Part 24: Blood Money
"You know what? King Tumult pisses me off. He's got a castle all to himself and he doesn't even want to use his power for anything. How about we go break into his vaults and put his wealth to better use, huh?"
In order to enter Castle Blood Reign's dungeon, we have to solve a puzzle. The intended way to solve it is to piece together the clues that I'm pretty sure I showed off last time we were here, but...
... we can also just bring up the area description for the castle and use our reading comprehension to learn that the answer is "ogre".
Tumult's dungeon is full of damaging floor traps like this one, so it's important to keep Protection from Fire active while down here.
"Wow, what a joke. Maybe these clowns wouldn't be so easy to kill if they didn't carry around shields made of glass."
Draconi can hit respectably hard... except that their attacks are physical so they just kind of bounce off the party's armour instead of doing anything.
"Aw, dammit. I guess whoever this guy was got surprised by something before he could finish writing his message."
"Far be it from me to bring your flights of fancy back down to earth, but I believe that 'Oh' was part of his message."
There are five other skeletons like this hanging around the dungeon. Together, they form a message:
The first is 'In'.
The second is 'Oh'.
The third is 'Are'.
The fourth is 'Tea'.
The fifth is 'Eye'.
The sixth is 'Sea'.
"In Oh Are Tea Eye Sea... Nortic? I wonder what the message is referring to."
"Hey, how do those worms just swim through the floor like that? That's cheatin'!"
There are a couple of Dragon Worms in the dungeon, just like the ones the good party had some trouble with at sea. They still hit quite hard, but with some buffs and poison resistance they're pretty manageable by now. Even if one catches the party at low health, Calgon can one-shot it with Implosion.
There are also, for no clear reason, hordes of Sonic Ninjas hiding behind a secret passage on the east side of the dungeon.
The reward for wiping them out is a cryptic message on one of the walls of the room. It's easy to miss if you don't wander around facing every wall.
"'In these walls'... well, I suppose it's worth a try. The worst that can happen is that the spell fails."
Sure enough, there's a little chamber in the far northeast corner of the dungeon that's reachable only by teleportation.
"What do you know, there really was something in the walls. And now it's all mine!"
This crystal gives a whopping permanent +50 Speed bonus to one party member.
There are two more crystals hidden in the same way. One's near the centre of the north wall (+50 Accuracy), and the other is near the centre of the west wall.
"Apparently, despite appearances, this unfortunate individual is still alive. Of course, I'm sure he has nobody but himself to blame for allowing himself to be captured -- but if we free him, perhaps he will be able to repay us for our service."
"But Swamp Town is my home and there I will return. If you ever seek a Robber to join your band you may find me in the Lion's Crest."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't call us, we'll call you. Now who's that chick in the other corner of the room?"
"As I am not currently involved in any campaign, I would readily join you in yours, but first I must return to my equipment in the Lion's Crest in Swamp Town and heal myself. I, Charity, will be there if you wish me to join your quest."
"Hah. Thanks for the offer, but as you can see, we already have a much younger and prettier healer in our party."
"Aw, Tianas. You really think I'm pretty?"
"I meant me, you idiot!"
"So that makes our awesome-treasure-to-useless-jerk ratio for this dungeon three to two. We can do better than that!"
I had to pass over a bunch of these chests last time the party came to Blood Reign because Cyrus wasn't really high-level enough to unlock them.
Considering that there's a total of tens of thousands of gold, several thousand gems and some decent random items inside, it's worth coming back for them, even though opening them summons Castle Guards for us to waste our time mowing down.
The real treasure, though, is pointed to by the clue the party just found in the dungeon. To find it, we'll have to enter the area around the throne room...
... which, of course, means braving the castle's most fearsome hazard.
"So that's why you never see more than one zombie invited to a party! They wouldn't be able to agree on where to sit!"
"Actually, I imagine it's probably more to do with potential hosts being discouraged by the overwhelming stench of decay."
"This must be what the clue in the dungeon was for. The frozen isles were once named the Nortic isles!"
"That's a lot of gold. I mean, a lot. Wow. That's, like, two hundred thousand serves of Orc Gruel!"
"Sure is. But I don't like the sound o' that alarm..."
"One would think, if King Tumult truly wanted to protect his treasure, he'd stop leaving clues around his castle on how to steal it, instead of posting a few weak guards."
Sorcerers spawn when you enter the password to any of Tumult's password-protected chests. They're easy enough to kill but do 8-80 cold damage to the entire party from range, so it's worth having Protection from Cold up.
When killed, they give out decent amounts of experience, gold and especially gems. You could farm them, if you wanted, by entering the password and then not opening the chest, so that you can kill them and then go back and re-enter the password to spawn them again. It's not really worth the trouble, though -- especially since the chests themselves contain a total of 4 million gold and 10,000 gems.
"Ha ha ha! We're rich! Rich! And there's not a damn thing King Tumult or anyone else can do about it!"
"And that, my minions, is what we call 'laughing all the way to the bank'."
"I suppose we should take a look at the hirelings we rescued, if only to see whether they have any equipment worth appropriating for ourselves."
Even though her introductory dialogue and portrait suggest she's a dwarf, Charity's stats list her as a human. She starts out at level 18, which is high enough that she won't need to catch up too much with the player characters if we decide to use her. Just like the two Blistering Heights hirelings, she has every skill in the game, and respectable stats across the board. For some reason she starts out with her HP slightly boosted above its natural maximum of 252 -- in fact, she starts with exactly the amount of HP you'd expect her to have if she was a Dwarf. I suspect the developers intended to make her a Dwarf, but then changed it at the last minute and forgot to change her current HP value.
Her starting equipment is... unimpressive. A seriously outdated weapon and armour, some mid-tier elemental resistance gear and two Personality boosters. That's easy enough to fix, though.
Son of Abu starts a few levels higher than Charity, and also with his HP slightly above his maximum of 308 -- I'm guessing he was originally supposed to be Human. Again, he's a solid character with decent stats: the main problem with him is that you probably made a Robber or Ninja when you started the game, and there's no real point in having two of them. Plus, he's kind of an old geezer, so if you let the game drag on for a few years he'll start losing points off his stats with no way to restore them.
His items are a bit better than Charity's, with the two main points of interest being the one dungeon key we haven't yet picked up and a top-tier Thievery boosting item in the Pirate Ring.
Now that it's in Cyrus's hands (or, well, on his finger), the ring should fix any problems he has with locks and traps.
"Yes! I'm stronger, faster and richer than ever before! Nobody's gonna stop Sails!"
81 Speed is a pretty solid endgame amount: only five monster types in the entire game can outspeed Sails now. At higher levels, she'll be able to take down most enemies in a single attack before they can act.
"Now that we're insanely rich an' powerful, maybe we should stop pushin' our luck an' retire?"
"You do have a point. What use is wealth if we cannot enjoy the finer things in life? I have learned all there is to know of the arts of nature: none can call themselves my equal."
"We're pretty awesome, aren't we? All we had to was solve a puzzle, and bam, we're millionaires. It's like somebody's looking out for us. Maybe the world's not such a bad place after all."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing! Are you guys seriously gonna quit just because we're rich now? If it was this easy to get this rich, then it'll be even easier to get even richer! That's just logical!"
"In any case, our rivals are no doubt still on their foolish quest to bring 'justice' to the isles. We must ensure that King Zealot does not rise to power. What good will money do us if he decides that we should be punished for our supposed crimes?"
Welp, that's this update done. Sorry about the minor delay, I had to organise a dinner party and a D&D session between now and the last update. At any rate, time for the good party to show their stuff again! They can't continue exploring towns or the outdoors, because, well, we're fresh out of towns and outdoors to explore -- the Isle of Fire is still unexplored, but the PCs aren't really high-level enough to survive it yet. So instead, it's time for them to go underground! Should they begin with a castle, a cavern, a dungeon or a pyramid? Vote now!