Part 37: SolutionUpdate 14: 66% Solution
Handily enough, the final dungeon of Death Knights is located within spitting distance of Cerberus and the graveyard. Getting there is one thing, getting in is another.
"Say the password!"
"Shit. Does anybody know the password?"
"Hmm. Perhaps the word on the key?"
"Worth a shot. Denissa!"
"That was way too easy. Shouldn't they have realized they didn't recognize us?"
"I was initially impressed by them actually asking for a password, but considering that they're not stopping us from wrecking the gate I take it all back."
"Does that make you feel any better?"
See this? Flip it around on the other side of the field and you have the enemy's gate defenses. A fireball can neatly destroy one side, allowing your group to concentrate on the others. Your cleric's turning ability is also severely weakened within the keep, making it more difficult to just dismiss enemy undead.
"Follow us and loot the bodies? What the hell are you thinking!? Get out of here at once!"
"Ignore her. You can do whatever you want but it's really not healthy to be here."
"And I can't make any promises that there'll be anything worth taking after we're done."
"Oh, and I wouldn't wander out of the room. We're going to take a bit of a rest since it looks pretty secure here."
"Wait, what the hell just happened?"
"He's old, not dead. And her husband is. I know you're a knight and all, but I didn't think I'd have to spell it out for you."
"If he'd waited a couple minutes, I'd have given him that elixir of youth so he could make a better showing of it."*
*I was planning on giving the elixir to Durfey, but it turns out that Lenore's leaving of the party is triggered by time passing, not by movement. She left and took Durfey with her as soon as I rested.
"Looks like they're also smart enough to make it so you can't just walk down the main drag and into the throne room. I don't get it.. half the time they're idiots, and half the time they're competent."
"Are you from Cerebus, by chance? Can you tell us where everyone else is?"
"We're here to help. And destroy undead monstrosities, and there aren't any of those in the room at the moment."
"I think it might have been the last bit that actually did the trick, but we may never know."
Random encounters aren't really random here, as we'll soon see. At any rate, on the way down the corridor to the aforementioned door we run into an encounter that sounds threatening...
But aren't really. One odd note is that it does include a vampire mage, who is actually significantly tougher than a regular vampire. This makes it seem like the vampires we've been fighting are just random schlubs from around the countryside.
"Wait, mages have were boars? Ishmael, do you have a were boar?"
"I do not, and I have no idea how a mage goes about acquiring one."
For some reason, these are being introduced at the last minute. They're not really all that difficult, and there isn't any chance of us somehow being turned into were boars, more's the pity.
"Good news! You didn't know it, but you're already halfway to freedom."
"More like three fifths, really, if you count breaking the orb."
"That's only if you're being pedantic about it. But anyway, there, now we're halfway through!"
"Actually, three fifths."
"Y'know, we could just finish off this one and wait for the next patrol rather than wandering all over the keep."
"Yeah, but we're also making sure there's no treasure as we explore. Two birds with one stone, as it were."
Flesh golems are patchwork creatures that resemble Frankenstein's monster, but have a number of resistances and powers. They're easy enough to hit, but can do fairly serious damage and have a pretty reasonable THAC0. They're stronger than any natural human, are slowed rather than damaged by fire and frost spells, and are actually healed by lightning. They're immune to all other spells, and can only be struck by magical weapons. For lower level adventurers, these would be terrifying.
"And this makes four such odd company they keep."
It almost looks like the wraiths and the were tigers are going to fight each other, but that's sadly not the case. The were tigers are fast and have a high number of attacks, but are otherwise no more remarkable than the were boars were.
"Y'know, if the enemy had been smart enough to leave one patrol out of the geas they'd be in a lot of trouble right now."
"Perhaps. We should encourage them to leave the castle as soon as possible."
"Did they did they decapitate the commander and strip his skull down to give it to us as a present?"
"Huh no, looks like it's stone. We should probably hang onto this."
"Looks like Sebas was here, and recently."
"Looks like nobody has been here recently. What a waste of a perfectly good throne room."
"Soth was supposedly in his throne room when the Cataclysm struck. I imagine he hasn't been too fond of it since then."
"Hmm, some kind of secret passageway. All the way back to Cerebus graveyard, if I'm any judge."
"So now that we've freed the people from Cerberus does that mean anyone we find here is probably an enemy?"
"Aside from Sebas and Durfey, that's pretty much the case."
"Yep, definitely a good thing we broke in. There's no way this could have had a happy ending."
Some ten seconds later...
"Don't mind if I do!"
"Are you even going to use that thing?"
"Nope. Although it'll still be worth a couple thousand steel."
"Oh no is this the same as what was going on in the graveyard?"
"Okay, that's it. Everything left in this keep is evil and we're not helping anybody else."
"We might want to see about that. We're still only on the first floor, after all."
Vampire clerics are nearly identical to vampire mages. It goes without saying that, barring novel circumstances, these are clerics of evil gods.
This is also about the last thing before you can climb to the next floor. For the curious, this place has a total of three stories, with the third story being the smallest.
"See? This place is chock full of innocent hostages."
"Hostages suggests that they're trying to use them against us I'm afraid the people we've seen are intended for a much darker use."
"Silly monsters. Portcullis are for the outer parts of a castle, not the inside."
"Based on my experience, though, there'll be a way to lift it somewhere around here."
"What would they be watching so intently?"
"Let's not find out. They're just a waste of our time and my spells."
"Looks like you were right and we'll probably find those vampires somewhere along the way."
"Why would they have a switch here, though?"
"Just in case somebody was stupid enough to lock themselves out. You've got to account for idiocy among your servants."
"Oh my. You really should have moved a bit faster."
Enemy groups get a bit stronger at this point, especially now that we're seeing death knights as part of encounters. With the ability to drop a fireball on your head, that death knight is the main priority here.
"I guess we'll have to, since this really didn't work out all that well for you."
"You really should have brought a lot more people for something like this."
"I'm just glad the people from Cerberus are gone from here. I'm pretty sure they'd be seeing family members."
"Oh, just a bit here and there."
The only designated rest spots in the keep are in the jail cells on the second floor, going under the assumption that the enemy won't think to search for you here. Surprisingly, it works.
"Even if we don't do anything else, we're at least ridding Krynn of a lot of undead monstrosities."
"Unfortunately, the potential number of undead is tied to the number of mortals in the world. This is a battle that we cannot win through attrition."
The only good thing about this kind of encounter is that it's in a wide open space. This game loves to use level draining enemies on you, which will necessitate occasional trips back to town.
"Kitiara wasn't she carried off by Soth after dying in an attempt to recreate the Dragonarmies and conquer Palanthas?"
"Seems like she wasn't completely dead unlike our friend here. Rest well, Sebas."
"One of these days, these clerics will actually start keeping their bodyguards in the room to protect them."
"I think these clerics are going to have a tough time learning anything."
"Rats? What a bizarre transformation."
"Maybe just to see if they could."
Two vampires isn't enough to make a difference. The enemy fights in this one are usually designed around the principle that at least one or two enemies will be able to get off a devastating spell. Fireball and lightning bolt can neatly circumvent this dynamic.
"We'll be glad to to be honest, we were probably going to do it by accident while working our way through this place anyway."
"Y'know, I don't mean to be picky about this but whatever happened to storing magical goods in chests like a normal person? Who leaves their treasure underneath their laundry?"
The loot here is actually one of the better caches in the game, including a set of +4 Plate Mail. This finally gives Boo armor that surpasses his Solamnic plate.
"A giant tome with a mysterious incantation in the middle of a keep full of undead monstrosities to read or not to read?"
"You act like there's any way for this to possibly go wrong."
"I'd probably have done it anyway just to see what would happen."
"So we just take credit for it, even though we had no idea that would happen?"
"You're starting to get a grip on being a hero."
"Fools! You are no match for the forces here. Soon the body of Sturm Brightblade will fight for us, and now your bodies will join our armies as well!"
"You might want to ask every other guard in the keep about how this is going to end up. Or Ariela. Or the Dreadwolf. I'm sure their answer would be instructional.
That's a lot of magic users plus a death knight except that he's, once again, within reach of our three main fighters while the mages and priests are positioned perfectly for a fireball or lightning bolt attack. If we still had a second mage, this would be even more of a cakewalk.
"Sturm Brightblade was one of our greatest heroes. He has become a symbol of the Oath and the Measure. To think that his body was almost twisted to evil purposes was horrifying. You are heroes beyond measure."
"That's.. um.. thank you. That's very kind of you to say."
"You might want to save that thanks until we finish what we're doing here."
And with that, we've dealt with everything on this floor and it's time to go back to deal with drained levels and identify our magical treasures. Oh, and those vampires? They're waiting for you to go back. That's actually the staircase to the first level.
Boo has reached a new level and briefly pulled ahead of Amanda. With his new armor he's dealing with a much lower encumbrance, and the Boots of Speed give him the movement to take full advantage of it. He can now dash most of the way across a battlefield to strike at an enemy, which is tremendously useful. Rip has been using the Mace of Disruption throughout this entire dungeon for the slim chance of disrupting an enemy, even though it's strictly speaking a weaker weapon than his Mace +4. Poor Gable is stuck as the only character at this point with a positive armor class, but we can fix that in the next game. Speaking of which, next time we'll finish the main quest!