Part 14: Why Did It Have To Be Guillotines
Today, the evil party will be exploring Slithercult Stronghold, a dungeon in the forest to the southeast of Fountain Head.
"Hey, that green eyeball key from Cyclops Cavern fits the lock here. Time to find out what that noise is all about."
"Yay! Let's go see what weird and wonderful creatures are living down there, and then slaughter 'em all!"
"Giant animated melty candles and freakish cobra cosplayers, apparently."
"Excuse me, ladies, could I trouble you for--"
"Really, Flowers? This is what you're reduced to? Attempting to seduce horrifying snake-women while they try to eat us alive?"
"That's the problem with you. You see horrifying snake-women, I see opportunity."
The two main enemy types in this dungeon are both annoying, for different reasons. The Cobra Fiends have fairly respectable armour class, making them hard to hit if your weapons suck, and their attacks can send PCs to sleep. Meanwhile, the Candle Creeps are easy enough to hit, but they have innate resistance to many damage types, and their own attacks do fire damage, meaning armour is useless against them. Hopefully your spellcasters know Awaken and Protection from Elements by now, because both spells will make your life a whole lot easier down here.
"So are all the talking stone heads in this dungeon going to hiss at us? Because that's going to get old fast. Hell, I'm pissed off already."
"That's hardly unusual. You were annoyed on the way in here because you saw a cloud in the sky."
"Fucking clouds. Just look at them, sitting up in the air being all fluffy and vaporous. They're mocking me, you know. They think they're better than me, just because I'm not tall enough to reach them. Well, I'll show them. I'll show them all."
The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed the bloody guillotine in the right hand side of this image. This is one of the several basically interchangeable traps that boil down to "step here and everyone takes a bunch of damage". The ones in this dungeon only do 10 damage to the party, which isn't too bad.
"Eww, cobra pee."
"Actually, I'm pretty sure it's acid. Not sure which is worse, though."
"Well, since you're the one who's going in there to look for treasure, I'd say acid is better. That way the rest of us don't have to smell it on you."
This dungeon has the last two Sacred Silver Skulls in the game. We now officially have all of them and can stop worrying about finding them in random places. The 1,000 XP and gold per skull isn't much any more, but I guess I may as well drop them off at Kranion's place after this update.
The treasure boxes in this dungeon look like this, and generally contain a few thousand gold, a couple of hundred gems, or some low-level random items. The locks aren't too hard to crack, even with Cyrus' mediocre thief skills, although he does get hit by a trap or two.
In general, the acid pools hold more meaningful rewards than the boxes. One pool contains no less than five of those Quatloo Coins the Greek Alphabet Brothers have been handing out.
Other pools give permanent +25 boosts to poison resistance.
Still others are... less useful. This is a way to get a Fizbin without getting eradicated. Yes, Fizbins do actually serve some purpose. You'll see.
Progressing deeper into the dungeon, the party starts to run into Evil Rangers. They're the strongest and toughest enemies down here (not counting the boss), and can mean trouble for a poorly-equipped party, especially since they usually accompany large groups of other enemies. Evil Rangers also hate Druids and will target them exclusively as long as they're conscious, so keep your Druid well-armoured if you insist on using one at all.
"Thanks soooo much for the update, talking stone head. Why don't you get in a time machine and send it to us this time last year when the Mummy King was still alive?"
"Technically, I don't think he was alive then either. You know, being as he was undead and all."
"Totally not the point, Minty!"
The "serpent's tail" is a long spiral corridor full of monsters, mostly Candle Creeps. At the end...
"Huh. Somehow, even though I just got out of a big ol' acid bath, I feel stronger'n when I went in."
By stepping into the pool, Cyrus just permanently gained two experience levels, and a commensurate amount of experience (roughly 2 million XP, since XP required to level up caps at a little over 1 million by level 11 or so.)
"Who's leavin' all these handy hints on the walls, anyhow?"
"Whoever the hint came from, it seems we'll need to solve the riddle in order to proceed."
"The missing brother, huh? Well, the only brother we've met was that Beta guy who seemed to think we'd come from Alpha and sent us off to see Gamma."
"That must be it! Alpha, Beta, Gamma... but who is the 'missing' brother?"
"Well, I heard from, um, someone somewhere who definitely wasn't part of a rival adventuring party, that they met Brother Delta and got sent to see Brother Zeta. I dunno if that helps at all."
"Oh, it does. Then the missing brother must be..."
Giving an incorrect answer here just teleports you a step back. Giving the right one allows the party to proceed to the final parts of the dungeon, including the real reason to visit this place.
Taking the western branch from the puzzle altar leads to a room full of Evil Rangers, another of those Precious Pearls of Youth and Beauty that the party hasn't yet found a use for, and a locker with 50,000 gold. Not too shabby. But the real treasure is on the eastern branch. Take the right-hand passage from the head and examine a little alcove in the south wall...
"If you have quatloosss, tessst your luck on our ssslot machinesss. Everyone'sss a winner."
"Wait, if everyone's a winner, how does that count as testing our luck? Is this one of those things where almost everyone gets some kind of shitty consolation prize?"
"Sssee for yourssself..."
Seth transports us to a room with three altars, all of which say this.
"I'll give it a go. What's the worst that can--"
"Wow, that rabid flesh-eating anvil just came out of nowhere! What are the odds?"
This is one of the things the Ancient Fizbin of Misfortune is good for, although "good" might not be the right word in this case. If the character spending the coin has a Fizbin in their inventory, they're instantly eradicated.
One reload and some inventory shuffling later...
Assuming the character spending the coin doesn't have a Fizbin in their inventory, each coin spent nets a permanent +5 to Might, Endurance or Accuracy, depending on which altar you spent the coin at. I'd recommend spending most of your coins on pumping Endurance at the central altar: it tends to be harder to raise than the other two stats, and more HP is always useful. There's nowhere else in the game where Quatloos are useful, so feel free to use 'em all up.
"Y'know, Seth, you're not so bad. You gave us a way to get stronger, and you got Cyrus killed. When I'm the unquestioned dictator of Terra, I'll probably let you live. Just as long as I don't have to listen to you talk."
Further on down the eastern passage past Seth is this lovely little room. The trick is that it's a teleporter maze: stepping on the wrong spaces sends you back to the room's entrance, and there's no way to know what the wrong spaces are except through trial and error. Basically, stay near the north wall, using Jump to avoid guillotines.
On the other side of the teleporter maze is the dungeon's boss. She's much stronger and tougher than a regular Cobra Fiend, but has thankfully lost the ability to cause sleep. Hopefully you have decent armour to mitigate her damage output: 5 attacks for 5-75 damage each adds up fast if none of them are missing.
The reward for killing the Cult Leader is an artifact plus lockers containing 20,000 gold, 500 gems and some medium-level random items.
There's one last feature of interest in the teleporter maze: an altar by the east wall, near the exit. If you manage to navigate your way to it, unavoidably getting hit by multiple guillotines along the way...
... you're rewarded with this. No, it doesn't do anything. This is the game itself laughing at you.
"That was reasonably productive, I suppose. Now, we should hand in these Sacred Silver Skulls to Kranion."
"A fountain of youth? Truly? My prayers have been answered! Er, of course, I knew they would be. It's just a matter of confidence, after all. The universe provides for those who ask."
If you manage to find every Sacred Silver Skull in the game and bring them all to Kranion, he has this little bit of information to offer. We'll be taking advantage of it eventually. For now, though, the party is getting some rest and preparing for the next adventure.
"Look at me. I'm the prettiest knight in all of Terra. Oh, and probably the toughest, too."
Right around here, I finally noticed that at some point between the start and end of their last adventure, Sails evidently received permanent +50 bonuses to Personality and Accuracy, Flowers received a +50 bonus to Endurance, and Calgon received a +50 bonus to Intellect. I figure some of the pools in Cyclops Cavern probably granted those bonuses, and either they didn't give a message or I wasn't paying attention. Well, I'm not complaining, even if the Personality bonus is kind of useless to Sails. Whoops.
"Thanks to the boost from that dip in the pool, I'm an even better fighter than Sails right now!"
"I am as powerful as ever, and soon I will be young again!"
"Um, I'm kinda feeling left out here. When do I get all the awesome stat boosts?"
"You get to become more useful when you prove that you're useful in the first place."
"Don't worry. I'm sure there will be plenty more power in all of our futures soon enough..."
Well, that's it for another update, which means it's time to switch over to the other party's outdoor adventures again. Should the good party continue exploring on land, or use their newfound Walk on Water spell to explore the sea?