Part 5: To The Batcave
"Good thing I've been holding onto this rope for a special occasion."
The cavern under Fountain Head is full of Goblins and Vampire Bats. Goblins we've seen already; Vampire Bats are the weakest enemies in the game, with only 5 HP, but they're fast enough that they usually act first in combat, and their attacks can inflict poison. It's best to attack them from afar with bows.
"I vote we let Sails search it."
"I second that motion."
"Fine, you cowards. Step aside and let me handle it."
Some barrels contain treasure, either in the form of gold or items.
"There. Nothing to be afraid of, just a little acid. It'll wash right off. Now, Cyrus, you can do the next one."
Others just inflict damage and/or poison on whoever searches them.
"Why me? I'm s'posed to be the party member with the highest Luck!"
And a precious few permanently increase a character's statistics.
There's one +5 boost for every statistic down here, except Endurance, which has multiple +5 boosts. It's a good idea to spread stat boosts evenly around the party, since it takes more stat points to get the same bonus once you get a stat above 21. Of course, you have to balance that with giving boosts to the characters who can actually make the best use of those stats.
"Aieee! A talking statue! Kill it! Kill it!"
"Tianas, I don't think it's an enemy..."
"I don't care! Look how creepy it is! Kill iiiiit!"
There are a few of these statues at various places in the cavern. Each one teaches a secondary skill: Spot Secret Doors, Direction Sense, Danger Sense and Swimming. The first three are nice to have on at least one character in the party, and it's important to get Swimming for everybody as soon as you can.
"Rat... Overlord? That sounds ominous."
"Oh great, that's just what we need when half of us are slowly dying of poison. Let's find it before it finds us and get this over with, then."
"Why should we? Maybe we don't want to seek out the Slithercult Stronghold. Maybe we want to seek out something else. Did you ever think about that? Well, did you, anonymous wall inscription?"
"I'm all for well-controlled belligerence, but arguing with a wall is a new low even for you."
"Right, you two, less arguing, more barrel-opening. Hey, what's th--"
That's right, there's one barrel in the dungeon that just straight-up insta-kills whoever opens it. Have I mentioned yet that it's important to save often?
"Well, we would have had to head back to be cured of poison eventually anyway. So it's no great loss."
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one who carried his body all the way back up to the temple."
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me."
Welcome to the wonderful world of swinging blade traps. Step into one and the whole party takes 5 damage. Some of them can be avoided if you have the Jump spell. When they're at corners, or there are several of them in a row, no such luck.
"Password? Password for what? Now I wish we'd given him those extra skulls we picked up while we were in town to revive Cyrus..."
"Um... open sesame?"
"Did we just get teleported back into the middle of the swinging blade hallway?"
"Looks like it."
"And now we have to go back through it to see Kranion, and then back through it again to get back here?"
"If I say yes, are you going to get violent again?"
"What do you mean? I'm always violent."
"That's the password? We could have guessed it in the time it took to get back here!"
"Finally, we can progress! I wonder what lies behind that passage..."
"Shoulda seen that coming."
"Well, I suppose that's as logical a colour-coding as any. Mind you, I don't know why on earth anyone would want to go into a place called the Fortress of Fear."
"Where's the 'none of the above' option? There's no way we're turning back after getting this far."
"Who even wrote these warnings? As far as I know, rats don't have opposable thumbs."
"There's a ladder leading back up into town just around the corner. The Rat Overlord must be up there!"
Despite the intimidating name, the Rat Overlord is basically just a big Moose Rat. It has 250 HP and twice as many attacks as a regular one, but if you were able to fight your way here in the first place, this should be a simple battle of attrition.
Of course, "simple" doesn't always mean "easy".
But the important thing is that the party won. Time to see what's in that chest behind the grate!
"By releasing me from my prison you have lifted an enduring curse from this fair town. Accept my reward and heed my advice. Visit the fountain that stands alone!"
"Sure, whatever, just get to the part where we get paid for this."
Rescuing Morphose nets us 2500 gold and a bunch of items. Most are junk, but the Crystal Cameo gives +1 to AC and the Sonic Short Sword does 5 points of bonus energy damage with every hit and also raises energy resistance.
Now that the curse on the fountains has been lifted, throwing coins in them actually does something.
"You can't rhyme a word with itself! That's bad form!"
"Seek the sister of the waters blue, near the southwest corner true. Bring her shells from the Great Sea's depths, and greatly shall she aid your quests."
"Take the twisting horn of gold, to the central meadow. Find the unique steed of old, and relieve its dying sorrow."
"Six brothers settled in the land, with names arranged in certain course. One then vanished from the band, and left the others in remorse."
"Ancient items of evil and good, and neutrality, too, were concealed. Search the sands, mountains and woods, for their value will soon be revealed."
"Two wizards locked in mortal strife, destroyed each others' keep. Now bound in life that isn't life, they seek the peaceful sleep."
"Powerful orbs hold the key, for ultimate rule of the land. Deliver them to the kings of three, to strengthen their command."
"Now we're talkin'. I dunno what half that babble was about, but ultimate power doesn't sound half bad."
"But all those fountains were in pairs. Where's the one that stands alone?"
This does what it says on the tin: drop, say, 1000 gold in and one character will be rewarded with 1000 experience points. The trouble with this is that gold is generally in shorter supply than experience.
"We got rich and powerful and nobody's trying to kill us for it! That's what I call a win-win situation."
Note that Sails has now levelled up high enough that she has two attacks per round. She can still only target a single enemy with an attack, but she'll automatically attack it twice, potentially doing twice as much damage. Characters will accumulate absurd numbers of attacks by high levels: the rate at which they gain them is determined by their class.
"Least until those other adventurers come back and try to take a share of our loot, anyway."
"Our natural superiority should be clear. Our success is proof enough that the world favours our cause. If others wish to stand in our way and be crushed, we can't be blamed for their foolishness."
"I wonder what they're doing right now. Are they working to bring order and meaning to the world too?"
"Who cares about them? With any luck we can tip them off to some quest or other and they'll go die in a dungeon trying to solve it. If we find out what happened to them, we can even go loot their bodies."
"I like the way you think, young lady. We may have to seek them out again after all..."
We'll be switching back to the good party for the next update. Should they do some spelunking in Baywatch's cavern, would you rather have them keep exploring outdoors, or will they seek an audience with the king at Castle Whiteshield? Vote now!