Part 55: Fort Haledon and the Rescue of Caffren-BokUpdate 051 Fort Haledon and the Rescue of Caffren-Bok
"This is huge."
There's a pillar over to the south right up against the lava flow. If we get up there, we might be able to see a crossing, or something."
"You mean, this one?"
"I hope so."
"Perhaps. I smell magic."
"Or I could abuse Firewalk."
"We have places to go, and you want to examine everywhere?"
"We don't know where Fort Haledon is. We have to find it, and that means checking everywhere out."
"Well, let's see what we have here... Slow... Fireball... Nothing unusual."
"Unless used, we sell them."
"How about we check out that crossing now?"
"I too would be interested in it."
"Sure. Maybe there's a sign on the other side."
"I'm not sure that's a sign."
The Drakes, Salamanders and Pyrohydras in this region don't run, so it's nice to have some over-world random encoutners again.
"Let's head up-river. I've been thinking about the geography of this place, and I think I know where we are in relation to Exile."
"You mean, aside from under it?"
She elbows Chester in the side. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, that based on distance, location, and this huge source of lava, I think we're currently under the north-eastern corner of the major cave system. Up past the Abyss, over the river and further past the misasmic swamp. We're under what was demon territory.
Where you killed Grah-Hoth.
That was Karmas actually, but yes. Under there.
Very academic. What does that have to do with us trying to walk into the caldera?
I'm surprised you know that word.
Seeing as you've taken away all my alcohol, I've had to do something else with my time.
... A passable use for one's time.
Dangerous, but not threatening.
You know what would be nice? A spell like Firewalk that can blunt things like Fire Breathing, or Cold Breath, or things like that.
I'm not one for research, but you can mention that to someone the next time we are at the Tower.
Normally, I don't show minor maps for the outside, saving them for the Great Map Updates (the last one should be before the final dungeon, or just after). But I did want to impress on you the sheer scale of this particular lava flow, and when you see where we're going and compare it to the Exile 1 map, you'll see why I'm confident in our location
What forces, I wonder, raise this volcano here, such that it can affect the next major cave system above us?
Confirmation that the messengers sent by the Olgai Council have gotten this far. Good to know.
Hold up, there's people ahead!
For some reason, this window didn't pop up with the picture of a Vahnatai in the corner. Oh well.
Stop! We're allies!
False words! Die!
For the first time in this LP, I run away from a fight. I actually have a reason to though. Now, running from a fight is easy. The monsters have done it on occasion. You simply move to the edge of the combat map, and move away. Everyone has to escape on their own, and anyone who dies while the rest escapes loses all their equipment.
Now, that reason? This encounter is tied to something that comes later. And killing enemies in this encounter can make things harder for you. So, I take the pragmatic view and bravely run away.
are they gone?
You're the one with the spell to detect life.
It doesn't work over that long of a range. You know this.
They're gone. They think they've driven us away.
So we sneak to Fort Haledon? What was that, anyways?
We are unwelcome, it seems.
We can speak normally now.
Great. Reminds me of the warm welcomes we got before reaching Avit.
Let me take the lead, I will make sure we avoid any more 'patrols'.
And we're here.
This reminds me of the place we first met.
Yes, that place.
Probably just a coincidence.
A Vahnatai mage watches you carefully, and with great distaste.
Hello. I am Art-Iktah. I have a message from the Olgai Council.
"I am Haineux. I guard the gate."
She looks at your orders through the narrow window. She looks dubious at best, openly hostile at worst. But she does make a hand signal. You hear a click from the door.
Let's just find the commander and get this over with.
Why are they so hostile?
Maybe the Empire troops that stole the Bok's came past here?
I can comprehend a personal failure.
I would never have thought that we would need to sleep in shifts in a safe location before.
Then we'll wait.
A Vahnatai mage stares into the glowing crystal with fierce concentration. He seems to be trying to move or create something with his mind. After a few minutes of this, however, he stops. "I am Strossen-Ihrno.
You have interrupted my creation, human."
He looks at you in disgust. "Leave me, human! Deliver your spurious orders and leave me alone!"
That was no creation there. He was scrying the area.
Should that mean anything to us?
No. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is another facet of their failure?
There's a door at the other end of the racks.
Probably what we need then.
Too bad no one would give us directions. But I have a bad feeling about this. It's too quiet. Kai-lyss?
Now, this fight is unavoidable.
We come in peace!
Lies! Lies and Deception!
Fortunately there's only the four enemies. They are easy to control in these quarters, even as the Blademasters resist magic. They don't resist swords to the face.
You speak with the commander, who is still overwhelmed with shame. He bows his head. "I am Mahr-Tel. I command this fort. It is a difficult job, because of its great remoteness."
The remoteness of this fort should have nothing to do with your professionalism!
"Fort Haledon, westernmost outpost of our tribe, and easily the most remote. It has become very important, because of the humans."
"We get little news, tragically little, from our people. All we knew of you humans was that you stole our Crystal Souls and were terribly dangerous. Then you suddenly show up with orders. We were surprised!"He shakes his head sadly. "Several were convinced it was a trick."
A trick? A TRICK? You failure! Is your whole damned culture unable to conceive of disunity in those around you?
"The ones who attacked you thought you were evil beings come to fool us. I wanted to stop them but not, I confess, not enough. I lead here. I am to blame."
"I am guilty of the attack on you, and of their deaths. And that is all there is to say." He hangs his head, and his arms fall limply to his side.
And what about the messengers sent ahead by the Olgai Council?
What messengers? You are the first to arrive from... Oh no. Please no.
If what you say is true.. No. It has to be. There is no reason for you to lie... I know... His gaze refuses to raise from the stonework of the floor. They will lead. I will lead when we go to attack the humans.
Which humans, huh?
"To the west is a tunnel, blocked by magical barriers. Just beyond it are human lands, choked with the forces of what you call the Empire."
What about this tunnel?
"If they broke down the barrier and passed through, we could not stand against them. However, we could hold them off long enough for our people to prepare their defenses. That is our mission. Or, was our mission."
"Now, our mission is to aid you."
Stopped being angry yet?
You need to activate this Fort to get to the Crystal Soul. If you don't, you can't get through this next dungeon.
Alright, let's do this.
Art stood before the gates to Fort Haledon, the gloom that permeated the small fort palpable in its misery. They had betrayed their fellows out of fear and xenophobia, and they had decided there was only one way to make their choices right.
To her sides was her team, each ready in their own right. Irregular, but together. Which was more than could be said for the Vahnatai in front of her in the open courtyard.
With swift and practiced motions, she drew both ancient blades from their sheathes and slammed them down, point first into the ground in front of her. I am Iktah, she said loudly and clearly. I hold the line. I hold the gates. You know this. You know this, and still you would abandon your duties in favor of petty grievances and pride!
There were uncomfortable shuffles from the assembled forces. I am human, not Vahnatai. I am Exile, not Empire. This does not mean that you and I are different. We have a common goal and a common foe. I wish it was not so, that people like you and I were not needed. But in these times, we are all that is. The Empire stole your honored Elders, and the first of the three has been saved. By my hand. I did this, not because they are my elders, to be honored and observed. I did not seek their wisdom. I did not seek their power. I could have left it alone, left their rescue in the hands of your people.
But I could not. She paced back and forth behind the two swords. To do so would be wrong. I do not, can not turn my back on those in true need. I proved it was not my people who wronged you, and that could have been enough. It could have been enough to hold the line there, to stop another enemy from attacking our gates.
It is not enough. So I went to do more. I scoured your lands for evidence, I scoured mine for hints and knowledge, and I found where one Jekknol-Bok had been taken. And so I went to get him back. I did this, without backup, she hoped that her team didn't mind the phrasing, without certainty that I would win. And I succeeded. Jekknol-Bok has been returned to his rightful place, BUT THE DUTY IS NOT DONE!
She glared hard at each of the Vahnatai in front of her, their failures clear in her eyes. It is not done, she repeated, and you have been called upon to perform your own duty. Some of you thought better. You thought that as you had already failed once, that the Empire had slipped past you once, and therefore you could do nothing but cover up the shame by removing all who could oppose you.
And you failed again.
Some of you think that this mission we are about to embark on is your means to make things right. It isn't. It's the cowards way out. You will perform your duty, and if you die in the process, make it so that it is in success, not failure. You will do this, not out of pride. Not because we go to save Caffren-Bok, another elder stolen from you. You will do this out of duty. Out of knowledge that if you fail this, then there is nothing left. Not for you. Not for your fellows in Olgai and beyond.
Do this, because it is the right thing to do.
You wandered a bit there, dahling.
Sorry, a lot of that was spur of the moment.
Wasn't that bad. I mean, I've heard worse.
I can believe it.
Well, excuse me for not being a drill sergeant.
No, you don't yell enough for that.
I thought it acceptable for the audience.
Right. Kai-Lyss? Map.
You know this place.
This is where you found your first blade.
Looks like a store room.
Everyone, check your gear.
At this point, I strip everyone of their equipment, and re-check everyone. It's a fault of mine where I simply perform incremental upgrades to everyone, without considering synergy. For example, I picked up this Giant Club in the store room:
And I decided that since I had the shield, I would equip both on Chester, to see how well it would work.
Not that well. The left is with the Giant Club and Giant Shield, while the right is with the Steel Mace +2. Here we can see that he loses 75% on his to-hit chance, while damage drops by 10 in the process. His Encumbrance is also increased by 5, which is still after the 20 Defense Chester has. These numbers do not show, however, the additional +12 Defense he gets from the shield, which is not in-substantial. In the end, I will leave the Giant's gear for another day, but I did want to show off how two extremes in equipment can affect a person's combat performance.
Five years ago, I stood on the other side of this barrier.
Come on. I know where we are.
Where is that?
North of the swamp. There are several ridges coming up from there. I'm surprised though. The last time I was here, the swamp was barely a mile away from the entrance to the cave.
The geography in this section is different than it was in Exile 1, which is a little annoying, but not insurmountable.
It's like this is a microcosm of the larger map from the previous game. I could believe that, as there is no other way in or out of this location this section of the overworld map is isolated.
If you fail to reach this point before the timed '2 days' are up, then they won't be here, and you'll have to make the attack on your own. And if you're ready to make the attack, what are you dallying for?
I've seen the Imperial Palace. This isn't that big.
Click the next image for a video of the fight. There was a frak-up with the audio recording, and at the time of this writing, it's too late for a do-over. It's 4:17 long, so if you want to cue up some appropriate battle music first, be my guest.
COME BACK HERE AND DIE!
Yes. He's here. We can kill him.
Our mission first, then optional objectives later.
There is two criteria for this battle. The first is obvious, that you activate Fort Haledon, and reach the objective in time. Then the Vahnatai will form the bulwark line against the Empire troops. However, there is a second, more hidden piece of the puzzle. You remember that ambush on the road up to the Fort? Well, all the Vahnatai there are flagged, and the more of them you kill, the less there will be to aid in this battle.
That's why I fled.
Welcome, to Ornotha Ziggurut, primary military fortress for the Empire's invasion of Exile.
Kai-lyss gets to burn it all down, right? Quickfire?
Only after we have secured Caffren-Bok.
While you were admiring the locale, I was busy making sure we could get in.
Why aren't there more guards?
They think we're still stuck out front?
We managed to sneak all the way around to the back! There's something off here...
Detect Life then, see if the place is emptied of its armies.
Then we have little time to waste.
Not like we can leave. Maybe he wants us for himself?
I got greedy here. You see, after my accidental destruction of the Tomb of Delrin-Bok, I decided to try for it again. I wanted to kill enough people in this dungeon to cause the game to flag it Abandoned and then explore it at my leisure. Things did not turn out that way.
Come on then!
Let us find a room closer to the middle.
This will suffice.
What follows is the summation of about 15 minutes of Kai-Lyss Shockwaving, Art rebuilding my Food supplies, and Long-Waiting for their SP to recharge.
I repositioned to minimize people getting to me, and kept firing it off.
I kept doing this long enough that Kay-Lyss leveled a couple times. Four times to be precise.
Mother of us all...
Yet the stones remain.
WHAT IS THAT SPELL?
The end of all things.
Huh, not your usual evil altar. This one seems almost.. benign.
Your definition of 'benign' needs work, dahling.
It's not actively summoning demons. Ergo, benign.
Shite! Grabbing the knife triggered seven levels of Dumbfounding on everyone with even a single level of Priest spells. Nice programming for the event, but this is definite cause to cheat that away.
That could have been worse.
There is great power above, and the Crystal Soul.
Let's find it.
At this point, I check to see if I've crossed the Kill them all threshold for this dungeon.
Guess not. I do, however, level Kai-Lyss three more times in the attempt before giving up as a waste of my time. Seven Levels for him brings him solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of levels, while Marianna and Dmurr still lag behind.
Lots of enemies going north. I think we should loop around.
No obvious doors either. We should be careful in searching for secret passages.
When did these guys stop being a problem?
Around the time our lives became one fight after another, with no chance for real down time to practice more cultural pursuits.
You never said what you did on the surface.
Does it matter? Everyone has their secrets.
Alternate exit. Good to know.
Nice to know even this place has storerooms.
Oh, I've finally deciphered that knife we got downstairs.
Nice, but not for me.
I really don't think those will slow us down.
Hidden library. Should be information here...
No, there isn't.
This is.. actually holy.
I don't believe you.
She is correct.
I believe you though.
Free, reusable full HP restoration! Now, if it only restored SP as well...
I have no idea how to get in there.
And the Soul is not in there. Come.
I hold the choke point here, and it's easy to handle these sorts of threats one at a time.
Fall back! They can't get out of the room!
It is just to the north-west of us now.
I am so tempted to mess up his bed, just to be spiteful.
How about we steel his jewels instead?
I think that was his sock drawer.
Huh. Barely a fail-safe. Come on, let's see how far we get before the Quickfire is released.
Not even to the first corner.
Undead Vahnatai? I don't think Garzahd would approve. Which means he's nowhere near here!
Hello, Caffren-Bok. Let's get you out of here.
I sense that you are trustworthy. I see in your minds our alliance. Let it be done!
Just try, traitor!
Do I know you? Oh well, it doesn't matter.
The engine doesn't really support it, but we just jumped out the window of a large building with an explosion at our backs. It's an action movie! And I'm about to cheese the next section. Click the next picture for a video!
By coming into this section already hasted, I was able to completely out-pace the Quickfire that spawns to the left and right of our starting position. I'm sorry. I fail at being a good action-movie protagonist.
We're safe here for now. They'll think we either teleported out, or snuck past their guards.
Are you alright, Caffren-Bok?
I will be, once I am returned to my place of repose. Please, do not fail both our peoples now.
Lot more coherent than Jekknol-Bok.
That's it. In and out.
We should check on the fort.
It's true. Every named person in the fort is gone, as are the majority of the NPCs. It's... empty.
We'll Orb over here, rather than go around.
Good. Two down. One to go.