Part 29: New Formello and the Murder CaveUpdate 024 New Formello and the Murder Cave
So, where are we going now?
I was thinking of checking out what that sailor said about weird things on the lake.
Are we ever going to get to New Formello?
Perhaps it can be accessed by water?
I can swim it!
How about we row instead?
Nothing interesting here.
Hey! What does the sign say?
Curious. This ring of rocks does not appear to be completely natural.
Well, let's circle around, and see if we can spot a gap, or something.
Any one else have a weird feeling about this?
I don't see anything...
No, there's something there, I can feel it.
Welcome to my newest shop. I'm glad you could make it. And I expect to do plenty of business with you in the future.
Let's go down the list of available items here, shall we? Brews of Knowledge give the drinker 2 Skill points a pop. This is the most expensive they are in the series, but still a steal. I'll be dumping a lot of money on those in the future. Ironskin, a unit of which I sold last update, gives the user Invulnerability for several turns. Brew of Battle should be the Haste/Bless combo for the drinker. Lethe removes XP, so don't drink it. And who cares about Bliss or Clarity when there are better drinks here?
Not yet. But we'll be back. Oh yes we will.
See you, dear.
And this is Ghirka!
I have to say, this is unusual. Why is this even here?
Vahnatai stuff is your purview, Art.
This is a teaching crystal. Why is it hidden back here?
HELL YES! Major Blessing is a top-tier spell. It Blesses, Hastes and gives everyone poisoned weapons for a single spell. Now I just need someone who can cast it.
While that knowledge will undoubtedly come in handy, we should go. Perhaps the waterway may provide a convenient path?
Fancy words for 'faster'.
So many people on the shore.
And therefore they can't get to us.
And we've reached the headwaters with no signs of roads, just basic bridges that we've passed under on our way here. We may actually have to follow the road.
Ogres? What are Ogres doing down here?
We should check in with Erika. If they're from that direction, she might know something, then ask me to get rid of them for her.
* * *
The western wall of this gallery is not the road.
Curious. There are Nephil signs here. Why would they be hiding?
This does not bode well.
Are they outcasts?
Pick your targets, we exterminate.
I agree. They are worse than savages, and their destruction will be appropriate.
There are a lot of targets here, but at this point, we're well above the board in terms of difficulty.
I think that's the last of them. All that's left are the non-combatants. And I don't feel guilty about this at all.
We should not hunt them down. It will not bode well for us.
And if these guys are related to the Murders, we can justify the attack ex post facto.
After the fact.
And this is a resource they should be denied.
* * *
That sounds familiar.
Curious. I would have expected more.
Still enough for a workout.
We should withdraw. I do not know where this will end.
I don't know if this is an infinitely repeatable event that spawns three Larva and a Chitrach, or if there is some limit I didn't reach, or if it's bugged, but I gave up on trying to get through.
* * *
The headwaters are to the east.
And there's a thin passage here. Let's follow it.
More like a glorified crack, really.
Whose idea was this again?
A light at the end!
Oh well, it could be worse.
I feel like taking an actual road this time, and not a glorified strip of flat ground.
* * *
Like this one!
Why are there Slith statues all over the place?
What's this? An actual Slithzerikai? I don't believe it!
And who might you be?
There is a short man with short hair on his hands and knees here, cementing stone floor tiles. He looks up at you and cocks his head. I am McCullouch. Welcome to my work place.
Art. Unspecified Services.
And I am assembling a floor, as you can see. Alone.
And you're doing a good job of it too. Alone.
Don't get smart with me, girl. He closes his eyes and takes a moment to calm down. Sorry. Shouldn't have done that. Yes. Normally, there would be a Slith named Ahsoth helping me. However, it is absent, as you can see.
Why would they be absent?
Normally, one might be inclined to take this as evidence of the laziness of Slithzerikai, especially considering how often it has been happening lately. And how lousy the work they've been doing has been. However, I'm sure you wouldn't come up with the idea that the Sliths are just big dumb lizards. That wouldn't be a conclusion we would come to, right?
And what sort of conclusion might we come to?
I don't know. But us enlightened types have to stick together.
Hold on. There might be a legitimate reason. Let's investigate further.
If it wasn't so cold, I'm be more annoyed.
Yeah, this section of the caves is chill.
He's right. It's cooler up here than it is down in Exile, or even on the surface.
Before we do that though, how about some warm up exercises?
Wait, I didn't know Sliths were cold-blooded.
But they do have a different temperature tolerance than humans. We can handle cold better than they can, while they're much better in heat and humidity.
Huh. Learn something new. It's a happy day!
Well, this is cheery.
ohfuck NULL BUGS!
Insects that radiate an irregular anti-magic field! Sass! Bronwyn! Help Art!
Null Bugs are a pain in the rear for a Magic heavy team like this one. Half the party is useless, and the other half is stuck in close quarters with this thing:
I can scry it!
Interesting mechanical talk for combat. Creatures like the Null Bug or Ice Pudding, those that radiate a 'field' around them, refresh the field when they move. So if an enemy that radiates doesn't move, it doesn't reapply their field around them. And each turn, every field has a random chance of falling down. I got obscenely lucky here, and the Null Bug itself lost its protection, giving me the chance to scry it.
Hate the damned things. Hated them ever since I first encountered them on the Black waters.
The river passage from under Formello the old one, not the new one down to Avit in the Olgai-Vahnatai lands.
But that's a drop of...!
Yep. Not a pleasant trip at all.
I can't tell anything about this person, aside from being human.
I think that was all of them. These supplies look untouched.
Yeah, but and the town really needs them.
Why am I not surprised that the Inn was the first building finished?
You guys chat up the locals. I'll pry Flanagan away from the woman he's talking too.
This woman is surprisingly small and delicate to be working in a construction site in the middle of nowhere surrounded by hostile monsters. She seems perfectly at home, however. She bows to you. Greetings, fellow Exiles.
Hey there. I'm Bronwyn. So, what do you do around here? You don't look like a builder or craftswoman.
She takes a delicate sip of her mushroom beer. I spend most of my time on watch duty.
Watch duty? For what?
I can spot a chitrach twice as far away as anyone else. It's good thing I have to be especially on my guard now, after the killings.
Better check the back caves then, we just dealt with a small incursion back there. Chitrachs aren't exactly subtle insects.
What? The Captain's supposed to be on patrol! They're nasty, nasty creatures. They used to only live down with the Vahnatai. Now they're spreading everywhere. I hear someone brought a few of them up to Exile as an experiment, and they escaped and spread everywhere! At least that's what I heard. Is it true? Beats me. At least they keep me in a job! At that, she raises her mug and takes a hearty swig.
So, what's this about killings? You can't be serious.
They call them murders, but I don't buy that. Foley and Thompson went out. They got careless. They were too slow. A chitrach ate them. End of story. You'll hear lots of weird rumors about magic and evil and stuff, but don't buy it. And the earthquake was just a coincidence!
Last I checked, this was a fairly geologically stable region. What earthquake?
A day before the bodies were found, there was a big rumbling, like an earthquake. But that sort of thing happens often enough. Dumb to think there was a connection.
pst, Delilah. Art has Flanagan. You can talk to that woman in the pink dress now.
There is a short, stout woman sitting at the bar, working on her fifth mug of mushroom beer. She looks uninterested in your presence.
Hey, sorry about Flanny there. He can get carried away. I'm Delilah. What's your name?
McKinley. OK? she grunts.
So McKinley, what do you do when you're not being annoyed by people?
I'm a laborer here.
There's nothing wrong with that.
She turns to you, angry. Look, two of my friends just got murdered, OK? Idiot.
Wait. Those were your friends?
Yeah. They went north. I think some bugs got 'em. That's all I know.
But that's dying, not being murdered. If the bugs killed them.
Chitrachs, they're called. They snuck into Upper Exile with the humans somehow. That's all I know, OK? Let me get blasted in peace.
You have my condolences. Let me buy a round or two for you.
* * *
Hey. Talk. Now.
Hey! Hey! Don't push! I'm glad you're here. I could use some help. These murders, they're messy.
We're here now. Just... What's up with these murders?
Not long ago, two men here went north to do some surveying. Not long after that, there was an earthquake. Not long after that, they were found in a cave up there, dead. I sure could use another brain to find out what happened.
What do you mean what happened? That's your job!
Here's what I know. Two New Formellans, Thompson and Foley, recently went north to a small cave to look for minerals. Days later, there was a quake. Then the bodies were found. Their bodies are there still nobody wants to go and get them.
Go up and investigate. Find out who or what killed them, and if you can, the killers themselves. Deal with them if you have to. I'll wait here. Report to me when you find something.
So, do all the heavy lifting for you. Gotcha.
I'm not exactly a paragon of everything. I have my place, and so do you.
I suppose that leaves me with you to talk to.
You meet a tall, thin, awkward looking man with curly dark hair. He is polishing a rough bar that seems to have been set up rather quickly. He has a high pitched, nervous voice. I am McDonald. Who are you?
Look, I take care of the food here. That's all I do, so don't get mad at me is anything goes wrong! Lord knows everything is messed up, and I didn't do it!
I mean, aside from the obvious, what's wrong?
Well, we were behind schedule, and there were bugs and everything, and that wasn't enough! Now we've had these murders! I didn't do it!
Well, tell me about the bugs. That sounds like a solvable problem.
Those chitrachs have been moving into every cave we can get into, and they grow big and mean. They keep walking up and chomping down on us. Two appear for every one we kill. It's a big mess.
Well, you'll be glad to know we took out a couple groups on the way here and found their primary nest in the region.
But they're bottled up. I think they can be burned out, but not with what I have available. Now, about these murders?
He looks frantically nervous. I know nothing about it! Honest! Foley and Thompson went north to survey. We had to go look for them a few days later because they didn't come back. We found their bodies and ran for it and called for help. You would have run too! We were afraid of getting attacked by bugs at any moment.
Thank you for your time.
Nothing interesting here.
* * *
So, that's that.
My bet is on the Nephils. This sounds like something rogues like them would do.
I'm betting on Chitrach.
Here, have a spare blanket. He does have a point here, why are there supposed to be Sliths up here where they aren't suited?
How about we talk to the guard captain?
Oh, hello there, sir.
Worst name to type ever. She shall henceforth be Commander Zhiv.
Hey there, Captain?
My name is Zhiv. But you can call me Commander Zhiv.
Commander it is. Art, Unspecified services. We're here to assist in the investigation.
I oversee the defence of this town, and believe me, there have been nothing but troubles.
Let's start from the top then. Troubles being?
Well, first there were the problems with the Chitrachs, and the sliths. And now we have a murder investigation to deal with!
The Chitrachs are a problem?
Big evil bugs. You don't want to know.
And the slith?
Yeah! What's wrong with them?
Now, don't get me wrong. I got no problems with those lizards. They just shouldn't be here. They need lots of heat, and if we send people out to forage stuff to burn, they'd be eaten by Chitrachs! Plus, they're terrible labourers.
Hear me out! The lizards only started making real buildings a few years ago, and they don't have the knack or the experience! Plus, they insist on putting statues up everywhere! They refuse to work unless they can make statues!
But their statues are...
She spits in irritation. I know, it's some religious thing. They can't make a city without statues. Look, I got nothing against them personally. They just shouldn't be here!
I'm cold. I agree.
There is a point there. Who would send them up here in the first place?
Don't know. There's one Slith left in town in the forge. Talk to him. Her. I can't tell.
And lastly, about those murders?
Simple enough. Foley and Thompson went out to survey. Now they're dead. The bodies are in a cave up north, but nobody wants to go up there. Can't blame them. I know nothing about it really. You should talk to that big-shot Flanagan guy.
Flanagan? Already have.
Let's find that forge so I can warm up.
No, all the fronts are empty.
But not the back.
You meet a big, burly Slith, skin dry from the heat of the forge.
I am Drosser. Welcome to this shop.
While Sass warms up, what do you do here?
I am the blacksssmith for this new city. I run the first shop here.
And what a shop.
This is the first working shop in New Formello. It is necessary because the people here need metal goods to build the city. Also, I provide a good place for Slithsss to come and meet.
What goods do you produce?
Hammers and axes and weapons to fight monsters. I also have weapons for purchase by passerss by. Like you.
So, what is with the Slith contingent in this city?
We slithsss were sent here by our people as a peace gesture to humans. It was a difficult idea.
Whose idea was it?
A young leader, versed in the ways of rhetoric and combat by the name of Aaarth-Tss.
What are some of the difficulties you have been experiencing?
It is too cold for us here, except in my forge. The humans to not like us, and we are ill-suited to the work. When the city is done, most of us will return home. But alass, few will have anything happy to say about the experience. Little peace will come from this.
* * *
Well, let's go north then. Find out what we can.
I must have imagined it.
And here we are, if Flanagan's directions are true.
I hear nothing...
We can take'em!
Let's see what we have here.
The bodies are untouched. This one still has samples on him.
But there's a small crack to the north. Did they go through?
Curious. Perhaps they didn't have a chance to get this far, and were just sampling before going in further?
Careful, you can slide behind them here.
Anyone else concerned about the insects being quiet like this?
They could be magically silenced.
That is all kinds of frightening.
Well, the Stealth spell is a Fifth Circle spell. It could be a natural augmentation related to the Null Bug.
I hate Null Bugs.
It doesn't seem like it's enough.
He has a point. This is more like a deterrent, rather than an obstacle.
There could be thousands of the things down there, and you won't tell because of how quiet they're being.
No thank you. I like to sleep.
I think we found what killed those men.
Not going to stop us, is it?
We are made of sterner stuff.
You're looking quite scorched there yourself, Ni'aurrl.
Right, take a breather, everyone.
Especially with this thing in the way.
Perfect ambush point though.
By the echoes, we're almost at the end.
Fall back to the Bridge, build a choke point.
People who can take a hit up front, not at the back!
It's too narrow!
Annoying when the game deploys my party into combat backwards, but I make do, somehow.
Ugh. I'm going to be cleaning bug guts out of my poncho for weeks at this point.
What do we have here?
Keep it. We'll show it to Flanagan.
And here's the map. Pretty straight forward:
* * *
Right. I'm not hiking back. Matthias, the Amulet, please.
* * *
Anaximander! Flanagan's being useless.
That's it? Back to the surface?
Yes. That's your job. The investigation was because I needed to throw warm bodies at a problem, and you were available. Now, back to work.
* * *
Guess what I haven't done for a while? Training! Let's end the update by doing the usual.
Now that Art's at level 20, she's only going to earn 4 Skill Points per level now, rather than five. With 34 points accumulated, she buys a nice round of physical stats, and better spell casting abilities. Better start the next update with actually hunting down spells for her.
Four more points of Strength, but the real improvement was him finally starting to pick up more spell casting ability. He'll never be as good as a specialist, but in the All Casters, All the Time, he was falling behind. Now he can Bless himself before going to town!
More physical stats. I should invest in Defense, Luck and Assassination next time.
Matthias can now cast Cure Disease on himself! And use the spells Solberg taught us for taking out the Roaches! And cast more spells in general. I'll turn him into this game's version of Peregrine and Kai-Lyss yet.
Delilah is now in a much better position to exploit Firestorm and accelerate her HP gains. I really need to get her to work on Archery for when she runs out of SP. And Bronwyn has taken over as party Skill Monkey, but has the combat skills to not fall behind like others have. Oh well.
Ni'aurrl picks up Mage Five for the same reason as Matthias, but rather than investing more into Spell Points and Intelligence, she picks up more points for Item Lore to minimize dependency on Identify in the future.
* * *
So, east huh? I wonder what new ways people will try to kill us we will encounter.
It'll be fun!