Part 30: Notes from Underground
"Great. I shoulda known King Zealot would protect his treasure with some kind of dumb puzzle."
As you probably don't remember from Update 6, the four warriors' names in the order we're supposed to put them in are JODELLE, LEADBEST, ASTRIEL and TESHY.
"'North before south, east before west'... that much is easy enough to understand. But 'subtract the castle's name'?"
"Perhaps if we deleted every letter that also appears in WHITESHIELD. That would leave us with..."
"The answer is JOABARY. Whoever that is."
Whiteshield Dungeon is another one of those gimmicky dungeons that likes to put blade traps in front of doors and secret passages, unavoidably damaging the party. The doors themselves have some pretty powerful traps on them, too, and Cyrus' Thievery skill is still low enough that he occasionally sets them off.
"This must be one of that band of gnomes that broke into Castle Whiteshield to steal the king's treasure. So much for King Zealot's mercy and forgiveness, huh?"
"Well, they did seal the castle's treasure chests with a magical lock that can only be opened with a secret countersign. I'd be ticked off too."
As we continue on through the dungeon and find more corpses, we get more of this little poem doled out to us one line at a time. I'll transcribe it all in one place for your reading convenience.
"To his wife and her lover a box he gave. His wife's young lover was an Orc named Smello / With hell-hound's breath and hair of yellow. Smello's box sent him reeling / And wooden planks were his last feeling. The Queen was shocked by her pine box / For the open end had golden locks."
"Wait, I don't get it. If the box is already open, why are there locks on it?"
"Locks as in hair, Minty. King Zealot killed Smello, put him in a box and delivered him to the Queen."
"I gotta say, that's kind of a stylish way to let your wife know that you know she's cheating. If King Zealot wasn't such a do-gooder he'd make a pretty good villain."
"That's if the story's true, anyway. Who ever heard of a blond orc?"
"This looks like a job for our official taste-tester of things that may or may not kill us! Cyrus, you know what to do."
"I'd complain that I always get picked for this kinda stuff, except half the time it works out pretty well for me."
This Divine Elixir instantly grants a whopping +5 levels to the drinker. It's right near the entrance to the dungeon and protected only by a couple of secret passages, so it's a very nice reward just for solving the riddle to get in here.
"The countersign must be 'Smello', then, since he's the one who 'lies in the Queen's box', if you know what I mean. Or at least, he used to."
"I think the box being referred to is his coffin, but I suppose the answer is the same either way."
Deeper into the dungeon, the party starts to run into imprisoned monsters including Evil Rangers (which are a joke) and Major Demons (which are slightly less of a joke, and would be a nasty surprise for a low-level party). They still can't reliably hit the party and they die in a couple of attacks, so even in groups they're not too hard to deal with.
"I wish those demons hadn't attacked us as soon as we opened their cell. It woulda been fun to set 'em free and watch 'em wreak havoc in the castle. Oh well, at least there's a bunch of elixir in their cell and stuff."
"Cyrus! Stop! I didn't say you could drink that! We already know it's safe -- your work here is done!"
"You snooze, you lose. And you lost. Because you, uh, snost?"
This batch of elixir gives one character a permanent +20% bonus to all resistances. Make sure you go to the Blistering Heights cavern and get the permanent resistance bonuses from there before drinking it, since the boosts in the cavern only work if your initial resistances are below a certain level.
The Major Devil is the closest thing to a boss this dungeon has. While it's no stronger than the one back in Blistering Heights Cavern, it actually manages to hit Calgon and knock him unconscious, breaking his armour. Of course, it doesn't get to do much else before we unceremoniously beat it to death.
And in the final cell of the dungeon, our reward for getting this far is two cups of Divine Elixir, each one worth +10 to all stats.
"Wow, King Zealot knows how to party! This is the best sangria ever!"
The stat-boosting elixir is probably best given to a hybrid character like a Ranger, Archer or Paladin, who can make use of all their stats. You might also consider giving it to a Druid, since they rely on both Intellect and Personality for spell points, but keep in mind that I said to give it to somebody who can make use of their stats.
"Time to use our newfound knowledge and power to loot the living crap out of Castle Whiteshield!"
Opening the non-sealed chests around the outer halls of Castle Whiteshield sets off an alarm and summons some Castle Guards (just like the ones from Castle Blood Reign, and just as weak).
The chests actually have half-decent amounts of gold in them, along with some forgettable mid-tier items.
Triggering the alarm also causes all the doors in the castle to slam shut. Good thing we have Cyrus around to unlock them!
Interestingly, at around this point the game also stopped crashing every five or six steps I took inside Castle Whiteshield. Apparently, keeping all those guards and doors hidden until now was just too much stress for the poor program to take, and now that it's been relieved of that burden it's working fine. Or something.
"Ugh. Just let us through so we can go rob your king already."
"Oof. I can't bust down this grate and my shoulder's gettin' sore. Minty, you drank that crazy power elixir before, right? You wanna give it a try?"
"Easy! Now all we have to do is kill that guy who was waiting patiently for us behind it!"
You may remember Black Knights from Cursed Cold Cavern. Now that all of our armour isn't cursed and useless, they present no real threat.
"We're gonna steal King Zealot's treasure right in front of him and there's nothing he can do about it! Ha ha!"
"Let's see if our deductions were correct."
Messing around with the chests in King Zealot's throne room would open the grates outside the room and send the Black Knights after us, if we hadn't already bashed down the grates and killed the knights on our own initiative.
"Wow, what a shitty security system. A worthless pack of gnomes did a better job of protecting King Zealot's treasure than he did, and they were just trying to annoy the king."
"How'd he even make all this money in the first place if he's this dumb? Gods, what a feeb."
"5 million gold isn't bad, but it just isn't enough. Let's go rob Castle Dragontooth, too!"
"We're robbin' our own castle now?"
"What, you've got a problem with that? We're evil! Betraying our allies is what we do!"
"Hmmmm. Last time we were here, we deduced that five legions of the castle guard survived their battle with the werewolves, but in order to enter the dungeons we needed to know how many soldiers constituted a legion. It occurs to me that the castle's outer walls are square in shape, but the inside does not appear to make full use of the space available..."
"Ah, I see what you're thinking."
By casting Wizard Eye to bring up a minimap of the surroundings, we can see an empty space northeast of the throne room and a similar empty space to the southeast. If we stand in the right places, we can cast Teleport to reach either of them.
"Crap, they posted a guard here? Why? Wait, why am I complaining when I can just bash his skull in?"
Even for our overlevelled party, Wizards are pretty legitimately frightening. They have 80 speed, allowing them to go before everyone except Sails and The Raven, and attack a single character for 1000 points of magical damage. That's right, they basically cast Implosion on us, and it can do enough damage to kill Calgon outright from full health if he's unlucky. Fortunately, Sails is strong enough to one-shot them, provided we can close to melee range without getting imploded to death. They drop 15,000 gold and 200 gems when killed, so they're worth the effort.
On another note, people who have read my first two Might & Magic LPs might notice a suspicious similarity between the Wizard's face and a certain character portrait from World of Xeen. His face is also completely different in the DOS version of the game, which makes me wonder if their faces aren't stylised pictures of some of the game developers or something.
In the hidden room to the southeast we find another Wizard, and more importantly, the last statue we need to solve this castle's puzzle.
"If four legions number 16,000, then five legions must number 20,000. Off to the dungeon we go!"
"You know what to do, Cyrus."
"Somethin' tells me there's no more awesome elixirs down there."
"Ow! Somethin' zapped me while I was in there!"
"That was just me. I grew bored and wanted to hurt someone."
Searching the cauldrons in Castle Dragontooth's dungeon does 50 magical damage to the searcher, but also reveals messages.
"I found a bunch more messages, like '10+10 = 8' and '2+18 = 8'. I never paid much attention in school, but when you add stuff up isn't the number you get supposed to be bigger than the numbers you added?"
"'The hands of time'... I understand now! It's modular arithmetic."
"It's like a clock. At eleven o'clock, if you wait one hour it will be twelve o'clock. But at twelve o'clock, if you wait one hour it will be one o'clock. If it's nine o'clock and you wait six hours it will be three o'clock, and so on."
In addition to cauldrons, there are these floor safes around the outside of the dungeon. Some of them can be opened, revealing 10,000 gold or so.
Others are just illusions, and can't be usefully interacted with. Attempting to open them will cause a Ghost to appear somewhere else in the dungeon.
"Aw, what a ripoff. We came here to loot this dungeon, but half of the things we want to loot don't even exist!"
The corridors are patrolled by Wicked Witches, who can still curse the party's equipment and are still massively annoying as a result.
Going deeper into the dungeon, we start running into Ghosts and floor traps. The former are best dealt with using Energy Blast or other attack magic; the latter we can either Jump over where possible or else just endure.
There are some Spirit Shields in the dungeon too, and they're still as little of a threat as ever.
"Let me guess. I'm the guinea pig again?"
"Oh, Cyrus, don't be ridiculous. Guinea pigs are cute and lovable. You're more of a lab rat."
"Cyrus? You okay? Anyone home?"
"Huh. I think we finally broke him. Cool!"
"I'm fine. Jus' fine. Now, who do we kill next?"
At the very centre of the dungeon, guarded by a large group of Wicked Witches, we can find a room with four cauldrons containing Ale of Advancement, Elixir of Endurance, Potion of Personality and Tea of Intelligence. The first one gives +5 levels, and the other three permanently raise their respective statistic by 50.
There's a catch, though: each brew causes 10 years of temporary aging, and permanently changes the drinker's alignment to Evil (if it wasn't already). Of course, since we've already raised the fountain of youth and alignment has almost no in-game effect, this isn't really a big deal.
"That was easy. Now let's go empty out our boss's treasure room!"
"Heh. That one almost deserves a pity chuckle."
"9+14 would be 23, but in clock arithmetic that's 11. Simple enough."
King Malefactor's chests contain a total of 5 million gold, 5000 gems and several top-tier items. Not bad at all.
"Did anyone else hear something from behind us?"
"We are about to get so imploded."
"I see enemies! Destroy them! Destroy them all!"
Opening either of King Malefactor's chests summons wizards. Lots of wizards. While we deal with one of them, the rest try to line up and zap us. It takes some fancy footwork to minimise the number of them blasting us at once, and even then we take loads of damage.
"Hah! Don't forget who holds the real power in our little arrangement, 'King' Malefactor. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should run for my life before you can summon any more guards."
We're not doing badly for ourselves at this point, as far as money's concerned. Kings are rich: who'da thunk it?
And since it was almost day 99 by the time I was finished with both castles, I took the liberty of collecting and turning in another Sea Shell of Serenity for bonus experience. Really I'm just including this screenshot to show off some more of Lord Bruno and The Raven's facial expressions.
"We've gotta be the richest and most powerful adventurers in Terra's history! I bet our rivals have given up even trying to get in our way by now."
"If I see them again I'll beat them to a pulp! An' then I'll crush that pulp into a paste!"
"Is it just me, or has Cyrus been more... intense... than usual ever since our visit to Dragontooth Dungeon?"
"You mean how he's all evil and crazy now? Yeah, it's not just you."
"I think it's an improvement. Dude's finally standing up for himself. Good for him."
"It seems we will be able to keep him under control by providing him with a steady stream of enemies to destroy. And that, after all, has never been a problem for us..."
"Hmph. Is one unstoppable murderous juggernaut not enough for you?"
Once again, and for very nearly the last time, it's time to switch our perspective back to the good party. Should they finally pacify the restless spirits of Greywind and Blackwind, or do one last bit of outdoor exploration among the molten valleys of the Isle of Fire? Vote now!