Part 39: Can't Hide Your Lion EyesUpdate 21: Can't Hide Your Lion Eyes
"If I had a gold coin for everyone who threatened me with death... actually, I'd pretty much just have the one. Most of the things we meet just attack us without talking first."
The Northern Sphinx is a fun little dungeon -- at least, it is if puzzles and traps are your idea of fun. It's also a great source of experience and treasure, so let's get on with it.
Hopefully you've got a good thief, because there are a bunch of fairly difficult locked doors and grates throughout the dungeon, and setting off traps does quite a bit of damage.
"Oh great, more of these things. Couldn't those lazy tomb-builders come up with anything new to throw at us?"
"Me and my big mouth."
Mummies are moderately resistant to physical attacks and heavily resistant to all other damage types except fire and magic. Their own physical attack causes disease, and they selectively target Druids. They don't have very much HP or hit for very much damage, though, and we're too well-armoured for them to have any real chance of hitting us anyway. Compared to their Might & Magic III incarnations, they're a pushover.
"Ooh! Gold box shaped like person! Wonder what inside!"
"What? Fubar not strong enough to open person-box? No way! May be person-box, but still just old box!"
Most of the sarcophagi in the Northern Sphinx are sealed tight, requiring 100 Might or thereabouts to force open. Luckily, with the help of Winterkill's well, Fubar can meet that burden. By the way, have I mentioned lately how much easier it is to travel around for things like this once you have Town Portal and Lloyd's Beacon?
"Old person in old person-box? Make sense."
Predictably, opening a sarcophagus inflicts a heavy Curse on the opener and reveals a Mummy.
But we also get several potentially very good random items out of each sarcophagus we loot, so it's worth it. Gold and Platinum are common here, and any material up to Emerald is possible.
What would an ancient pseudo-Egyptian tomb be without hieroglyphics? Reading them requires a party member with the Linguist skill.
"We are? Okay, if you say so. Someone who has a five-letter name carved some hieroglyphics into this wall at some unspecified point in the past. That sure narrows it down."
"I am predicting a riddle in our future! The asking of riddles is a pastime for which sphinxes are known."
"Bfuah! My eyes have been filled with stinging sand! And now my mouth also is being so filled! Perhaps this is not the most opportune time for conversations!"
The sand jet traps don't do very much damage, but they inflict a curse on the party even if the damage is fully blocked by Power Shield. You can use Jump or Teleport to avoid them once you know where they are, but until then you may have to warp back to a temple once or twice to uncurse everybody before they die of bad luck.
"Woooo! Fubar is king of world!"
"Throne not recognise Fubar claim. "
"Surely if anyone is meant for this throne, it's me!"
"You're welcome to try it if you think you'll fare any better."
Don't sit in the King's and Queen's thrones. They'll just damage whoever sits in them no matter what.
"I think I'll leave the delusions of grandeur to you. Now this looks like the throne for me."
"'Prince'? Something you're not telling us, Trish?"
"It's not my fault the throne is stupid! Look at it! It's just a big chair! It doesn't even have eyes! What would it know?"
"Hey, thrones don't lie."
Only a Robber or Ninja can receive the reward for sitting in the Thieves' throne; everyone else will just take some damage.
Also, wow, we've been accumulating a lot of titles from all the quests we've done. I'll have to do a bonus update on them after we're done with Clouds.
"Hm. Time for riddle. Sphinx name. Five letter."
"She's not a cat, Fubar."
"We've been imprisoned for answering a riddle incorrectly with no real clues and no chance to back out? That hardly seems fair."
Answering the riddle wrongly gets us warped into the dungeon underneath the Sphinx. This isn't such a big deal, since we'd want to go here anyway.
To bash our way out of the dungeon cell, we have to go through more sand jets (unless we use Teleport).
"It's quite loamly down here. Good thing we're well-grounded."
Earth Golems look intimidating, but they're just slightly weaker versions of Stone Golems, with a little less HP, a little less damage output and lower resistances. Elemental magic works poorly on them, but physical attacks are effective enough.
"Ah, alchemy, the science of a gentleman! What secrets are being held between these coverings?"
Item to Gold is an interesting little Sorcerer spell: for 20 SP and 10 gems, it converts an item to its value in gold. It's up to you whether you think this is more convenient than using Town Portal and/or Lloyd's Beacon to make a quick trip back to somewhere with a blacksmith.
There's also a book down here that would teach Teleport, if we didn't know it already.
There are caches of 100 gems throughout the Sphinx to fuel our spells. If you're ever somehow running low on gems, this is a good place to go.
"Look, there are more hieroglyphics in the alcoves nearby! I think we've found the clues we need to work out the Sphinx's name!"
"My third is in lich but not in stitch... my fourth is in guard but not in Girard..."
"Not hard once we have clues. Only one letter fit each clue. G-O-L-U-X. Golux."
"The orc's right. Funny name for a sphinx, though."
"At last, an exit from the dungeons. Shall we retrace our steps and take another shot at the Sphinx's riddle?"
"A howling success! Once again, we have outsmarted our foes! Now let us continue upwards, instead of being hurled downwards into the dungeon!"
Answering the riddle correctly allows us to enter the upper level of the Sphinx. It's pretty small, but it's where the best rewards are.
There are also all kinds of enemies blocking our way: Stone Golems, Earth Golems and Mummies all working together.
"The teeth I can almost understand, but why does an animated statue have a tongue? Ugh."
We can pick up even more gems up here: 300 per cache.
"Think this will work for Flench? Only half orc."
"We both sit on throne together! Half orc plus half orc make whole orc!"
There are thrones like this up here for every race, granting a one-off experience bonus to everyone of the appropriate race who sits in them and damaging any characters of incorrect races.
"Aha! Still there are more secrets to be learned! Now is the time to be mastering the stars themselves!"
"Magic for breaking off pieces of the sun and hurling them at one's enemies in the manner of rotten fruits? This is useful knowledge indeed!"
"Oh dear. That can't possibly be environmentally friendly. Do try to use it sparingly."
Star Burst is the most expensive Sorcerer spell in the game, and one of the most powerful. It costs a whopping 200 spell points and 20 gems, and inflicts 500 Physical damage on all enemies in front of the caster. That's enough damage to one-shot almost every enemy in Clouds of Xeen, which is a good thing because even with his massive SP pool Vandesloof can only cast it once.
"What could this be? It seems we students of the divine won't be completely left out when it comes to learning magic today."
"Now I'm going to be even better at pulling your sorry asses out of the fire. Aren't you all lucky?"
Divine Intervention costs 200 SP and 20 gems just like Star Burst, and its effects might be even more impressive. It instantly heals the entire party to full HP and cures all negative conditions except Eradication, but magically ages the caster by 5 years.
"Maybe try new spell now, please? Fubar not feel so great. Also, got sand in places sand not belong. Can heal that too?"
Speaking of magical aging, some of the sand jet traps, especially on the upper level of the Sphinx, don't just curse the party: they age them by a year. This isn't too bad as long as you notice it's happening and don't blunder haplessly into the same traps again and again. If you don't notice it's happening until you've packed on a few decades, I hope you've found the four druids because you're going to want to pay them an urgent visit.
"So much for not leaving alive! That wasn't even hard."
Thanks to all that experience we were awarded by the thrones, Fubar and Anleisa gain one level and Trish gains two. That means Trish has hit level 20, which is as high as any trainer in Clouds of Xeen can raise her.
Wow, look at all those gems we picked up in the Sphinx. We've now got way, way more than we're ever going to use for anything, at least until Darkside.
Fubar hasn't changed much and doesn't need to. His HP total is far and away the highest in the party, and he's easily the most powerful melee combatant. I could maybe boost his elemental resistances a bit more with equipment, but even without resistance bonuses he can take hits better than anyone else.
Ms Swallow is doing fine, with her Personality, Speed and Accuracy all receiving some boosts since my last character rundown. I've also given her some equipment upgrades, giving her the highest AC in the party to make up for her lowish HP. She and Flench will both gain a fourth melee attack per round at level 18, making them even more effective in combat.
Flench has some more Intellect and Speed courtesy of Castle Basenji; his spell point total is looking very respectable now. He could cast 100-SP spells like Elemental Storm, if for some reason I wanted him to. Aside from that, he remains a solid melee combatant with good survivability.
Trish can still gain bonus levels from special events, but any further experience points she earns won't be of any use to her until Darkside, where better trainers are available. Until Ms Swallow and Flench catch up to her level, her HP and physical combat skills will be second only to Fubar. She can sometimes take a lot of damage from traps on doors and chests, so her high resistances and general toughness come in handy.
I swapped out some of Anleisa's minor Personality-boosting equipment to give her better AC and resistances. She's got lots of HP for a cleric (even more than Ms Swallow right now, thanks to her higher Endurance), and enough spell points to pull off a Divine Intervention in emergencies. Next level she'll even have enough SP left over to cast Day of Protection or Mass Distortion beforehand.
Vandesloof remains squishy, but all the elemental resistance boosts I've stacked on him from the Tower of High Magic and Castle Basenji should help. He's got more than enough SP to bust out a Star Burst whenever we really need to end a fight in a hurry.
And that wraps up the Northern Sphinx. Sorry about the delay. For the next update, should the party go check out those lava fields in the northeast of Xeen, or storm Darzog's Tower to free Crodo? I suspect I know how this vote is going to turn out, but vote anyway!