Part 72: Blackcrag FortressUpdate 66 Blackcrag Fortress
"So, is this the last town before the Fortress?"
"Yes. We should stop by and see if there is any news, or perhaps last-minute supplies.
As do I.
To the town!
This isn't good.
I can hear them.
Yeah. Alien Beasts.
Right, switching out my sword then.
During this fight, I encounter the 'leader' version of the Alien Beasts. May I present:
A major wrecker of a party, with a skill of 36 (meaning you need at least 16 Defence or equivalent to even think about having a chance to not get hurt) and the ability (on paper) to one-shot anyone with less than 130 HP.
That's all of them.
This entire town has been savaged, hasn't it?
Which speaks volumes on how well the Empire can project force into Valorim.
Yeah, that's just a sigh of how far down this place has gone.
Nothing in here.
I don't think anything is here.
That was depressing.
Might as well keep going north.
What is this?
THERE IS A WHOLE ARMY HERE??
I remember you, Ma'am.
I don't recall you. My apologies.
That's alright. You do good work, and I was only an initiate at the time.
Now is not the time for a class reunion!
And this must be the back entrance to the Fortress.
Let's try the front first though.
I just keep telling myself that the Spire was worse.
Let's do this.
Yes. Now, leave.
* * *
Ah, this is the northern most reach of the wall around Footracer.
Let's keep walking away from Blackcrag for a bit to let her cool off.
' Nice, using that Mesa as an anchor point on the corner.
Wait! Do you hear that?
Hey Art, wanna kill some Alien Beasts?
Let's head back.
* * *
Yeah, that's bigger than the Castle.
Just to give you an idea of the terrain at the north side of Valorim that's Blackcrag at the end of the road, and we're standing one tile north of that event. The fortress is so big you can see it around the curvature of the earth.
Might as well.
Oooh. This looks interesting.
If you haven't purchased permission to be here, you'll have to fight your way through the first part of this dungeon.
Well, it's obvious who these people are.
The Unblinking Eye!
We were told that we could use the inn.
I don't remember seeing any other Orge Mages or Nephar in this game. These two generic NPCs might be the only examples of them in the game!
The man walking about the room seems unfriendly in the extreme, much like everyone else. However, he is at least willing to talk to you. You may call me Velasquez, he says. It's not my real name, but for you it will do.
Hello. Don't get many visitors up here, do you?
Most people who come here are in the Guild, or the foolish. You here is only allowed due to the exceptional circumstances. We were expecting you. Just follow the rules, and everyone will be happy. Room's 50 gold. Drink for 25.
Let's start with the important stuff. Drink!
You pay an excessive amount of money for the bitter, oily whisky that makes your eyes water. You drink well, he says. You can sell me your loot if you wish.
I unload a lot of my spare stuff. Only about 5k worth though.
And the Rules?
Don't talk to people. Don't pick things up. Don't go where you aren't wanted. Go to Blackcrag or Leave.
And how to we get to Blackcrag?
The passage to Blackcrag is north of the inn. Before you go, there's a button hidden in my office. Press it once to make it possible to get through. Now go.
We'll be leaving. Thanks for the drink.
My stomach is still on fire!
Press the button.
Yeah, let's not.
At least these people are considerate of needs of the continent.
Well, I'm glad we're not thieves. Therefore we're not troublemakers.
Did you know you can use Piercing Crystals on locked doors? I used three of them here to get through, as I don't really need them any more. I only wanted them for the Tower of Zkal, and from here on to the end game, I won't be in that situation again.
We might have to stock up on those again. A good excuse to get back to Shayder.
Looks easy enough.
Except for that last room.
If you haven't pressed that button in the Inn, the bridge will give way as you cross over it, killing you all.
Remember when these were a threat?
Because of course there would be a Doomguard at the last point.
My brilliant plan to contain the Doom guard to prevent it from splitting! Except it was walk through Fire Barriers.
So I deal with it like this.
There we go.
This could go wrong in so many ways.
But it hasn't!
I suspect that this passage was a appropriated Siege hole for the Fortress. Nice to know.
Oh gods! You're actually here!
You are welcomed to mighty Blackcrag Fortress by a small, mousy man. Probably a valet. He seems terrified of you. I am Seymore. He adds nonverbally, Don't hit me.
This is an odd place for someone to be. Why are you here?
He shifts his weight nervously from foot to foot. I was, well, left to wait here and give you a message.
Well, that's nice of you. What is the Message?
I was told to stay here and to tell you that Empress Prazac herself wishes to meet you.
Well, that explains a lot. The Empress has contact with the Guild.
She is the leader of the whole Empire! She need not consort with criminals!
And where do we go to meet her?
She's in the throne room. You can get to it to the south. Though you'll have to do some looking to find the way. Just be careful.
He fidgets. They tell me some people don't want you to be here, so you're supposed to stay out of sight. Just so you know.
I hate politics.
If that is all, Ma'am?
People don't want us here.
But the Empress does.
This has all the makings of a problem.
Let's knock on doors and see who likes us or not?
I like that idea!
It's a bad one!
Huh? Oh. This room is filled with foul smells, vials and gourds cover every available surface. And the solitary man in the room's hands are covered with grisly, permanent stains. Must be an alchemist. I am Howar.
Hello. I'm Delilah.
I am the alchemist for Blackcrag. Here to do major research. He looks you over appraisingly. I also have a few recipes I teach on the side.
So, what is it like in Blackcrag?
Many mages are here to do research. It's part of why Valorim has been put under quarantine.
Nobody is being let out of Valorim, to help make sure none of the monsters sneak out with them. The Empress is trying to buy time so we can research to find out ways to combat the creatures. That's why we mages are here.
Sword and spell seem to work well.
Exceptions do not a rule make.
Thank you for your time.
There is a woman sitting at her desk, holding a powerful looking glass in her hand. She is examining a huge cockroach. She pauses, however, when you enter. I am Petrie. Greetings. You have given me a reason to take a break from doing research on this vile beast.
The 'roach? Yes, it is quite vile, but their source has been eliminated.
I know you wiped them out, but we still need to figure out how they were made Otherwise the next such creature to come along will slay us. She pokes it. But I am sure you have other interests.
We do have many interests.
We were told that you might be coming. And that we should assist you if at all possible. I know several spells of great power, which I can teach you if you wish.
Dear lord, look at those prices!
A dour mage sits at his desk, examining a vial filled with ochre slime. I am Shane, he says grimly. I know who you are. There is no need to introduce yourselves.
Well, why are you here then?
Well, I had a booming business. But I had to interrupt it when I was forced to come here.
Why would your business be exploding?
I have a thriving trade in magical items. Highly reliable and hand crafted. I did bring some with me when I was forced to come here in the hope of wresting some profit from this tedious exercise. Care to purchase some?
You say you were forced?
All the powerful magicians within 500 miles were brought to this area, to try to figure out what the monsters in Valorim were there for. Like the fate of those barbarians is our problem! He looks at the slime grumpily.
They are not barbarians!
I'm going to walk away before I hit you.
Ah, hello there. Are you a cook here?
You stumble upon one of Blackcrag Fortress' large number of serving wenches. She is clearly terrified of you.
Yeah, I can see that. Art and company are a well equipped strike force. Now that they're inside, it would take the power of plot to stop them from killing everyone in the Fortress.
I'm Promise, she stammers. I'm ... I'm ... I work in the kitchen. She stares at your faces intently, recognizing the paleness that marks Exiles.
Bronwyn. So, when is lunch?
Later! I need to get back to work! She backs away. Sorry! She runs away.
Well, this is convenient.
Only way we can go. If we go west, they won't let us.
Oh, hey! Here's the other factors who don't like us. I was wondering when you would show up.
For the Empire!
Did they expect some other response? It's not like we're random people on the street!
And here is the way back in.
Humans make worse statues than Slithzerikai.
Both of whom are better than my people.
I wonder what they use to store things.
I think someone else stole everything first.
Yeah, like they would keep anything sensitive in here knowing we were coming through.
An officious bureaucrat stands by the door to the throne room, waiting. He sniffs slightly as you approach. Chief Valorim Liaison Vladimir, at your service.
Art, Field Operative, Unspecified Services. Exile. We have an appointment.
Yes, you are here to see Empress Prazac. Though I suspect I should be glad that the violated protocol is the least of my worries.
We are indeed here to meet with the Empress at her summoning.
So I am aware. However, the situation has several complexities.
What is the protocol?
Probably things like cleaning up and wearing nice clothes.
What is the nature of these complexities?
Everything is currently unstable. Certain factions, should they find that the Empress is dealing with Exiles, would become very aggravated. And there would be difficulties. Serious difficulties.
I am aware. Is the Dorikas family still in power?
They still object to the policies of the Empress after they lost the favour of her father. And while I may give you permission to enter, protocol demands that you request it first.
I, Art, representative of Exile, hereby request permission to meet with the Empress.
You may enter.
Well, this should be interesting.
Prazac. First of her Name.