. Luckily a monolith beckoned in the distance, although we barely made it to that refuge. Human faces were a welcome sight indeed, along with the symbol of the House of Healing. We rested and were restored, but as we sat there I was puzzled. The echoing flute didn't respond, and I'm quite sure this is the last stop before Hargon's stronghold... yet we only have 4 crests. Could we have missed on...
On an island...
In a tower...
In a chamber remote...
End of Update Summary
Level 23. Thunder Sword, Edrick's Armor, Shield, and Helmet.
Level 21. Iron spear, Magic Armor, Shield of Strength.
Level 17. Thunder Staff, Water Flying Cloth.