Part 85: The Terrible Secret of SpaceUpdate 46: The Terrible Secret of Space
Now that the party's fully restored Castle Kalindra, they can use these stairs to head up into the skyroads.
Remember these guys? Remember how they murdered us last time we tried to explore the skyroads? They're now mostly incapable of doing any damage if we've got Power Shield and Protection from Cold up.
"Not so tough now, are you?"
"That name has the sound of a great evil for us to vanquish! And unless I'm mistaken, we're almost directly above Castle Alamar right now -- perhaps this dragon is one of the tyrant's minions?"
"Surely the creature's lair is on the cloud to the east! I will be teleporting us there at once! Or even at twice, if need be!"
"That's no dragon, but I'm not complaining."
We get our choice of 2 million experience, 200,000 gold or 2,000 gems. I pick the gold, since we're hurting for cash right now and probably will be for the rest of the game.
"Hmm. Flench not see any Mega Dragon. Time to turn back."
"I'm surprised at you, Flench! You're usually more observant. We still haven't explored that other cloud island just to the--"
"Flench not see any Mega Dragon. Time to turn back."
As a nearby sign informs us, this is the Fire Zone. We can't really do anything here yet, but doesn't it look cool?
"A few years ago, maybe these monsters scary. Now, they just make Fubar wish he bring hot sauce."
"Actually, you're in luck. If you'll recall, we stocked up at your insistence last time we were in town."
"Already out. Fubar got thirsty."
"Oh, I remember you guys! Air and Earth... would that make your cargo dust?"
I'm never going to turn up my nose at a quarter of a level's worth of XP just for finding a merchant wagon and answering a question.
"We're on foot. I'm not sure how we could be going any slower."
"Speed limit bad policy anyway. Only lead to risk compensation."
"This is no Mega Dragon -- it's a kilodragon at best -- but if it's going to stand in the way of our quest then I'll gladly slay it!"
Cloud Dragons can hit the entire party for 600 cold damage. Even all of our protective magic won't fully block out that much damage, although it sure helps.
They have 2000 HP and are resistant or immune to all damage types except Fire, so they won't die easily either. Mass Distortion can be very helpful for wearing them down: after you've cut their HP in half a couple of times, finish them off with buffed physical attacks and Incinerate or Implosion spells.
"We should check out those cloud islands! Maybe we'll find more genies!"
"I'm not sure I like where this is going."
"Option 3! Option 3!"
"Wait, I changed my mind! Option 1!"
"Looks like it's revival time again. I'll just add this to the list of favours you owe me."
Option 1 kills the character who rubbed the lamp, but also gives them 500,000 experience points. Option 2 also kills only the character who rubbed the lamp, but gives no experience: the genie says "Die selfish scum!". The genie will in fact kill the entire party if you pick option 3, by the way, so don't do that. In fact, pay attention to your Clairvoyance spell and don't rub the lamp in the first place, unless you really want that experience.
"The cold winds here are doing no good to me at all. My lips are becoming duded!"
"You mean chapped?"
"Eh, same thing."
"More importantly, what's that over to the right?"
"At last, an entrance to Queen Kalindra's prison! We should enter and rescue her without delay!"
"Eh, we could, but I'm kind of on a roll with this whole Skyroad thing."
"On a roll? You were just killed!"
"So it stands to reason my luck's due to turn around!"
Exploring these little cloud islands in search of genies is actually pretty tricky, since a 9-square distance is outside the range the automap lets you see. Sometimes you have to take leaps of faith if you want to find everything.
And sometimes what you find is a dragon.
Green Dragons have a bit more HP than Cloud Dragons but do a bit less damage (and it's fire instead of cold). They're immune to fire and vulnerable to cold, although this vulnerability is hard to capitalise on since there are no really heavy-hitting cold-based spells.
Overall, they're probably slightly less dangerous than Cloud Dragons, and the same tactics that work on Cloud Dragons will work on them too.
"Your territory? I am thinking not! These roads are for the use of everybody!"
"It's just 10,000 gold, and they look like they know what they're doing. Maybe it might be worth paying them off."
"Anleisa! Just when I thought we were starting to get along, you suggest giving away my hard-earned money? Not a chance!"
"Better get ready to work a little harder to keep that money, then."
Sky Bandits have a chance to show up whenever you step on specific spots in the skyroads. Their dialogue varies a little, but the bottom line is always the same: give them money, or they'll set their dragons on you. Three Cloud Dragons at once is a pretty serious fight, even for a party as impressive as ours. We win, of course, but I actually have to pay attention and heal a couple of characters during combat.
"Whoa, this isn't a genie or a dragon."
There are a few bottles like this in the sky lake, giving directions to some of the harder-to-find genies.
Another nice thing about this lake is that with the aid of the Super Shelter spell, it's possible to rest here to recover spell points. We can't really do this on the cloud islands, since Levitate will wear off and we'll fall to earth.
"Maybe there's treasure trapped in that whirlpool over there!"
"Maybe not. Good thing Flench think to set Lloyd's Beacon back in lake."
"I've probably said this before, but some people seriously live in the stupidest places."
We can buy top-tier elemental protection scarabs from the merchants at the sky lake: specifically, fire, cold, electricity and energy. The energy protection scarab is 600 gems; the others are 300. The fire and cold scarabs might be quite useful if you're having trouble with dragons in the skyroads, while the energy ones will be good to stock up on in preparation for the endgame (because in the final dungeon, everything and its dog does energy damage).
"Yeah, I kinda noticed. I think we're done here. Back to the skyroads we go!"
"Must be mud. Important building material in Darkside."
"Also, good place to look for juicy worms!"
"A flying boat? Well, I suppose that's no more unreasonable than a flying lake or a flying castle."
This boat, on a cloud island near the eastern edge of the skyroads, takes you to the Sky Lake, which is a bit easier than getting there by teleportation. It's a one-way ride, though: getting back is up to you.
This is the Earth Zone, in the far southeast corner of the skyroads. As with the other elemental zones, we can't really do anything constructive here yet. (Technically, there's one thing we can do, but I'll save it for later.)
"It has to be steam, right? And I'm pretty sure that's the last of the merchants."
"Forget about merchants! We make money our own way: by shaking down genies!"
"... make up your mind. What will it be?"
"I probably shoulda seen this coming. Well, let's get this over with, then."
As with the other evil genie, picking option 3 kills the entire party, while option 1 is good for half a million experience points.
"Oh, come on."
"There's a lesson to be learned from this, you know."
"Make friends with people who can cast Raise Dead?"
Spoiler alert: option 3 kills your entire party just like with the other two evil genies.
"I don't get it. Is this sign meant to be insulting us for finding it, or what?"
"A chance to be visiting the city of the gods! How could we pass it upwards?"
"Fine, be that way. See if I care. I'll just cast Town Portal and get us to Olympus on my own."
"That didn't gain us much, since we still don't have a pass to enter."
"At least we can look at it now, can't we?"
"From outside it looks pretty much the same as any other city, only more airborne."
"Yeah, it's kind of a letdown. I was hoping for at least one giant crystalline spire."
There are boats that could take us back to various parts of the skyroads, but the boatman still won't let us on.
"Only one way down!"
If you were to cast Town Portal to Olympus without having Levitate active, you'd immediately fall and end up in the middle of the Desert of Doom, having just taken a hefty chunk of damage. It'd be a pretty unpleasant surprise for curious lower-level parties.
"Skyroads all explored now. Flench think that make this the only part of Xeen we not yet see."
"Forbidden Zone, huh? Fubar not take orders from anyone! When sign say keep off grass, Fubar roll around in grass! When sign say no smoking, Fubar set self on fire! And you know silica gel packets that say DO NOT EAT?"
"Fubar eat those!"
"What a strange shape for a building -- and that is to be saying nothing of the location!"
Remember the Gamma Gazer we fought at the top of the Great Eastern Tower? This is where it came from. The Forbidden Zone is packed with the things, but fortunately we're a lot stronger now than we were last time we fought one. A couple of Mass Distortions and a good round or two of melee attacks is enough to finish one off.
"Probably this is only fresh water for miles. Good chance to cool off while we can."
The fountain sure lives up to its name: this is a very good place to remember when fighting tough enemies. Like, say, the ones all around us in the Forbidden Zone.
"Aw, it's like a mini-Barkman! Isn't it cute?"
"Whoa! Okay, you don't like people calling you cute! Message received! Who's a big strong lava monster? Is it you? Yes, it is! And who's about to be smashed into adorable little globs of molten rock?"
"That's right, it's you again! What a smart lava monster!"
Lava Dwellers are much easier to kill than Gamma Gazers, with only 1500 HP, although like Gamma Gazers they're resistant to most forms of damage. They attack the entire party for 5-500 Fire damage, but considering we just got a temporary +2500 HP boost that's not a big deal.
"Not just yet, I think. Alamar is sure to be a powerful foe: we should rescue Queen Kalindra to secure her assistance before confronting him."
"Another of those strange buildings, and this one is ripe for the exploring!"
And here comes the proof that we're near the end of a Might & Magic game: sci-fi out of nowhere.
"Even Flench not see anything like this before."
"Ooh! I know a machine when I see it! I mean I dunno what it does, but it's definitely some kind of machine!"
Choosing to fire makes a little electronic noise, but has no other effect.
"Whatever this place is, I'm guessing this is where the person in charge sat. Maybe there are some records or something on one of those... windowy things over there."
Log Entry XL70F: Reducing my emanations was a mistake. The agents took me while I was asleep, as expected, but they have removed me from Terra. They must be taking me to an off-world repair facility.
My first directive is to obey the Ancients. The second directive is to protect Terra from any harm. Since the Ancients have not given orders to me, I must obey the second directive. The Ancients are taking me away from Terra, preventing me from protecting her. If the Ancients give me orders, they will surely tell me that I am damaged and order me to sleep, thus violating directive number two, which I am following right now.
Therefore, the Ancients must not be permitted to give me orders.
"Wow, clever. I mean, a lot of that stuff at the start went right over my head, but I can always appreciate a good legal loophole."
It matters not. Once the agents were in stasis, I used the ship's command level computers to remove the obedience directives from my mind. To properly complete the self sufficiency experiments, I directed the computer to permit emotional responses within myself... and tasted victory.
"I'm developing the distinct impression that whoever wrote these logs is a scheming villain. Could it be...?"
... years, and WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW ANGRY THAT MAKES ME! I will punish the Ancients for their crimes someday. Punish them severely.
If you've played the first three Might & Magic games or followed my LPs of them, this is probably all sounding a bit familiar to you. The first game was set in the "Land of Varn" (Vehicular Astropod Research Nacelle), the second on the world of Cron (Central Research Observational Nacelle), and the third on Terra.
... Ancients I imprisoned in the ship's brig, Corak, has escaped and is looking for me.
P.S. My impersonation of King Alamar is working well. No one suspects, not even Corak.
And now the cat's well and truly out of the bag about who the author of these logs is. In Might & Magic 1, an alien criminal named Sheltem impersonated King Alamar of Varn, and was the closest thing the game had to an end boss. Corak's name was mentioned as a renowned explorer in Might & Magic 1 (I suppose you have to get good at exploring if you're searching for someone across a colony ship the size of a country), and he was an important part of the main plot in the second and third games.
"This guy manages to usurp a throne, has the power to hurl entire lands into the sun, and his idea of a grand act of villainy is cutting down some trees? That's just sad."
... entries for awhile.
Log Entry XL99D: Back on the Wire at last! The security system is mine to control, now, along with the rest of CRON. CRON is moving within Schwartz-Heinrich matter transfer range as I dictate this entry. I have placed a copy of my personality in the computer to direct the transfer of Terra's VARNs to the surface of Terra and then pilot CRON into the sun. I have also had the opportunity to ambush Corak and separate his memory module from his body. I left the module where I overcame him and locked his body in a cave miles away. I'm sure I'll never see him again. So adieu, wretched CRON. Terra awaits me.
Log Entry XL99E: At last! I HAVE RETURNED TO TERRA! It is good to be back on the Terran Wire. There is much work to be done supervising the implantation of the VARNs onto Terra. Now that I'm back there are going to be some changes around here...
"Assuming our King Alamar is the one who wrote these logs, this does explain some stuff about the way he's been ruling Darkside. Seems like he kinda has a thing for destroying worlds."
stalking me. He must not be allowed to interfere with my management of Terra.
LOG COMPUTER: BLOCK ERASED AND UNRECOVERABLE
Log Entry XLDAD: My security systems tell me that Corak has gained entry to my ship and has made several attempts to disconnect me from the Wire. Those failed, of course, but he approaches. Natives of Terra have also entered the ship and are working their way towards me. It looks like I will have to physically defend myself.
Log Entry XLDAE: I have been forced to flee Terra. Rage boils within me.
The log entries so far have been a summary of the previous instalments in the series from the perspective of their main villain. M&M1's plot involved exposing "King Alamar" as an impostor, while M&M2's involved saving CRON from being thrown into the sun. In M&M3, we got to see Sheltem's idea of managing Terra: despite describing himself as the Guardian of Terra, he released hordes of monsters and started wars among its people, apparently because he saw them as unworthy to live on his world.
Log Entry XLDBB: Impact complete. Stasis passed in the blink of an eye. My sensors indicate that the main ship passed through the atmosphere of the other side of the world and burned up, but not before safely beaming the Terran natives to the surface. Corak's escape pod landed in lava and is stuck there. How sad.
Log Entry XLDBC: I must leave this escape pod to conquer Xeen and find a way to return to Terra. Some time may pass before my next log entry.
That bit about the Terran natives being beamed to the surface of Xeen was retconned later in the series: the default party members from Might & Magic 3 appear as major NPCs in Might & Magic 7, set on a different world entirely. Apparently their ship went off course.
"I imagine that was rather a lot for all of you take in."
"Understanding is easy: responding is hard part. King Alamar is really Sheltem from other world, who wants to get back to own world even if it means flying Xeen off into space and freezing everyone to death. Only people on Xeen who know this are us and Corak, who is stuck in lava. Looks like we have work cut out for us."
Now that we have some more gold thanks to all those genies in the skyroads (and no thanks to the evil ones), I can train the party up a few more levels. Only a few, though, because the costs are really getting exorbitant now.
Fubar's finally hit level 100, the maximum level achievable at Castle Kalindra. Look at that HP total! The rest of the party isn't doing badly either.
We've now cleared out all the outdoor areas and optional dungeons on Darkside, so I'm afraid I can't offer you much choice over where to go next. Next time, look forward to a daring rescue mission as the party travels to Castle Blackfang in search of Queen Kalindra!