Part 11: To the GrindstoneDear Diary,
Upon returning to the mysterious tower we had previously discounted, further investigation uncovered a mysterious old man. Like his numerous counterparts scattered across the land he appeared friendly and helpful, promising to lead us to the Star Crest.
And truly, he meant to lead as rather than simply telling us to head down the hallway and take a left. At each stairway along the winding, circuitous route he paused and looked back at us, like an expectant puppy.
Since old people are intrinsically untrustworthy it was no surprise that the entire thing was an overly elaborate trap meant to draw us into an ambush.
Unfortunately for himself, however, the old man had drastically underestimated us when planning his trap. The results were rather messy.
Once the dust had settled we discovered the Crest of the Stars among the remains.
With all five crests in hand the next place to visit was the Shrine of Rubiss. Legend had described him as living in a cave in the sea, and only one place we had visited fit the description. Returning to the tiny shrine south of Midenhall resulted in quite a different experience. I have to wonder what assistance he had promised Erdrick and if it had ever been delivered.
Following the receipt of Rubiss's Charm we returned to Tuhn and discovered that Don Mahone had made considerable haste in producing a second Water Flying Cloth. I found his instructions particularly amusing.
Lars found it rather less amusing.
As funny as it is, this is the best available armor for Lars. Equal in defense to the Armor of Gaia with protection against poison and fire. Even if it is was intended for a princess.
In order to make some concession to his wounded masculinity we visited the weapons store and bought him a new sword. The shopkeeper said that it was made for a man but light enough for a woman with a sly wink, improving my estimation of him and easing my grief over shelling over so much gold. The Falcon Sword wasn't a terribly powerful weapon, but its light weight enabled it to strike twice as often as other blades. Still grumbling to himself, Lars transported us back to the Shrine before Hargon's Castle.
More strange creatures awaited us out in the wilderness. Somewhat more intimidating than their blue skinned counterparts, the green giants were more sophisticated and utilized clubs to enhance their blows. Despite their fearsome appearance, however, the far greater threat was in the creatures of living snow and icy wind that accompanied them. Although not physically powerful, they possessed an uncanny ability with magical spells of death.
Blizzard: 90 hp, 111 attack, 33 defense and 85 agility. 113 gold and 453 experience.
Giant: 155 hp, 145 attack!, 41 defense and 100 agility. 95 gold and 515 experience.
I only found out about this some time after our first encounter with them, however. I may have to give Lars a bit more credit than I have been.
Why yes, this game is an utter bastard at this point. Why do you ask?
Hulking demons stalked the land, mostly by themselves since few other creatures would tolerate a creature that only wears boots and gloves. Why skip the rest of the outfit? The Bullwong is a strong beast, but like many creatures in the area their true strength lay in magic. Most notably their use of a powerful spell that created explosions across a broad area. They also had a habit of breathing fire, but this was somewhat less worrisome.
210 hp, 140 attack, 80 agility and 150 defense. 110 gold and 872 experience. May attack twice.
Smaller and more vicious were the creatures we dubbed Batboons, who used magic as naturally as they breathed. In addition to using Firebane they breathed fire and a sleeping gas. Luckily they were vulnerable to Stopspell, effectively defanging them.
112 hp, 108 attack, 39 agility, and 110 defense. 100 gold and 396 experience.
The days blended together as we worked to clear some breathing space around the shrine, studying the more powerful magics of our enemies and resting at the shrine when we were tired.
Lars soon enough learned enough to mimic the death spell that the Blizzards had used to such great effect against us. While it wasn't terribly effective on all enemies, it was peculiarly effective against the blizzards themselves.
Exploring into the further corners of Rhone turned up a new variety of Batboon. The silver variety were weaker than their gold neighbors and lacked their fiery breath, but were far more annoying because of their use of healing magic. Luckily they preferred the southern portion of the plains.
89 hp, 92 attack, 35 defense and 90 agility. 90 gold and 271 experience.
Shortly afterward Peta figured out another powerful offensive spell for her repertoire, which we had seen previously used by Bullwongs. While some enemies were occasionally able to resist it, the spell was effective enough that even working half the time it was still a better bet than using weaker spells.
At this point if the princess isn't using Explodet in a serious fight, you're doing it wrong.
I don't think that we've spent nearly so much time in any one place before now, but I can't think of any place I'd rather be at this moment.
The enemies we faced occasionally carried objects of considerable instance, including cursed swords that were put out as a kind of trap. While powerful, they could not be put down once picked up and occasionally froze their user in place.
93 attack power, versus 80 for the Thunder Sword. An interesting glitch that I didn't use is that if you get a weapon uncursed and don't immediately remove it, as long as you don't gain a level or check your status screen the freezing effect won't trigger.
Eventually even the most interesting wildlife becomes somewhat dull, so out of boredom we decided to scout the way toward Hargon's castle. The first branching in the path was directly to the west of the shrine, with the southern branch circling around to come back around to the shrine.
Around the curve of the lake we came in sight of Hargon's castle, visible through a breach in the mountains. I'm inclined to think that either path would have led around to the same place, but we chose to cut back east.
At the southern extremity of Rhone three paths met, with a narrow valley guarding the way to Hargon's castle. Feeling secure in his stronghold, Hargon had made no attempts to disguise the way.
After an exhausting journey we finally reached Hargon's Castle, unsure of what we would encounter inside.
Whatever it was, we certainly didn't expect to be walking into Midenhall again.
The illusion, for such it was, was quite convincing aside from a few minor flaws. Most notably were the fact that the travel gate didn't work and that all the chests were empty. Full marks for effort, though.
They even had pretend merchants giving away money, which promptly vanished when we left. The entire thing was incredibly eerie, with us aware of the illusion and the enemy presumably aware that we were aware but with all of us pretending. One thing was certain, we weren't quite ready for this.
As a side note, you can stay in the inn and it'll tell you that your HP and MP are back... which will then return to their previous values when you leave.
With a closer look at Hargon's Castle we now had a goal to work towards, especially considering that we would have to fight our way to the castle and then deal with whatever was inside.
Lars, poor confused lad, learned two spells that were mutually conflicting in their use. The first, Revive, was a terribly useful spell that freed us of having to run back to the shrine every time someone suffered an unfortunate accident. The second... well, it wasn't quite as handy as casting it resulted in the death of the caster. We first saw it being used by a Gold Batboon and when we awoke in the shrine weren't particularly impressed.
As people have mentioned before, someone actually thought it would be a good idea to give a random enemy a 100% effective instant death spell. There's no defense other than slipping a StopSpell in before they cast. If the RNG comes up with "Cast Sacrifice" it's an instant game over. Some people will hate me for this, but this is the first time I've ever seen it.
In response, Peta developed a spell... to open locked doors. I might have been a bit harsh on her, but considering that we had every key in the known world. To make up for it, she promised that she had another spell in the works.
I should perhaps have asked her to hurry somewhat, as the development process was arduous and resulted in a considerable delay. It wasn't without merit, however, as I had a plan that was likely to require considerable funds.
At last she unveiled her spell, appropriately enough called Chance. Instead of having a single defined effect the spell opened a conduit of raw magic that shaped itself according to the local conditions. It was certainly impressive, but rather expensive for common use.
Chance has a variety of effects, from killing all enemies to lowering to defense to a number of other strange uses. I didn't see any negative effects, but at 15 MP per cast it's a bit expensive.
In order to make Peta feel like her latest efforts had been a bit more useful, we tossed aside the keys to lighten the load a bit. Good luck to whoever comes looking for them afterward.
With our excess funds I purchased another Shield of Strength. Although Peta can't use it as a shield, it's my hope that by giving one to both her and Lars they can keep themselves healed and save some of their power for offensive magic and to heal me.
With that we finally felt ready, and set out the next day for Hargon's Castle.
End of Update Summary
Level 34. Thunder Sword, Erdrick's Armor, Shield, and Helm.
Level 32. Falcon Sword, Water Flying Cloth, Shield of Strength.
Level 27. Staff of Thunder, Water Flying Cloth.