Part 8: Beyond the Valley of the Trolls
"Guys, I found a note pinned to the wall of the inn this morning. Says there's dangerous monsters terrorising the countryside to the east, around Leper Canyon. Probably treasure, too. Good place to hone our skills, don't you think?"
"Do I hear the sound of monsters? My mace and I are ready to go!"
"You know, much as I would like to purge all evil from these lands, there's such a thing as biting off more than we can chew. Perhaps we should take note of this place and return later."
The area east of Fountain Head is full of Wild Fungi, which are no tougher than the last time we ran into them.
"Y'know, if we wipe out these monsters, we're just gonna leave this ecosystem wide open for something bigger and meaner to take over. I'm just sayin'."
No treasure from destroying this lair, unfortunately, but experience is always nice.
"Well, uh, it wouldn't be the worst, uh, investment I've made. Did I ever tell you about the time I bought the Cripple Creek Bridge?"
"I'd think a rogue would have more street smarts. Guess you're more of a sucker than I thought."
"I'll say. There isn't a bridge over Cripple Creek."
Handing over the gems to the statue nets the party some gold and several random items, usually of decent quality. Given that gold and items are both generally scarcer than gems early on, it's a good deal. You can only make the trade once, though.
"Steel leather armour? How is that even possible?"
"Well, you've heard of steel wool, haven't you? Same thing, except from a cow instead of a sheep."
"Hey, what's that thing coming toward us? Looks like some kind of butterfly or--"
"Gyaaagh! Butterflies can't zap people with lightning! That's lepidopterally unsound!"
Sprites start showing up in the plains to the southeast of Fountain Head. They have low HP and inflict relatively little damage. They also have high AC and magic resistance, making them a huge pain to kill anyway.
Oh, and they can inflict curses.
"I can't help but notice there's a little black raincloud floating above my head. Maybe it's a punishment from the gods."
"I thought you didn't believe in the gods."
"All the more reason for them to punish me."
"Fate has turned against you. I think we had better take you back to Fountain Head to have the sprites' curse removed before something unfortunate happens."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm perfectly fiiiiiiiiiii"
"Huh. I don't remember that manhole being right in front of the temple before. Well, better him than me."
Hey, did I mention that running around with 0 in a stat for any significant length of time has a very high chance of being fatal?
Being un-killed is significantly more expensive than being uncursed, and then you have to pay to get the curse removed anyway so you don't just drop dead again. Don't let this happen to you!
There's lots more gold and items hidden in the mountains east of Fountain Head, so don't forget to explore until you've filled out the entire automap!
There are also more stat-boosting fountains. This one temporarily raises the party's Might by 30, and another one nearby raises the party's Speed by 30.
The mountains east of Fountain Head are full of Oh No Bugs, which are dangerous if you make a beeline (so to speak) straight there at the start of the game, but can't really do much to a party that's gained a few levels.
This stone head hidden in the mountains offers a one-time trade of high-quality random items in exchange for more gems than we currently have. I'll come back here once we can actually afford the price.
"Huh. Somebody must be keepin' a dog in here."
"Bob, those look like... they, uh, look like human bones. Dozens of them. Probably from several different people."
"Must be a big dog. A big, hungry dog."
There are also stone heads around the place that spout little poems and temporarily increase the party's resistances in exchange for money. They're pretty unimpressive (both the resistance bonuses and the poems).
In a little island southeast of Fountain Head, requiring the Swimming skill to reach...
... is one of the best fountains accessible in the early parts of the game.
"Level 26? I don't believe it!"
"What, because you can't count that high even if you take your shoes off?"
The fountain gives +20 to the entire party's experience level. Until this wears off, every character has an absurd number of melee attacks, and every spellcaster's level-based spells are much stronger (and much more expensive).
"A what? I don't see any apes around here..."
"I see one."
Still no treasure, but that's some pretty good experience.
Further to the south, just past the Sprites, is the Valley of the Trolls, which is filled not with Trolls but with Ogres. They can take a decent beating and dish one out too, and they have missile attacks so standing back and firing arrows is counterproductive. They're still less of a pain to kill than the Sprites, though.
"How mysterious. Perhaps somebody in Baywatch might know of the key, since this fortress is so close."
"Oh boy, do we get to beat up an evil wizard? I always wanted to beat up an evil wizard!"
"Though their castles were so near each other, each held great respect for the other's magic."
"Okay that's nice and all but can we skip to the part where we fight you now please?"
"I, uh, I don't think he wants to fight us, Bob."
"Damn. Maybe next time."
"But events turned dark when they discovered they were both wed to Anathema, a mermaid who had tricked them both into marrying her."
"Greater men than I have commented on the logistics of marrying a mermaid. To cut a long story short, it rather seems as if it wouldn't be worth the trouble, even without another archmage competing for her affections."
"They set out to destroy each other with magic powerful enough to make the Ancients shudder, but they cast their spells at the same time. Both were eternally trapped in their keeps, unable to work the counter magic that would free them. It is said that there are thrones in both the castle ruins that work powerful magic, but only on each of the mages' wedding days."
"A most interesting tale. On what date, then, were these mages married to their bigamous aquatic paramour?"
"What do I look like, a calendar?"
The dried blood of sacrifice cakes the base of the altar. Pray at the insect shrine?
"We may at least pay our respects to this foreign deity that it may grant us safe passage, even if its practices are strange and abhorrent to us."
"Oh, sure, let's all go into the mysterious shrine filled with the remains of possibly-human sacrifices. I don't see how this could possibly go wrong."
The shrine doesn't do us any good right now. We'll be back here later. Much later.
Straw pallets scattered on the floor indicate a bunk house. Destroy the hut?
"It's about time we got to do some proper looting! Too bad it's only from sprites."
"Don't worry, in a few games' time we'll be looting from polygonal models."
No treasure, but we do get a few random items, mostly accessories that I pile on some of the squishier characters for bonus AC.
Hidden in a square of forest not too far from the sprites' lair is a scroll that teaches one character Cure Poison, which does what you might reasonably expect it to do. Don't miss it: it's the earliest source of a spell that you really don't want to go without.
It appears to be used as a council meeting hall for Ogres. Burn down the hut?
"This is, what, the fifth lair of aggressive monsters plaguing Terran civilisation that we've destroyed so far? Really, it's surprising there are any towns left any more."
Lots of experience, and more random items. No gold, but we got a decent amount from just killing the ogres around here anyway.
"The way things have been going so far, this will be the hut where an evil wizard kills us all."
"The orbs were captured from the Vampire King when he attempted to expand his reign from the swamplands. He was driven back chiefly by the undead warriors of the Moo Priests."
"Ultimate Power Orbs, huh? Wasn't King Whatsisname looking for those?"
"Yes. We should find them and deliver them immediately to King Zealot, before some other foolish group of adventurers takes them to Castle Blood Reign."
"Wait, you think the other kings are looking for these orbs too? And we're not gonna shop around for a better deal?"
"I find the best deals are the ones that don't involve a mad king laying waste to Terra."
We've done about as much exploration to the east of Fountain Head as we can for now.
There are more points of interest to be found off the coast, but we can't swim that far out: we'll need some other way to get across the water.
"I'm tougher than ever! I could stand in front of an angry dragon and feel nothing more than a warm breeze! Well, probably."
"It'll still be a while before I learn any powerful offensive magic, but I'm a decent healer and no slouch with a sword."
"I found a robe in the ogres' lair, and wearing it made me comically burly. Seriously, look at these biceps. They don't belong on a gnome."
"When hitting things with weapons doesn't work, I can blast them with magic. When blasting things with magic doesn't work, I can hit them. When neither of those things work, I can run pretty fast."
"My healing magic grows stronger by the day. Of course, it would be best if we could avoid situations where we will need it."
"I can incinerate enemy groups with fire and lightning, and with all the protective rings and charms we've found, I can defend myself as well as any front-line fighter. Provided I don't actually get hit, that is."
There's still more outdoor exploration to be done to the south, but in the meantime, we've discovered three all-new dungeons, and one of the hirelings we've rescued has the key to the third one. The other party can at least get started on any dungeon now, and I'll put my best effort into completing as much as possible of the dungeon in the next update. So, it's voting time again: should the evil party explore the hissing dungeon, the mysterious cavern, or the spooky fortress?