Part 40: Dharmon and the Scree CaveUpdate 036 Dharmon and the Scree Cavern
So, West it is then.
You really want the Orb.
I don't know about flying. The thought is starting to make me feel queasy.
I have to agree. If we were meant to fly, we would have wings.
But it's fun!
If it wazz unssafe, would our leader really perssue it?
I'm not so sure...
It will alssso be guarded. Let uz be prepared for that.
Something iz happening...
OhgodOhgodOhGod. This was a huge mistake, and I'm about to get my ass handed to me for it.
At least I get a screenshot of the enemy spawning in a wall. That's about the only good thing from this battle.
You see, this battle consists of some (useless) allies, a few Hydras, one or two Nephar Chiefs and FOUR Rakshasas. What's so bad about them, you may wonder?
They're immune to Magic. Curse All? Nope! Slow Group? Nope! Fireball? No sale! Kill? Hah! The only thing that could possibly affect them is Wound. And just to make things worse, they all have 8 AP, meaning they can cast spells twice in a turn.
This is the team after one round of my first attempt. Demons and Shockstorms and Firestorms. Reload!
You don't want to know.
THAT'S RIGHT! RUN YOU COWARDS!
Quick! Someone check on Dmurr! She's not breathing!
Go no further west! If you're going to Remote, approach from the North!
We will heed your adviccce.
I... have to agree with you. We are in no position to deal with a location swarming with Raks.
What are they?
She shudders. The worst of my kind. Born of corrupted magics, and worse things.
Come on, we'll go to Dharmon, and recuperate. Then maybe come up with a better plan of action than run into those things...
Thankfully there's only one Rakshasa in this battle. Of note though, they are classified as a 'Demon' type enemy, and as such, do receive extra damage from Demonslayer. Which I do not have in my possession right now.
Your reckoning will come...!
I find it odd so many Rak's are fleeing battle, but I'm not about to doubt the infinite wisdom of the RNG. All hail the RNG!
Ah, Dharmon. One of the oldest towns in Exile. Not as well cultured as Almaria though.
I'll let them know you said that.
Be that as it may, let's check in with the Mayor, or the Captain, and see what they have to say about the Rak's.
I've stopped caring that so many multi-lined signs have broken alignment like this.
Sorry, Ma'am. Have to check your paperwork.
I understand. Did you guys finally take care of your smuggler problem?
Yes we did, Ma'am. They tried hiding some of their stuff in waterproof bags in the pond, but that didn't work out well for them.
I remember something about that, I think. From the Abyss?
Very true. I wonder what happened to the Heartfinder anyways?
The captain of this garrison takes a moment out from his incessant chattering of orders to turn and speak with you. You there! I am Captain Ebbeth. State your business quickly."
We are with Unssszpezified Sservicesss. Reporting in.
"Well, my job is pretty much everything. I handle the prisoners. I send troops to the front and Fort Remote. I hold people's hands. I never sleep. I deal with confused adventurers. I do everything."
What is the status on Fort Remote? We're aware of a Rakshasa... fort? Pen? What is the word anyways?
Thank you. Warren between them and Patrick's tower. Had a couple run-ins ourselves.
Yeah, we know about them. Remote got destroyed a few years back, but it's rebuilt now. Stronger than ever! Which is good, because somehow the Empire got in behind there.
That's not good. Sulphras would have been in there way.
I don't have all the information on that, His eyes narrow. What did you say your name was?
Ah! Sir! Sorry about that. I've been very busy as you can see. I don't have much in the way if information as I'm handling logistics up to the Spire, or thereabouts.
That's alright. Thank you for your time. We'll speak to the Mayor then.
The mayor is sitting behind her desk, fingering her sash of office. She is not much older than you, and has a calm, organized demeanor. There are very few papers on the top of her desk. "I am Mayor Radner. What can I do for you, adventurers?"
Greeting, Mayor. We're with Unspecified Services, and we're currently working our way through the Great Cave dealing with hotspots.
That's good to hear. As for me? At the moment? Enjoying a few minutes peace. And thinking about a few of our problems."
She indicates the lack of papers on her desk. "One contingent of troops just headed out. The new one hasn't arrived yet. Things are, for the moment, calm. In this business, you learn to stop and take a breath when you can."
So what are these problems that you are having?
"We have recently been attacked by bands of giants. Not normal giants, but mutated giants, misshapen, stronger, and deadly. The Empire is creating them. That is why I am looking for some adventurers to undertake a mission for me."
"In the caves west of Fort Remote is the fortress Kothtar. There, the Empire carries out bizarre magical experiments, many involving giants. Go there, sneak in, find records explaining what they were doing, and bring them here. I will reward you."
We were headed over there to retrieve the Orb eventually. But I think we need to deal with things closer to home eventually. We'll add that to the list of things to do.
We really need to start writing down everything that's going on.
I will compile ssuch a list.
Huh. I didn't know people could write so differently.
Coming from a boy who can't?
That hurts, you know!
I cannot, either.
Children! Behave! We have an audience.
The woman inside these robes is almost totally obscured. All you see of her are her eyes, and that's all you really need to see. You've held many knives, but none of them have been as sharp as the gaze she levels upon you. The eyes look you over. "I am mother Sarah, keeper of the Temple of Crossed Blades and friend to all honorable warriors.
No, not that faith, friend. The Temple of the Crossed Blades is the mightiest temple in Exile, given over to those who fight and battle. Her voice comes from deep within the hood, strong and sad. "I am walking away from the temple today, to see the soldiers."
There are many ssoldiersz here. Which ones do you seek?
Ah, you see, to the north is the front. These soldiers are the cork, that prevents the Empire from springing from their caves into the Great Caves, and then into Exile. I walk among them, to watch them, and give them my support, to lend them strength."
"That is my purpose. I help by leadership, by prayers, by kind words, and, when need be, through my magic."
Hold on, you teach magic? What circle?
"I can cast many powerful spells. What is more, for a donation, I will teach them to those who support us. If you ever wish to purchase my teaching, let me know."
6th Circle spells. I grab Heal All, Holy Ravaging and... one other. I can't remember at the time of this writing. But Art cant' use them, because she only has five levels of Priest at this moment.
What do you see?
I could ssswim out there...?
No, I think the locals would object to people in their reservoir.
Didn't you mention something about smugglers?
Yes, then why is that boat still there? It looks... new.
I don't see a way over there, so why don't we come back to that later?
Sounds like a plan. Let's go shopping!
The door is back this way...
My magics allow me to see that there are barriers in the old ssmuggler hideaway. It is occupied.
Why do you two always go looking for trouble?
Because not enough trouble goes looking for them.
Nothing unusual here, except that Julie sells Iron Arrows at 200 gold for 10. I don't want to drop money on that right now, Dmurr still has plenty of ammo.
Rippel here sells armor, nothing unusual. She is also the person in town who will buy anything from you.
Largo sells two recipies which he tells you require Ember Flowers to work. He also sells Medium Energy Potions 300 gold for 30SP. This is the most cost-efficient means of regaining SP in the game short farming for the alchemical ingredients to make them yourself. I buy one for Kai-Lyss for now, as he tends to burn through his pool far faster than Art does.
There's nothing here. Let's go.
I do not recall meeting the person who abandoned this store. Either I have and have forgotten, or they don't exist. Oh well.
You meet a sleazy, sleazy man. Dirty brown stubble protrudes from his pasty flesh, as his greasy look drifts over you. He gives you a toothless grin. "I'm Gunther. Welcome to my humble shop."
Hello again Gunther.
Ah! My Lady! What brings you here, to my humble shop?
Hidden behind a secret passage?
Please keep yer kitty on its muzzle, my Lady. I've gone honest, honest! I bring useful goods from the Abyss."
I'll muzzle you, you inbred ingrate!
That's enough! What news from the Abyss?
He shakes his head. "A lotta' the others died. Bad for business. Very slow. Thass' why I came here. The Empire has little likes with us."
Well, let's see what you have.
If I didn't already have Magic Lockpicks, I would buy them from you in a heartbeat.
A beggar approaches you. He holds a begging bowl out in front of him The name's Keith, m'Lady.
What are you?
"Not all of us have have had the fortune to be able to head for safer lands, m'lady. So if you would give me a coin, I would much appreciate it."
Here, have a coin.
He accepts the coin gratefully. "Thank you, m'lord! Thank you, thank you, thank you. All the richer folks has been heading east for safer places. Only the troopers is around here now. And some shopkeepers, and me." He holds out the bowl, hoping for a coin.
Have a nice day. Come, let us be off, Farm Boy.
We should leave this alone.
Why? Even you have standards?
Oh, because I think I know what's waiting for us.
Random Basilisk Count posted:
That's if we're lucky.
She does have a point. But I think the Golems are a bit excessive.
You meet a young giant lizard, new to the toil of pulling a wagon. It snaps at you repeatedly, until you have to kick it in the nose.
Must be better trained.
The innkeeper looks very depressed, a depression only mildly alleviated by seeing you. "I'm Messner. How can I help ya'?"
We're with a faction in the army that deals in unusual activities. Because of that, we don't get to use the regular barracks. What do you have here?
"I run the Dharmon Arms, and believe me, we got plenty of vacancies. Things've been real slow. But we have the nicest rooms in Exile, only fifteen gold, and the best meals, sizzling lizard steaks, only six gold. Let me know if you want a meal or a room."
We'll take the meal please.
Messner serves up, with a flourish, several thick, juicy lizard steaks, with fried mushrooms. It is, as advertised, delicious.
A small, pregnant woman with black, curly hair sits in the corner. She holds another child, a small boy. His face is flecked with red, and he looks very ill.
Are you alright? I'm Art.
"I am Malka, and this is Daniel," she says, indicating her son.
Hey Daniel! I'm Art! How are you feeling?
"Oh, I'm so worried, I don't mind telling you. My boy, Daniel is very sick. Some cave disease."
What kind of disease? I'm a priest...
"A rare one. Graymold doesn't work. A cure disease spell barely helped. There is a package of medicine coming, but, well, I'm not sure we'll get it."
Malka describes the package.
You mean this one? We found it on the lake in the Eastern Gallery. You show her the box you found. She almost faints with joy. "Thank you!" She opens it, and, indeed, it contains three small bottles of medicine. In gratitude, she takes a ring from her hand and solemnly hands it to you.
She just gave us a Silver Ring of Skill, which adds +10% to hit, and +2 to our Defense. It goes on Art.
I hope he gets better.
"The medicine helped, and he'll probably get better. Without the medicine, he'd probably be dead by now. But there's still a ways to go before he's all better." She smiles. "Still, thank you so much for your help!"
We have carried that around for a long time. Iz thizz why?
Yep. Something like that is obviously valuable more than its material worth. And we would be coming here eventually anyways, so why not?
To perform deeds without knowing they are necessary...
<Do not go thinking stray thoughts, young one.>
Come on, let's see about that smuggling ring.
Alright. To get there, we have to go outside town, and work our way around to the north side.
Well, this wasn't here last time. Looks like someone has formalized the passage.
I can row this boat, but it will be very tight to squeeze all of us onto it.
Best not get to close. There's no way to fight back while on the boat.
Yep. Definitely new.
This is a trap. Even I can spot that.
Easy, once that lever is pulled, not only will the passage forward drop, but it will also release the monsters trapped inside the barriers.
Let me check...
Yep. I really don't like Golems. They're far too tough and durable for my taste.
Let uz proceed.
Too much effort, for too little reward.
And now to break up a smuggling ring?
I don't know. Something seems off about this...
Who goes there? You meet a burly, graying mage, who is looking very irritated at your intrusion on his privacy. "I'm Starcap. What are you doing here?"
Art, Unspecified Services. We received concerns that this location was active as a smuggling location again, so we investigated.
"And I'm trying to protect my privacy!" He watches you carefully, seemingly watching for some move which would give him an excuse to blast you.
Sir, we were not aware that there was someone residing back here. What could you be doing that requires such privacy when there's a war going on?
And if you weren't Exile soldiers, you'd be dead already. Now why have you interrupted my knowledge seeking?" He starts to get angry at your impertinence, but then calms down. "I might as well say. I'm scrying to find the onyx scepter."
The Onyx Scepter. Really? What for?
"It's a very powerful artifact, which was lost some years back. It was given to the dragon Sulfras."
It isn't lost. The First Exile Escape Committee gave it to Sulphras five years ago in order to secure passage to the Empire Observation Post, and the Surface access therein.
You only have Magi Clearance! How could you possibly know that? He looks ready to blast the party!
My name is ART! Of course I damn well know what I did!
He looks at Art before recognition crosses his face. Oh! Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't know. Look, let me explain. Sulfras, the mightiest Dragon in these caves, he was, at last report, still living in the caves west of here.
But our spies suggest that the Empire used that access point as another prong of their invasion, and that he has been subdued in the process. I am attempting to determine if the Sceptre is still in his lair, or if the Empire has moved it.
Imperial policy is to exterminate any Dragons they come across. They sent a small battalion to try and assassinate Motrax, and I see no reason why Sulfras should have fared any better if the Empire has a foothold in that region.
I would normally agree with you, Ma'am. But the intelligence I have been privy too indicate that the dragon is still alive.
Why? If the Empire kills dragons, why make an exception?
Knowledge. Power. Prestige.
A bribe, perhaps? You said that the Dragon was a guard of sorts to this access point. Perhaps a deal had been struck?
That... is far too likely. Damn it. That's another thing we'll have to deal with. Destroying the exit tunnel would help bottle up the Empire in that area.
You realize that the only people left who know the location of, and how to get to that place are yourself, General Karmas and Magus Peregrine?
And the latter two are not available to go on a suicide run like that.
I don't think we're capable of that either, Sir, Ma'am.
No. But we could be. Perhaps we can recruit sssome Vahnatai forcesz to aszzist should we complete our mission to save their predecessorz?
I will keep searching. If I find anything, I will send word to the General, and he can pass it along to you. Now, please. Once you leave, I must restore my defences before scrying again.
Understood. Good luck.
Another thing to add to the list.
No. Not now. Later.
Wait. Are those Exiles...?
There they are! Attack them!
You! You! Fall back and inform the General that the Assassin has been located at Dharmon! We will cover your retreat!
Oh no you don't!
They got away. Why do they want to kill you so badly?
Killing Hawethorne, maybe? I thought we covered this already.
Still seems like a lot of effort for one person. No offence, Sir Ma'am.
Eh, I'll eventually deal with this, one way or the other.
Oh, I've heard of these mines.
Nothing worth buying though.
You know, I think we should investigate that sighting of the Vahnatai. We can deal with multiple problems at once.
I concur. Let uz return to Fort Emerald and proceed north.
One boring trip later....
Well, this was unexpected.
RAID! Alert the Reinforcements!
Great, now they're expecting us.
YOU! SHALL! NOT! PASS!
Are they really reinforcements when they are easier to defeat than the front line?
Wait a moment...
Oh MOTHER! We need a boat to get there, and ours is over by Almaria!
Shall we go to it then?
Wasn't there also mention of a fort to our west?
That seems to be the location of the old 'castle' of one Sss-Thsss.
Come on, let's scour the Scree Cavern. If there's a fort, I want to know about it. There used to be a Lich's lair in the area as well, they may be tapping that.
HALT! Show me your Red Pass!
Here you go, our Red Pass, Sir.
Everything is in order. Move along.
Yes sir. We're reporting to the Fort.
It's to the North-West of here. Why are you over on this side?
We are finishing our undead patrol.
Oh, that? He spits on the ground, and his troops agree with the sentiment. Don't do anything stupid. If you find where they're coming from, let us know immediately. The might of the Empire will crush them!
We understand, sir.
You have no idea how hard it was to not channel the Galactic Empire from Star Wars in my writing of non-hostile Empire forces. It may come through in the future though.
And sometimes they don't bother to ask for a pass. They just attack. Welcome to the Empire Controlled Lands!
We'll have to be careful of whom we approach, or whom we lat approach us.
Your face is too well known?
Not many dour looking red-haired women wielding two swords, I must admit.
Being recognized izz good.
No, even I can see where the problem might be. Have you considered making a mess of your hair, by say using dirt to darken it to brown?
Farm Boy, never suggest a woman ruin her hair like that. Ever.
Oh, hey! A distraction!
You were not exaggerating the problem, were you?
The Lich's lair used to be up this way...
Yes, I am. Here's what happened on my first go through...
Five Vampires, each capable of summoning Demons. I'm pretty sure there's a Lich in there as well, but that picture was taken after the first round.
That's the second undead Ritual we've had to flee from. What is going on?
Nothing good. They muzzt be stopped.
Stupid idea here, but why don't we tell the Empire about that?
You mean those guys over there?
Here's our Red Pass!
Sir, we've located the source of the undead in the area!
What? Where? Explain!
We were surveying the outer walls of the cavern when we stumbled on a ritual being conducted by several powerful undead. They attacked us and we fled, knowing we didn't have the strength to defeat them.
Do you have a map? Let me show you. She marks a point on the Empire Captain's map.
Damn it! And we don't have the forces to take them out right now. Good job, you all. The fort North West of here isn't complete yet, but you should file your report there as well. They can send a message back to the General and he can dispatch the forces required.
Hey, doesn't that one look like...?
Stow it! We have recon to do!
There is no way to know which enemies in the Empire Lands will be hostile, and which will demand to see your pass.
There iz ssomething back here...
We shall help. What happened?
I dooo nooot knowww, human.
<What must be done?>
<This is not the work of the invaders, I believe.>
I have no clue...
This guy, and the sick Nephil Village between the Tower and Mertis confound me. My notes say nothing about how to heal them, and I'm not about to arbitrarily attack the drake!
This leads to the Spire, then the Abyss. Let's stay away from there for now, and follow this road to that Fort.
So, who wants to raise a ruckus?