Part 46: Update 042 The Lairs of Athron and SulfrasUpdate 042 The Lairs of Athron and Sulfras
Don't panic! I know where we are?
Just south-east of Khoth's Library. We're a bit overland from Erika's tower, and from there, a short Orb flight and another walk from the Abyss.
Let's start walking then.
Did we actually just do that?
I... think so. Karmas?
Məni bağışla, mənim atalarının spirtli. Mən bu gün sizin əməllərinizdən qarşı günah işlətmişik.
Right, I had forgotten you like to go back to your native tongue every so often.
I was praying for forgiveness. Art, I must say you are a dangerous woman. Your thirst for revenge, though satisfied now, is a drive I have never seen before, and I pray that I never will again.
So... who's in charge of the Empire now?
That's a good question.
Art? You have insight here?
Let's see... Hawethrone's imperial successor would be his daughter, Prazac. So she would be crowned Empress before the week is out. Prazac the First has a nice ring to it. Thankfully she's almost to the age of majority, so she won't require a regency council. But the real problem is Garzahd, the Imperial Magus. He rules the Imperial Court, and will be able to use that power to influence her unduely.
So you're saying that he will be the power behind the throne?
That's the only outcome I can foresee.
Still, the act of assassination will not go unnoticed, nor un-responded too.
That is correct. The first concern they would have is actually internal consolidation of power. There are always factions out there that will attempt to take advantage of the change in power to fortify or further their own agendas. Internal politics will keep the Empire from an immediate response.
I have to agree there.
By my count, we're pretty close to figuring out how to get out of here. What are you going to do once we're back out?
I have given that some thought, though I must impose a condition. I will tell you my plans if you tell me yours.
Very well. I am, currently, undecided. While Escape does hold appeal for me, the academic situation here in Exile still calls out to me to step into the roll of leader. With Linda untrustworthy, Patrick and Solberg hidden away in their towers, Erika and X being unknowns, there is a place for someone of my skill, power and calibre to make a place for myself.
On the other hand, Escape also holds some allure. With my improved stature, I can make a place for myself in a location the Empire will not think to look for me. Not that I'm afraid of them, but rather that defending myself from their incursions would be a distraction and a drain on my resources, which I don't want. I can take the things I've learned down here and parlay them into more opportunities for learning.
So your options reduce to 'Stay for more power' and 'leave for more power'?
Why do you make that sound like a false dichotomy?
And what about you?
She pulls a coin from a tattered pocket. Heads, I go. Tails, I stay. She flips the coin high into the air, letting it fall to the ground unhindered. She and Peregrine look over it. There's your answer.
How like you.
Art, a moment?
Sure. What's up?
Something I wanted to say, for the record, mind you.
This isn't going to be a thing is it?
No, it was about the battle.
What of it?
It was you who struck the final blow. Not I.
What are you talking about? I'm pretty sure Scrioth burned the light from his eyes!
No, I merely finished the job. No, it was your blades that struck the mortal blow. It was you who slew the Emperor.
What? Seriously? You telling me that you're alright with that? I mean, you've already slew Grah-Hoth, why not add Hawthrone to the list?
It would not be right. I slew the demon in the grip of a fervour not my own, though I accept my fate there. It was you who slew the Emperor. I will stand by that statement until the end of my days.
So, you came back to me. The first great deed has been done. Congratulations. And thank you. I have little more to say to you.
You can start by telling us about those passwords that Scimitar wants now?
And why did you drop us back by the DRAGON?
Last question first, so the moron will shut up. Because it got you back to Exile safely, and away from the Teleporter in case there was immediate retribution from the Empire. There was, but I dealt with it.
But as for the password to the surface exit? The Empire, careful as always, wanted to leave an escape route. The Scimitar is searching hard for it. The dragon Sulfras guards it, but that isn't the most well defended thing about it. There's a four syllable password needed to go through. Fortunately, I know one syllable."
Which syllable would that be?
"I stole it from above. Don't ask how. It was a challenge, even for me. The third syllable is 'Eng.' Certain mages may know the other three."
"The two greatest mage-sages in Exile are Aimee, who lives as a hermit on a island far to the north, and Patrick, who is choked with grief but may be useful anyway. Then there are the dragons. Khoth and Athron are the wisest. They may know."
We've already talked to Aimee. She told us one syllable already. And... WE WERE JUST NEAR KHOTH'S PLACE! Dammit, now we have to go back!
Your fault for not being your usual perceptive self.
And with that, you've run out of my limited patience for you today. Goodbye!
Back north. At least it's good to know we're already half done the password.
Erika says you may know part of the Password to escape to the surface?
I know nothing of interest about that. Talk with Athron, who lives in the region you humans know as the 'Honeycomb'.
Patrick, I think.
I'm surprised. He's already helped us out with information regarding the Royal Seal. But who knows, it can't hurt to ask.
I went out and grabbed the second boat from the Giant's Dock around this time. There's two boats there for this reason, as the boat you use to get to the Empire Teleporter cannot be gotten back to via normal methods, and there needs to be a second boat on this body of water to continue explorations.
I name thee BOAT THE FOURTH. No relationship to Peregrine the Fourth.
Goodbye Boat the Third. You served us well.
There's something down this way.
You must be joking.
I am not! I swear an oath!
It's only one. We can take it in a fight if we have to.
Didn't even live long enough for us to tell him that Grah-Hoth is dead.
Well, 50/50 chance of being attacked isn't that big of a deal.
Hello! My wife recovers admirably, thanks to your salve. More traditional methods are aiding her, and she is still weak, but she will recover. How may I help you?
Erika thinks you may know a piece of the Escape Password.
That trifling thing? He smiles. "Yes. For the deed you have done for me, I will tell you. We never found where the exit was, but we did find the last syllable while scrying the surface. It was 'Kai.'
Three down, one to go!
Dammit! I just remembered that we can't get at Athron's lair from this side. We have to come in from the water.
And we left the boat... where again?
I... do not recall. We may have to go to Corta to buy a new boat.
I name thee BOAT THE SIXTH!
I swear, this should be the last one we ever need.
At this time, I went out and did one last round of training. I bought 8 Knowledge Brews for everyone except Art, who for this entire LP has been kept as a baseline in terms of what skills a PC can have. Here is where everyone will be at and have for the rest of the game:
With only her HP and Strength maxed out, Art is still the party leader in XP and levels. And she's still a rolling wave of physical destruction that only AoE spells can match.
With more Skill Points to spend, Karmas has maxed out his offence and defence, yet I wish I had spent more points in Assassination. The extra damage would be very useful.
Finally dropping the useless bow and arrows, I sold them for more money to fuel my Brews and Training, he's another face-smasher, just with fewer levels and HP than Art and Karmas.
Not as good at beating people up, his skills will be somewhat useful into the end of the game to unbar doors.
After maxing out his Priest Spell levels, everything else went into his SP pool to keep him running for longer. I also forget to stock up on Energy Potions, which will annoy me to no end.
More SP, as she had everything else already.
That's it. Let's do this.
Can we make this quick?
For once, I agree. We are too close to our goal to stop now. We get in, ask politely, then leave.
Wisdom, from you! And here I had given all hope up.
And I think we can get by to the left or the right. Which way first?
The coin flip says right!
Right it is!
Nothing but Drakes in the tunnels, and not a real threat.
Ah, here we are, just before the end of the tunnel. We should be able to double-back from here.
Or maybe not.
Coin! You have failed me! Bad coin!
To the left then.
That was remarkably close to the entrance to this set of corridors.
Damn! Defences! Destroy the statues!
Here's the thing. If you cast 'Detect Life' in this dungeon, and check the map, you'll see the blocks where the actual statues are, as well as where the Living Statues are at, such that you can see how the entire things looks 'natural'.
Naturally, I them all.
That's all of them.
Lets go then.
A dragon stands before you. He is green with red highlights, and stands three times the height of a human. He stares at you, clearly displeased by your presence. He hisses, then speaks. His impossibly deep voice is tinged with irritation. "I am Athron, intruder."
Mighty Anthron, who apologize for disturbing you...
He blows a plume of acrid smoke from his nose, then speaks. "I live here. Alone."
"I do not wish the company of the lesser creatures."
You heard the Dragon! TIME TO LEAVE!
Yes, the foolish mortals which have overrun these caves. My brothers tolerate them. I shun them. But you...
"Fool Motrax welcomes them, the humanoids, the fools and thieves." His voice rises. Flames come out with the words. "I do not wish to see you. I do not wish to deal with you, or hear your foolish babblings. I wish you to go. If you have business with me, speak it now. Otherwise, to stay is to risk my wrath."
Erika led us to you, saying you may have knowledge of the Password to escape this place! What may you desire to reveal it to us?
"If you wish. I scry the world above, to find what the humans are planning. As I watched the king above, he was told part of the pass phrase for the portal above. The first word is 'Kro.'"
That's it. The only thing left is to find Sulphras and get out.
There's only one part of Exile we haven't explored yet, and it seems like a good place to check given its remoteness, and general closeness to Erika and the Abyss.
Past Fort Remote, north of the Pit Drake.
Even now, the destruction of Fort Remote is something I am solemn about. That you have to pass through here to escape only makes the imperative actions that led to this more immediate to the player. I caused this. You can Escape from the Pit, but you cannot Escape the consequences of your actions.
North from here, though I know not the way.
Is this the western-most edge of Exile?
I believe so.
We can either Orb over this, or take the long way around. I choose the direct path.
This isn't right. There is no noise, no motion, no life. This place has been scoured clean.
This place got missed though. Life always finds a way.
What is this?
Magic Lockpicks don't break, ever. And the Elixir of Power will be useful for the final run of battles, so I buy one for everyone in the party. Then forget to use them.
Wait... Sulphras or Sulfras?
The latter, obviously.
But we've been using the former all the time!
It is merely an accent upon the name. Nothing to be concerned with.
Last barrier. Let's go.
We have to keep going. No stopping us now.
You see a demon. The loathsome purplish creature is pacing back and forth agitatedly in the magic circle.
Oh. Hi. Not Sulphras, I see.
It sighs angrily. "I am Bahk-Shah. I am bound to welcome you."
Really? That's your job? That sucks.
In frustration, it rakes the invisible barrier around it with his claw. Then it calms down. "I am bound to welcome all comers to the home of the mighty drake."
Are you sure that it's a drake back there, and not a Dragon?
"Sulfras, mightiest of dragons. He placed me here to greet, and give warning." He speaks the words with loathing.
Out with the warning, demon.
"Sulfras requests nobody take the east passage from his chamber without permission. Those who disobey will die in fire." It leers. Please do so. For my enjoyment.
An enormous dragon, four times the height of a human, a hundred feet long, its mighty length coiling and uncoiling, rests on a bed of hot coals. When he sees you, he bares his fangs in a grin. They are black.
"I am Sulfras. I am a lord of my kind. Bow down before me!" Such is the command of his voice that you do so, without intending to.
Mighty Sulfras, we have come to petition you for on a subject regarding your duties.
"My actions and machinations are private, and you should not presume to ask." You shudder involuntarily. "But, I am looking for some assistants."
What could you need assistants for?
Some humans have expressed an interest in that passage to the east. The passage I control.
They, or at least this puny group called the Scimitar, expresses interest in passing it. Interesting things are beyond. I may allow you. But you must ask permission."
Then we ask, oh mighty Sulfras, for permission to pass.
He chuckles. "Denied. But, it can be earned. There are two items of interest to me: a silver circlet and an onyx scepter. Bring them, and I will give you permission."
We have a scepter...
Without warning, he roars, and vomits a mighty gout of flame into the air. You almost faint. "Stolen from me! I know not who the thief is, but I know where it is! The Tower of Magi! Fight them! Get it! If you would pass here, get it!" He breathes flame again. It's very unnerving.
And the circlet?
"A silver circlet, brought down by some pathetic humans some time ago. I've only heard of it, I don't know where it is, but it is of great interest to me. And that is all you need to know."
Yes. We shall do what you ask.
It's just one thing after another...
And that was me forgetting to grab something. I'll get it next update, which will finish off the LP proper.