Part 22: Puzzles + Arthropods = Frustration
Today's destination, Arachnoid Cavern, is located in Thorn Blossom Orchard, just off the road west of Wildabar.
"Eugh. At least anywhere that smells this bad must contain plenty of treasure."
"How d'you figure that? Treasure doesn't smell."
"Is it not obvious? Less enterprising adventurers will concentrate their efforts on more pleasant and promising locations, leaving disgusting holes in the ground like this untouched. Their loss is our gain!"
The moment we step into the cavern, we learn how it got its name. The spiders are no more threatening than they were when we killed a bunch of them outside.
There are some more of those Dino Beetles from the southwestern islands in here too. Most of this cavern is quite safe to explore as soon as the party's at a high enough level to cast Cure Poison.
"Ew ew ew ew! I think I see something shiny in those bones but there's no way I'm going anywhere near them!"
"For a priestess of a god of pain, you're remarkably squeamish."
"This'd be a lot more useful if we hadn't already looted the Mummy King's fortress with the copy of the same key we got off Sir Galant. So much for the good treasure being where nobody wants to go."
"I bet this gong is for driving away all the spiders!"
"Minty, optimism can be a virtue, but in this case--"
"I wasn't finished talking! Don't ever interrupt my speeches!"
"What was that? I can't hear you over the gong!"
"You can't what him over the what?"
"The gong! I can't HEAR him over the GONG!"
"Okay, okay, y'can stop shoutin' already, the ringin's dyin' down now. Wait, what's that scratchin' noise all around us?"
"Bah. What a waste of our valuable time. We're adventurers, not exterminators!"
"You're the one who wanted to come here in the first place!"
Striking the gong spawns a dozen or so spiders all around the party. They can be respawned indefinitely for as long as you're willing to continue banging the gong, so it's possible (if tedious) to grind for experience and gems here. There are two spider gongs in the cavern: one spawns just a few spiders, and the other does this.
There are a number of mid-to-high-level spells hidden in skeletons around the cavern, including Recharge Item, Fiery Flail and Half for Me.
"I guess this gong probably isn't for keeping beetles away, huh."
"Probably not, no."
"Only one way to be sure, though!"
"Dammit, Minty! What have I told you about suspicious gongs?"
"I don't think the subject's ever come up before."
"Well, whose fault is that?"
Just like with the spiders, there are two gongs for the beetles: one that summons a few and one that summons a lot. The beetles drop 200 gold each, so they're not bad if you're short on cash in the early game.
"There's a lesson in this: look for information before striking things at random."
"Hey, that wall over there looks weak! Let's bust it down!"
"Um, does anyone know what that thing is?"
"Whatever it is, it's coming this way! Get your weapons ready!"
Behind some secret passages toward the middle of the cavern, we can find these Toxic Worms. This little critter is a very nasty surprise for a party that came in expecting nothing worse than spiders and beetles: it's got lots of HP, a respectable armour class and two physical attacks for 2-60 damage each. At this point, though, it can't even hope to chew through the party's armour.
"So, the legendary power crystals of the Crystal Mountains are still intact."
"What's so powerful about them?"
"Touch it and see."
"Wow! I'm even prettier than before!"
There are a number of these crystals in the inner area of the cavern, each one giving permanent +5 or +10 boosts to Personality, Intellect, Accuracy or Luck.
"Hey, there's some guy on that throne! People live in this dump?"
"Wait, add it to what? Did we miss something?"
"Ask me not how to solve the riddle; it's not my fault you started in the middle."
"Anyone capable of such awful scansion clearly has nothing more to tell us. Let us move on."
"50 gems is the fee I request to teach the skill Linguist. Will you pay my meager meed to satisfy your need?"
"Sure, why not. Not like we're ever gonna use up all these gems anyway."
"As befits a man of my standing, I am now an expert in all common languages both modern and ancient."
The Linguist skill isn't vitally important, but having one in the party gives access to extra information in a couple of places.
"I am Lord Prayer; this is my clue. Multiply by the number of gongs to make your answer true. A Cleric's powers can be improved greatly through silent meditation." He closes his eyes and a clap of thunder and short downpour of rain can be heard to the left. "Will you donate 500 gems and be granted the title Prayermaster?"
"Sounds peachy keen to me! After all, we've still got all these gems that we'll never have any real need for!"
The Prayer Master skill boosts Cleric spell points by +2 and Paladin spell points by +1 per experience level. 500 gems per character is a little on the steep side for what amounts to maybe one extra high-level spell before resting, but every little bit helps.
"I am Lord Magic; this is my clue. Subtract the gongs, then multiply by fifty-two." Lord Magic waves and swirls his hands with dizzying speed and accuracy, producing a tiny dragon that flies down the corridor to the right. "Prestidigitation is a handy craft for sorcerers. I can teach you for 500 gems. Will you pay?"
"Somethin' tells me this guy doesn't get along too well with Lord Prayer."
"Ahem. I would be more than happy to take advantage of your offer, Lord Magic."
And just like that, Calgon now has 34 more maximum spell points. Prestidigitator is the equivalent of Prayer Master, but for Sorcerers and Archers.
"Then you will be able to determine the Magic Number, but only if you proceed in an order Lord Word would find agreeable. Start with mine, it's two primes less than twice the crystals in this mess."
"Uhhh, we'll get back to you on that. Guess we gotta go round this cave and find all the lords on their thrones now."
"That's great and all, but we weren't looking for the Yellow Key. Also, we already found it. Twice."
"When the year wears long, in its 99th day, will the portal created by Blackwind release a shell on Rainbow Island. I hope this will serve you well, but I must now ask you to leave for there is much that occupies my mind. Add this trinket to the others my brothers gave you."
"Hey, you're not a lord! But thanks for the tip and the coin anyway."
Keep that thing about the shell in mind; I'll show off its importance later when it's convenient.
"Oh look, a key we already got from Wartowsan. How special."
"Okay, back to looking for lords now. How many more are there to go?"
"I am Lord Accuracy; this is my clue. Add half the number there could be of you."
"I am Lord Luck, this is my clue. Add Lord Might's number, then multiply by two."
"I think we've found 'em all now. C'mon, let's put our heads together. We can do this."
"We start with Lord Might, right? 'Two primes less than twice the crystals'..."
"I counted thirteen crystal formations in this cavern. Twice that is 26. The first prime number below 26 is 23, and the second is 19, so that should be our first number."
"Lord Might instructed us to order the remaining clues in 'an order Lord Word would find agreeable'. I suppose he must have meant the alphabetical order of the lords' names, which means Lord Accuracy is next."
"'Half the number there could be of you'... well, we never travel in groups larger than eight, so I guess we add four. That makes 23."
"Next up's Lord Endurance. 'Count the thrones'... there were ten thrones, so we add 10, right? That makes 33."
"Lord Luck is next. 'Add Lord Might's number' -- wasn't that 19? That makes 52. Then we multiply by two... 104."
"Lord Magic said to subtract the number of gongs. There were four of those, so that gives us 100, right? Then we multiply by 52... well, that's easy. 5200."
"Next, we multiply by the number of gongs in accordance with Lord Prayer's instructions. 5200 multiplied by four is 20800."
"Only two more to go! Lord Speed wanted us to subtract 449. Take 449 away from 20800 and you get, uh..."
"I was about to say that! Don't rush me!"
"And finally, we subtract Lord Word's price. He charged 50 gems to teach linguistics, which means that our answer is..."
"Twenty thousand, three hundred and one. Your reward had better be worthwhile after all this trouble you've put us through."
"Hm. I suppose that's satisfactory."
"Don't worry, I said. We've got nothing else to spend our gems on anyway, I said. Crap."
Lord Might will regenerate the stat-boosting crystals an unlimited number of times, as long as you have the gems to pay for it. We're not going to bother right now (mostly because the majority of our gems are sitting in the bank and we don't quite have enough on hand to pay even if we wanted to), but we'll come back here eventually.
"Never mind. We can come back later, once we have amassed more gems. For now, we have other business. I have heard from a reliable source that our contemptible rivals have been seen in the vicinity of Swamp Town recently. I believe it's time we found whatever it is they're looking for."
Now that we have a linguist, we can actually understand what these skulls around Swamp Town are saying.
"Could it be that they are attempting to break the curse on the wizards Greywind and Blackwind? But if so, for what purpose?"
"Deliver eleven orbs to your King of choice / And give his followers cause for rejoice. Take the reward you will then acquire / To the ancient pyramid on the Isle of Fire."
"Enter the pyramid on the fiery isle / To face the final test and trial. The Hologram Cards of six will gain / Access to the computer's brain."
"Huh. I dunno if I understood all of that... or, well, any of it... but becomin' an Ultimate Adventurer sounds pretty good. I guess we found out what these cards we've been findin' in the dungeons are for, too."
"While we're in the area, how about we pay a visit to those little thorns in our side and crush them?"
"Not yet. We must bide our time until victory is certain. Besides, as long as we continue collecting Ultimate Power Orbs for our patron, we have the upper hand."
"Fine, whatever. Just as long as we get to crush them like ants eventually."
"I could have so many more levels if I could just find a trainer who's up to the job."
"The crystals of the cavern have further enhanced my already remarkable wit and charm. All of Terra will soon know the name of Flowers, unstoppable by his enemies and irresistible to the fairer sex!"
"Hee hee. You're so funny, Flowers."
"Wha? What do you mean, funny? I wasn't... ahem. Of course. I am known for my good sense of humour and my humble, down-to-earth attitude, you know."
"Yeah, sure, whatever. The important thing is, we all just got loads better at magic."
"Indeed. My mental powers may now be unmatched throughout Terra."
Next update I'm invoking my executive privilege as LPer again and taking the good party to see the game's fifth and final town. Get ready for things to heat up!