Part 18: Use Your Evil When You Want
"Castle Dragontooth, home of Malefactor, the King Malicious, is just as formidable as I have heard. Let us see if the old king lives up to his reputation as well..."
"Wait, 'Malefactor, the King Malicious'? Is that really his name?"
"He is a king. He can call himself what he likes."
"Um, why are the castle guards attacking us?"
"Don't you know anything? That's just their way of testing our strength. If we get killed here, then obviously we're not worth the king's time and he's better off killing us and looting our mangled corpses."
Castle Guards should be a pushover at this point, seeing as how they're much weaker than the enemies outside the castle. Even though the evil party has slightly lower average levels and worse equipment than the good party right now, they still don't have any problems.
20 legions of the castle's guard drove the werewolves from Serpent Wood.
"Tee hee, even the forces of evil don't like werewolves. Nobody likes werewolves except for, y'know, those people who like werewolves. But those people are weird, so they don't count."
"Ah, a challenge! Surely in Dragon Cavern we will find suitable prey to defeat, proving our rightful place at the top of the social hierarchy!"
"Surely in Dragon Cavern we will get set on fire by dragons. I mean, it's dangerous enough that even these guys thought they should warn us about it, and also it's called Dragon Cavern."
"Warn us? Bullshit! They probably just want to keep people outta there until they can get the dragons' treasure for themselves."
"That's a lot of legions. D'you think this story's leadin' up to somethin'?"
"Speaking of leading to things, I wonder where this pit leads. I vote that we lower Cyrus down on a rope to find out. All in favour?"
"Wow, look, a few coins got stuck in the liquescent remains of his skin as we pulled him back up! Wait, is he still breathing? Huh. How about that."
Going into an acid pit does 500 damage to one character, which counts as physical so it can't be resisted. It's worth it: there are a lot of Quatloo Coins down in those pits, translating to lots of stat bonuses at the Slithercult Stronghold casino.
Instead of coins, a couple of the pits have something even better: top-tier items! Each of those rings is another +20 AC for a character. The battle axe is going to Minty; I'd have preferred a one-handed weapon so she could use a shield, but it's hard to turn down obsidian. The holy long bow gives +30 Personality, so it's also going to Minty to give her a much-needed spell point boost at the cost of making her missile attacks kind of useless.
And there's a couple more +500,000 XP boosts for our neutral characters down in the pits, too, putting them yet another level ahead of everyone else.
"Why, I had no idea the king was so fond of horses. I do wish he'd train them not to kill visitors, though."
Dark Pegasi have reasonably powerful attacks (2-40 damage, 4 times per round) and inflict Confusion, which... well, I still don't know what exactly it does, but it clears up on its own pretty fast anyway. They're less of a joke than Castle Guards, which is to say they might actually get one or two hits in before getting slaughtered.
"Hey, more of this werewolf story. Wonder if it's important."
"These castle guards kind of suck. I'm surprised more of them didn't get killed."
"Well, five legions, I guess... but how many guards are there in a legion?"
We have to solve this riddle to access the castle's dungeon. We're not doing the dungeon this update, so I'm not solving it now.
"Malefactor has charged me, Pathos, with the task of their return."
"You don't say. Well, we've got some ancient artifacts of evil for you right here!"
"He will be very pleased with what you have brought. A generous reward shall be yours, for the King Malicious is very kind to his allies."
Just like the other artifact collectors, Pathos rewards us with +500,000 experience to Evil-aligned characters and +100,000 XP to everyone else.
"Hey, you think the king would mind if we killed this jester? It'd be a public service, really."
"Hmm... it's probably not a good idea. King Malefactor enjoys the satisfaction of killing them personally."
Lining the walls of King Malefactor's throne room are a number of secret doors, which we can bash down.
"I sure hope the king doesn't mind us taking the treasure right out of his throne room like this."
"Hah! If he can stop us, let's see him try!"
King Malefactor's chests have some fairly nasty traps that hit the whole party for 200 damage -- just enough to insta-kill Tianas and Calgon from full health right now. We could run to a temporary HP-boosting fountain or statue to prevent this, but instead I'm just going to reload my saved game until Cyrus opens a chest without triggering the traps. This takes a few attempts, but Cyrus's thievery skill is just high enough to make it feasible.
It's hardly worth the trouble, though: they're full of mid-tier junk, plus a few tens of thousands of gold and some gems.
"Huh. This chest looks different from the others. I can't see how it opens. Maybe if I press on this..."
"Ooh, I know this one! It's 23!"
"That's weird. Must be some kinda code. Well, now that we're done trying to rob the king, we should probably go talk to him about becoming his most loyal and trusted allies."
"But the weak of heart shall not prevail. The meek shall inherit the dust! Those who I seek to destroy I first shall drive mad! Bring me the Ultimate Power Orbs, for mine is the rightful rule! Only after I have supreme dominion will the full potential of this land be realized. Go now and find the orbs, and receive the bounty of my reward!"
"Yeah, see, I don't think so. I mean, we're going to bring you the Orbs and all that, but we're not just gonna take whatever table scraps you call a reward."
"What is the meaning of this? Do you dare to defy me?"
"You're damn right we do! Because we've got a dastardly scheme of our own! A dire plot! A villainous machination!"
"Tianas, let us do the talking. It's not your forte."
"Could you just get on with whatever it is you have to say so I can have you executed for your impertinence already?"
"King Malefactor, it's plain to see that your kingdom is in decline. You've been forced back to a remote corner of Terra while Tumult and Zealot fight over the richest and most desirable lands. The only reason they haven't utterly destroyed you is that you're not a serious threat to them. If your own manpower were sufficient to infiltrate their lands and find the Ultimate Power Orbs, you would have done so already. You need our help if you want to survive, which is exactly why you're useful: you can't afford to betray us."
"So here's our deal. We give you the Ultimate Power Orbs, you become king of all Terra... and once you have the throne, you do everything we say. If we want land, you give us land. If we want gold, you give us gold. If we want you to change the laws, you do it."
"... Very well. You shall have the petty fiefdoms and indulgences you seek, as long as you first ensure that I am known to all as the uncontested true king of Terra. Now get out of my sight, and do not return without the Ultimate Power Orbs!"
"Do you see now? Everything goes smoothly when I do the talking. Now, all that remains is to find enough Ultimate Power Orbs to secure our generous patron's rule and crush his opponents."
"When you do the talking? Don't forget that I was the one who made him the offer he couldn't refuse, half-pint."
"Are we still gonna be able to threaten him like that once we've given him the Ultimate Power Orbs? I mean, they're full of, y'know, ultimate power."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry. He is a man who respects power, after all. And in truth, does not the kingmaker have more power than the king?"
"Well, we've sure got a lot more power now that we're lugging around all this obsidian swag."
"Even if he wanted to turn on us, what's he gonna do, send a bunch of useless castle guards after us?"
"Indeed. And before we give him the Ultimate Power Orbs he needs, we will make sure that we ourselves have enough power that he cannot think of opposing us..."
And so concludes another update. Most of the outdoors has been mapped by now, but there's still some exploring left to be done by the good party: should they sail the southern seas or hang out in Swamp Town? Vote now!