Part 9: Six! Six Heroes!Update 5: Six! Six Heroes!
"Here we are. Nightshadow. Cursed city of the dead, they say. We see for ourselves."
"It is a shame that we must be destroying such beauty. Why must they be on the side of evil?"
"Really? That's your type? Well, then again, I guess beggars can't be choosers."
Bat Queens attack twice a round for a solid chunk of physical damage, and can inflict Weakness. They don't have much HP and aren't likely to actually kill off the whole party, even in a large group like this, but they can knock someone out and break their equipment. Interestingly, they don't count as undead.
"Look what grow on tree here! So sparkly! Even better than gold!"
"Hopefully this town's well will be in a better state than Vertigo's was. There are no slime monsters around to foul its waters, after all."
"Aaaa! It's like drinking a yard glass full of knives!"
Until we fix this town's well, it'll do 50 damage to anyone who drinks from it. No wonder everyone in town is dead.
"Man behind desk not attack us! Fubar make new friend?"
"Wait. Is this man among the living, or rather the living dead?"
"I'm not going to ask too many questions. If they want to teach us magic, I'm ready to learn. Beats having to kill him like every other poor bastard we come across."
"And this must be the guild we've just paid to join. Well, I suppose if they're willing to receive us on friendly terms instead of immediately trying to kill us, we ought to extend them the same courtesy..."
"... and I must say, they do have an enviable grasp of the magical arts. I suppose knowledge of how to destroy undead comes in handy in a place like this."
The Guild is the only friendly building in Nightshadow: it doesn't have an inn, a trainer or any of the other amenities to be found in Vertigo.
I'll cover the new spells available in Nightshadow in a bonus update. For now, I'll say that we definitely want to pick up at least Heroism, Holy Bonus and Turn Undead for clerical spellcasters, and Power Shield for sorcerous spellcasters.
"Lucky us. We get to test out our new anti-undead spells right away."
"Or perhaps not so lucky after all. My powers appear to be failing me..."
Gnome Vampires hit even harder than Bat Queens by a significant margin, and their physical attacks can drain a party member's spell points to 0. For some reason, this ability seems to make the Identify Monster spell bug out, messing up the display of both their ability and armour class (it's supposed to be 18, which is still high but not insanely high). They're doubly buggy, in fact: their attack is supposed to selectively target Paladins, but it's not implemented properly and they attack randomly instead. Which is arguably worse for us, because Ms Swallow is our most heavily armoured character.
"Wow, those guys are tough. We'd better take the fight to them, and make sure there aren't any more of them sleeping in these coffins."
"Of course, we should relieve them of any equipment they could use against us, too."
Many of the coffins in town contain treasure: this one had a Dense Shield, which is like a regular shield but with +9% Energy resistance. Energy damage isn't very common, but the few monsters that do inflict it tend to be quite dangerous, so we might as well replace Anleisa's normal shield with this.
Some coffins also contain vampires. Make sure to search the coffin again after killing the vampire, because some contain both a vampire and treasure.
Two rooms that are a bit larger than the others, the Gnome Home and the Treasure Trove, both contain ambulatory vampires in addition to multiple vampire-filled coffins.
The party manages to pick up some more loot from clearing them out. A Glass Shield is the same as a regular shield except more expensive, but the Steel Scale Armour gives a +4 AC bonus over regular scale armour, and is perfect for Fubar. Steel is one of the best materials you're likely to find in the early game, for both armour and weapons. (Oddly enough, Leather Scale Armour is exactly as effective as regular scale armour, except cheaper.)
Other interesting treasure includes a Fast Belt (+5 Speed) and a Horn of Dragon Sleep, which casts a spell that, well, puts dragons to sleep. I'll hang on to this in case we have occasion to fight any dragons.
"Sure is a fancy floor. You guys think someone important lives in this part of town?"
"Looks like it. Flench not know how to get him to come out for chat, though."
"Perhaps there's a clue elsewhere in town. We shall just have to search more thoroughly."
"Well, this is promising. Looks like the masons who made these gravestones left a message for any would-be heroes before they skipped town. Or got killed by vampires. Whichever."
"So we must take him onwards at night. But it cannot be so simple as that, can it?"
"Dials? Oh, right, I remember seeing three sundials in the middle of town."
"OK, we set dials, then open coffin and say bye-bye to Count. But what we set dials to?"
"Something tells me one of the dials should be set to 9."
"And another one set to 9 too. But no third clue anywhere."
"Why don't we set all three dials to 9 and see what happens? If it doesn't work, we can always try something else."
Before opening this coffin, rest up and cast all the buffs you've got. You'll need 'em.
"Here he comes! And I don't think he's happy we disturbed his ugly sleep!"
Count Draco is a tough customer. He's got 130 HP, very high AC (it's supposed to be 25), 60% resistance to physical attacks, 90% resistance to cold, electricity and poison, hits the entire party for enough magical damage to mess us up even through Power Shield's protection, and can drain spell points just like his underlings. By the second combat round, everyone in the party is at 0 SP.
His SP-draining ability can severely limit your tactical options once the fight starts. If you have any items that cast Fireball, Energy Blast or Turn Undead, now's the time to use 'em. Beyond that, just have your spellcasters blast away with those spells for as long as they still have spell points, and have everyone else attack for whatever damage you can manage to do.
A party that's completed both the Dwarf Mines and the Witch Tower can probably outlast him, although it can be a close thing if luck isn't on your side, and there might even be a death or two.
In the end, we all pull through. One more round and I'd have started to worry for Vandesloof's survival.
"Whew. Fubar tired. You think safe to rest here?"
"I don't see why not. We did just kill the biggest, baddest vampire in town. If there are any others left, what are the chances they'll still want to fight after that?"
"Zuh! What just happen?"
"Man, what is it with everyone sending us weird visions in our dreams? Who was that?"
"I dunno. He didn't look like the Lord Xeen from our last dream... but he sure didn't seem friendly, either."
"That the last time Flench sleep next to vampire lord coffin in city of dead."
That dream isn't actually related to our being in Nightshadow: it has a small (I'd say 5-10%) chance of happening every time the party rests. Who the hell was that guy, you ask? I guess you'll just have to keep following the thread to find out.
Whatever you do, don't forget to search Count Draco's coffin after killing him -- you'll miss out on some very nice bonus experience and treasure!
"Truly, the Count had some heavily dutiful treasure."
The loot from Count Draco's coffin can contain higher-level items than anything else we've seen so far. This time, it included a Blazing Broad Sword (+20 Fire damage, goes on Fubar immediately), an Iron Shield (a little stronger than a regular shield, also for Fubar), and a Rod of Town Portals (teleports us to any town, 8 charges, potentially good for getting us out of trouble).
With Count Draco dead once more, the well now grants +10 temporary levels, which is a great boon considering that 20 is a pretty normal endgame level for Clouds of Xeen. (Yes, this means we've already gained half the levels we're ever likely to in this half of the game; things are going to slow down a bit from now on.)
"At least the vampires didn't break the portal mirror. That'll make getting back to civilisation a lot easier."
Update's over, so it's that time again! Should we check out Rivercity or the Temple of Yak? Or now that we've got the Levitate spell, should we go back and explore the clouds above the Witch Tower? Vote now!