Part 19: Can't Stop the Roc
You may notice that we've got a seventh member tagging along for this update. I brought Darlana along as a hireling because the party is going to want a second clerical caster for the later parts of the game, and I don't want her to fall too far behind in experience levels (she starts out at level 10, and the good party is already in the mid-to-high teens). Also, as the party's item list fills up with equipped accessories, hirelings become important just as a source of extra inventory slots.
"Sure, we've got a million gold pieces lying around to hand over to random giant stone heads. Help yourself! Wait. Bob. Bob, what are you doing? I was being sarcastic! Quit giving away all our money to the giant stone head!"
Okay, so we ran into these stone heads while exploring the swamps, and now we have enough gold to deal with them. There are five heads: Purveyor, Soothsayer, Slayer and Obeyer charge 1,000,000, 500,000, 200,000 and 100,000 gold respectively to "remember" you, while Betrayer charges 10,000 gold to make the others forget you. Betrayer does exactly what he offers to do, but his offer is a trap.
See, the thing is, you want all the other four heads to remember you.
The reason why is way down here in the southeastern desert.
"My, my. A wellspring of wealth."
Throwing a coin into the Well of Remembrance normally does nothing, but if all the swamp heads have been paid to remember us then we get 10 random top-tier items. All the stuff that isn't obsidian is pretty much only good for selling: the holy orb might be useful as an offhand item for a Paladin or Cleric, but they'd probably rather have a good shield. Even so, this is a pretty good haul overall.
"Since this desert has been so, um, rewarding so far, I don't see the harm..."
"Hey, Martlin, I think the harm is flying toward us right now."
Digging up this cache reveals a couple of random top-tier items, and also spawns a Vulture Roc. These things hit twice a round for a whopping 5-250 damage, and can inflict Paralysis, causing the victim to miss a few turns until it wears off. They can also take a huge amount of punishment before dying.
Our best hope in this fight is to have Caelas buff Bob with Bless (+AC), Heroism (+to hit) and Holy Bonus (+damage). With those buffs and all that obsidian armour, Bob is largely impervious to the roc's attacks and can chip away for a couple of hundred HP per round while the rest of the party gets eaten alive.
"Hey, everyone who's still conscious, help me cut open this thing's stomach! I see something shiny inside!"
The rocs themselves normally drop top-tier items when killed, and also give out a cool 2 million experience shared among the party.
Incidentally, being injured in the desert can be slightly inconvenient, because it's only possible to rest in those oases that you see scattered around the area.
There are other wells in the desert besides the Well of Remembrance and the Well of Cures that we saw a few updates ago. The Well of Magic gives a bonus temporary +500 SP to one character in exchange for some gold. If you need a boost to kill something or clear out a dungeon and you really, really need magic to do it, you might do well to come here.
"Ooh, a wishing well! I know just what to wish for!"
"Wait, don't do that! If the world is at peace, how are we supposed to make a living?"
I'm just gonna quote the game's hintbook on this one.
Perhaps there was a day when the enchantment of this well opened the dreams of wishful adventurers and made real the hopes of their hearts, but not these days. The magic of the Wishing Well has grown cynical and unhelpful.
If there's a way to get the Wishing Well to do something useful, nobody on the internet seems to know what it is.
The unhatched larvae turn to jelly under your stomping boots. (250,000 Exp)
Well, that was easy experience for doing nothing.
"I cannot quite say why, but this building seems less... out of place... than the others of its kind. Almost as if it were the sort of thing one would expect to find in a desert."
We still can't do anything with these pyramids. Actually, we could, but we just haven't got around to picking up the key yet.
"The Well of Experience, huh? Well, I'm always up for new experiences. Here goes nothin'!"
10,000 gold for 50 temporary bonus levels is a pretty fantastic deal, considering how easy that much gold is to come by at this point. Put this on a Knight or Barbarian and they instantly become an unstoppable killing machine for a day.
This is handy when, for example, you dig up three giant flesh-eating rocs that start making eyes at your party. Our super-enhanced Bob can take them out in about two or three rounds each.
The treasure we get in return is more than worth spending 10,000 gold on. Also, it turns out I was wrong and obsidian bows do in fact exist. Unfortunately, extra attacks per turn from gaining levels don't apply to missile attacks, so bows are stuck doing a maximum of one hit when our melee fighters are already hitting up to 5 times. Which means that even obsidian bows still suck.
That obsidian box is very cool, though: it's an offhand item that anyone can equip for +20 AC, even classes that can't use shields. Blind Eagle can have it.
"This place could be bad news. We should come back when we're better prepared."
"Hey, speaking of things we should come back for..."
"I see. With Caelas and Murphy boosted by the Well of Experience, their blessings are far more powerful. And with you boosted by the well, Bob, you can bring down an endless barrage of destruction on anything that threatens to disturb the peace anywhere in Terra."
"I've heard rumours of a minotaur roaming these swamps. Let's go get 'im!"
We have to win this fight: in one of the game's nastier tricks, running away in this area takes us only one space away from this square, which means the minotaur will just follow us and immediately re-initiate combat.
At 80 Speed the Minotaur is faster than us, so it gets the first turn. We were a little unlucky here: both of its attacks hit, and both of them caused their instant-death effect. Still, neither of them hit Bob, which is the important thing.
In retaliation, Bob proceeds to one-shot the minotaur.
Two obsidian items are more than worth the cost of a trip to the temple to get Belvenath and Caelas revived. With that done, we can continue exploring the desert isles in the far south of the world map.
The islands are inhabited by a bunch of monsters including Cobra Fiends, Barbarians and Plasmoids (if you look closely, you can see a Plasmoid behind that tree in the middle). The first two are no threat at this point but Plasmoids, you may recall, break characters' weapons if attacked in melee. That would be both expensive and humiliating if it happened to our obsidian items, so we're going to pick them off with bows and spells instead.
There are also these creatures. 6 attacks for 3-15 damage would have been scary if we were still level 5 with early-game equipment. Right now, they're just big cockroaches for us to stomp on.
"Pirate treasure? That's the most awesome treasure of all!"
"Don't tell me this is some kind of subtle anti-piracy message!"
Most of the time, trying to open the chests around the southern islands only serves to get the party cursed. It is possible to open them, though. The trick is that they only open on a Onesday (day 1, 11, 21, etc.) Sadly, it's hardly worth going back for them: all they contain is a few thousand gold and a bunch of low-tier items.
"Huh. What an oddly localised windstorm."
There's something we can do here, but not yet. We'll have to come back at another time.
"How can I say no to a well?"
There are four wells of contradiction, two on each of the two largest southern islands: one inflicts Weakness, one does some poison damage, one temporarily boosts Endurance by 60 and the last temporarily boosts Accuracy by 60. The hintbook seems to imply that you have to drink from the first two before the last two will work, but I don't think that's true.
There are also two castles, one on each island.
"These must be Castle Blackwind and Greywind, once home to the two ancient sorcerers whose names they bear. It is said that their restless spirits are still trapped in their castles, bound to this world by their undying hatred for each other."
While we're in the area, we may as well finish off the southern coast of the main continent, since we never properly cleared out Thorn Blossom Orchard.
"I'm making a complaint to the Building Commission about this! Don't think I won't do it!"
In exchange for taking a bunch of damage, we receive some mediocre random items. This might have been a better tradeoff if we'd come here much earlier.
There are some more wells here, too: one that increases poison resistance and one that does some poison damage. Make sure to drink from the first before you drink from the second. Better still, drink from the first and don't drink from the second!
A gut-wrenching squish escapes the larvae as you stomp them on the floor of the hut. (25,000 Exp)
"Well, that's one less nest of pests to harass travellers."
In the southwesternmost corner of the world map stands this little hut.
Shying away at your approach, she pours over the edge of the shell and disappears into the blue depths of the Great Sea.
"Such elegance! Upon seeing her, the greatest of poets would leap from a cliff in shame at his inability to describe her!"
"Forget the beauty of nature, that was a natural beauty!"
"I tell you what, if I weren't married... well, if I weren't married I wouldn't be here in the first place, but that's another story."
"I... I... I... I'm even more lost for words than usual!"
So here's the deal with the In Love condition. Right now, it doesn't seem like much of an ailment, seeing as how it increases all of our stats by 1. It steadily gets better with time, too, in the same way that poison, disease and insanity steadily get worse.
The problem is that after it gets to +10, it changes to Heart Broken and steadily decreases all our stats instead. This can only be cured by visiting a temple.
We're not going to let that happen, though, because we have a special use for all this love.
"Oh, Priiiinceeeess! Our hearts are full of lo-ooooove! Technically it's not for you but maybe it still counts!"
"I fear there is not enough love left in the land to release me from my sorrow."
Whichever character we bring to see Princess Trueberry is cured of the In Love condition, but one character isn't enough: we need to bring a total of 10 lovestruck characters to see her (bringing the same character multiple times is fine, but we have to re-enamour them each time). Luckily, I had the foresight to set a Lloyd's Beacon at Athea's island. Another beacon here from a different character, and we can easily hop to and fro as many times as it takes!
By the way, this is also the one and only point in the game where the sex of your party members matters. Only male characters can pick up the In Love condition, so if you had an all-female party you'd need to bring along male hirelings for this quest.
Anyway, let's finish this.
"At long last, the curse is broken!" From a bureau drawer she removes a horn of twisting gold and hands it to you. "Please take this alicorn to the Unicorn's shrine in Orc Meadow. Mine is not the only soul tormented by the dark one's curse." (500,000 Exp)
"Huh, so we saved a princess from a curse of endless despair and now we get to revive a unicorn. That... actually feels pretty good, if I'm being honest."
OK, back we go to the unicorn's hut south of Fountain Head.
Looking out the door you see a beautiful white, horned steed rear before disappearing into the meadow, followed by chirping swallows. The sparrows sing, "You have returned the relic to its rightful seat. The unicorn may once again safely run and play through the meadow of its birth." (2 million exp.)
No, that's not my typo. The game can't decide if they're sparrows or swallows.
All the experience we've earned by killing rocs and saving unicorns is enough to push some of our party to level 25...
... which is as high as we can go with the Swamp Town trainer. If we want to level up any further, we'll have to find the game's fifth and final town.
But that can wait. After such an eventful journey, the party's earned a rest.
"Who says barbarians are poorly armoured? There's about three monsters in all of Terra who stand a chance to hit me with physical attacks in this getup! Plus, I've got a nifty belt that boosts my Might into the stratosphere! I don't know what a stratosphere is exactly, but it sounds cool!"
"Hey, Bob, something's been on my mind for a while now. When we saw Athea, how come you didn't go all flowers-and-candles like the rest of us guys? Are you... you know..."
"What, me? No way! I just... have uncommonly good self-control, that's all!"
"I'm the same old Martlin as always, just a little more experienced and better armoured. Well, um, maybe a little more than a little."
"My problems with weak armour and limited magical reserves are well and truly gone now. At least, until we face stronger enemies and learn more powerful spells..."
"My understanding of magic continues to improve. I am also becoming quite proficient at more mundane arts of combat, should anything be best dealt with by the application of an obsidian flail."
"It's great that we have a second healer and all, but now that I'm not the last person in the marching order I'm getting targeted by attacks a lot more often. Think you guys can dig up a suit of obsidian padded armour for me or something?"
"I may not be as experienced as the rest of the party, but I'm more than happy to lend my aid. I could use some better equipment, though..."
And that's that. We can go almost anywhere in the game at this point, but I'm trying to keep the voting manageable by dividing our options into categories. Should the evil party explore a cavern, a dungeon, or see what the deal is with those pyramids? Vote now!