Part 25: Pyramid Power"Psst. You. Yeah, you over there."
"Oh, hey, it's you guys. Long time no see. You need something?"
"That's right. We're here to make a deal!"
"So speak up already. And make it quick, before your dudes or our dudes come and find us."
"We have a certain item that you may find most interesting. If, that is, you are willing to offer fair compensation in good faith."
"You should know by now that I am a man of my word. I see no obstacle to negotiation..."
"Sorry we kept you waiting. See, we got this tip about a hireling in Swamp Town, so we went to pick her up. Say hi, Charity."
"Well met, friends. I was a paladin on an information-gathering mission in Castle Blood Reign, but was captured and imprisoned. King Zealot had no choice but to deny all knowledge of my quest, of course, and so I can hardly return to serve in his army. I have nobody but myself to blame for my failure, and I will strive to learn from the experience as your loyal ally."
"Oh, and we also got this key card for the pyramids. There's kind of a catch, though."
"Indeed. We have... been in contact with certain members of our rival adventurers. They offered us this card, on the condition that we split any Ultimate Power Orbs we find evenly with them."
"Wait, you agreed to hand over half our Ultimate Power Orbs to our enemies? And you did all this without consulting us? What the hell, guys?"
"Look, just like we don't all see eye to eye, neither do the other guys. The ones we talked to think this deal is everyone's best chance of keeping King Malefactor from ruling Terra. Their share of the orbs is going to King Tumult. That's better than the alternative, right?"
"I... I guess that makes sense. I hope you know what you're doing..."
"I will not quickly forget this betrayal, but as you have so unwisely made a pact with our enemies, we ought to at least keep our word rather than compound your treachery -- for now, at least. In we go, then."
"Hm. These pyramids are filled with devices of unknown purpose. We should proceed with caution."
"Aaagh! What was that? It felt like I was being set on fire from the inside!"
The laser traps do 100 energy damage to the entire party -- and since they're directly in front of bashable walls, that means the party is forced to spend another turn on the trap bashing the wall and taking another 100 damage. Energy damage is difficult to mitigate, so it's necessary to have high HP in order to clear out this pyramid.
"Wow. I can't decide which is creepier: the floating shields with horrible cadaveric faces or the walking scrap metal heaps with disturbingly almost-human faces. Good thing we can just kill 'em all."
We've seen ED-409s before, but now that the party's already worn down from the traps, they can be an actual threat rather than just a nuisance. Fortunately, if things do get a little too hot to handle, Implosion reliably one-shots them. The Spirit Shields are highly resistant to physical attacks, but their own attacks are also physical and they can't hit us through our armour, so we can just focus on the EDs first and beat the shields to death at our leisure.
"We fought our way through all those traps and monsters just for some crystals? Well, here goes nothing."
Just like the other pyramid, the one under Swamp Town contains a bunch more puzzle solutions, although not all of them tell you what puzzle or riddle they correspond to.
The crystals off the main corridors outside the monster rooms aren't quite so friendly, giving +1 to age for the entire party. Luckily we've raised the fountain of youth, so this is no big deal.
The four crystals arranged in a horizontal line going east-west from our present map location look just like the ones that age the party. But when these ones are touched, they do something special...
"Heh. Who said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Ultimate Power Orb, here we come!"
This transport tube is the only way out of the little room that the crystal teleported us to: it takes us to another small room with an Ultimate Power Orb, which itself has a transport tube leading back to the main part of the pyramid and another leading back to Fountain Head. We're not quite done exploring yet, though...
"Beta Engine Sector? That rings a bell... that's right, the other party found the password to this one in the pyramid they explored: it's SUBLEVEL. See, I told you they'd help us out!"
"Or lead us into a trap..."
"Whoaaa... that felt weird. I think I'm okay, though. And it looks like we're in a different part of the pyramid. Actually, uh, I guess it could even be a totally different pyramid."
"Hello, giant floating crystal head! We're going to break you up and turn you into costume jewellery. Sorry!"
Guardians are strongly resistant to magic but have no particular resistance to physical attacks, so a party with obsidian weapons can easily just beat them to death. They have a moderately powerful physical attack that will never, ever actually hit us.
There are a couple more Ultimate Power Orbs in alcoves off the central corridor of this pyramid, guarded by ED-409s and Guardians.
Even more of these asshole crystals, too.
"I believe I saw a tube leading to the Alpha Engine Sector back in the previous area of the pyramid. I think it's high time we found out where it leads. After we pick up that orb, of course..."
"Here goes nothin'!"
Much like the Main and Beta engine sectors, the Alpha Engine Sector has a bunch of crystals that age the party. These ones are especially nasty because they don't even give you a message telling you what they've done, they just go ahead and make you a year older.
"At this rate, there really will be enough orbs for you and your co-conspirators to put King Tumult on the throne. I suppose you're happy with yourselves."
"Could we perhaps pay a brief visit to the surface? I am curious as to our whereabouts."
"Just as I thought: the pyramids are interconnected! I suspect the area we visited before this one was in fact underneath the pyramid in the frozen north. In any case, let us continue our exploration."
"Central Control Sector? That sounds important. We'd better write this stuff down so we remember it."
"I think we've finally mapped out all of the pyramids. Got a good haul of orbs out of it, too -- even if we're gonna lose half of them thanks to some people's brilliant negotiating skills."
There's a total of 13 orbs reachable from the swamp/desert/snow pyramid complex, and we've collected all of them.
"Thirteen orbs... um, how are we supposed to split these evenly?"
"Well, I guess we do kind of owe you for jerking you around like we did. Tell you what, we'll take six and you take seven. We had a head start on you, so we're still in the lead anyway."
"See? You're not the only ones who can play fair. We're all on the same side against King Malefactor, right?"
"Fine. Go meet up with your secret allies and see King Tumult if you must, then. I won't have us coming to blows over a few orbs -- but this is not to happen again. Understood?"
"Woohoo! Off we go! Zoooom!"
"But knights and paladins aren't the same thing at all! One casts spells and the other doesn't! Why would they go to the same school?"
"That makes eight orbs in Tumult's hands now. Only three more, and we will have secured Terra's freedom!"
"We'd better head back to our own party now and help deliver the rest of the orbs to King Zealot. Nice doing business with you."
"Control best placed in the hands of the equitable and fair-minded."
"I dunno if I like the sound of that. Who says we need to be controlled?"
"Don't you think you've said more than enough already? If it weren't for--"
"If I may interrupt, perhaps discussion would be more productive later, when we are all in a calmer frame of mind. The end of the year approaches -- and our contacts in the other party were informed by Brother Zeta that the Seashell of Serenity is said to appear on Rainbow Island on the 99th day."
Remember this tiny island in the far south of the world map?
If we visit on day 99, sure enough, we get our shell.
"Whoa, that's one heck of a pretty shell. Nice shell... shiny shell... sleepy shell..."
"Buh? Where am I and why am I sunburnt?"
"Last thing I remember was you picking up that seashell."
"Aw, dammit. It's gonna take forever to shake all this sand out of my armour."
"Perhaps the nymph Athea will have some use for this shell."
Like a timid fawn, she accepts the gift of the shell and continues her mysterious song. (250,000 Exp)
We can repeat this once a year for another 250,000 XP and gold. That's worth going a little out of our way for, especially early in the game, but it's not such a huge amount as to be a big deal if you miss it.
The party also gained a whole bunch of experience from turning in all those orbs, although training costs are starting to get expensive: I had to dip into the bank account to afford training for everyone.
"Well, I'd call that a win-win. Wouldn't you?"
"That's right! No way is King Malefactor gonna take over Terra now!"
You may notice that Bob's Accuracy and Luck are significantly higher than they were last update: I went ahead and spent most of the party's spare gems on the stat-boosting crystals in Arachnoid Cavern. The spellcasters got some very substantial Intellect and Personality boosts out of it, too.
"Do you really think you've done something heroic here? King Zealot could have been victorious by now if you hadn't made that idiotic deal."
"Um, to be fair, if they hadn't made that deal, we wouldn't have got into the pyramids in the first place..."
"Enough. What's done is done. There's nothing to be gained from arguing about it. We can trust you to support us more faithfully in our future endeavours, I hope?"
"I can promise to be a loyal comrade, to aid you in battle and to heal you when you are wounded. I cannot in good conscience pledge blind loyalty to King Zealot. I must first contemplate what I have learned of his plans."
"That whole 'control the will of men' spiel did sound a little creepy, you gotta admit."
"Perhaps it may seem unnerving to those accustomed to acting on their own whims, regardless of the effect on others. On the other hand, in a world where all people do as they please, does free will have any meaning except to the strong? Are the ordinary citizens of Fountain Head free now, when they could be killed by any of a score of different monsters the moment they left the safety of town? We may have forced the monsters of Terra back into the wilderness for now, but without constant vigilance they will surely return."
"At least there's one thing we can agree on: King Malefactor has to be stopped. Even now, his lackeys must be plotting to spread his cruel reign over all of Terra..."
That's it for the pyramids for now: as the swamp skulls mentioned, there's one more on the Isle of Fire, but that's definitely an endgame dungeon. I did all three of the other pyramids in a single update because they're all connected to each other and, frankly, they're all pretty similar. You go in, destroy the guardians, survive the traps, and collect lots and lots of Ultimate Power Orbs -- the orbs in these pyramids are more than enough to secure one king's victory and unlock the endgame all by themselves. Of course, that would be anticlimactic (and there's other stuff we have to do before we're ready for the endgame anyway), so I've drawn things out a little and put the parties on more of an even footing.
For now, it's time to give the evil party a chance to catch up and collect some more orbs of their own! With what attitude should they march on to glory: with fire in their blood, with determination in their eyes or with a prayer to their dark gods in their hearts? Vote now!