Part 87: The Final CountdownUpdate 47: The Final Countdown
"If we can't enter Castle Blackfang from the front to rescue Queen Kalindra, then we'll just have to enter from above. Let's see how the Count likes that!"
"Looks like we might not be the first people to have this bright idea. Hopefully it goes better for us than it did for this poor sap."
... in the wall. He let go of the ladder in his panic and fell a good forty feet. Popped like a jelly donut. I'm beginning to wonder if we're ever going to get out of here.
"Wow, that vampire looks loaded. Defiling the eternal resting place of the dead has never been so profitable!"
"To be fair, it looks like they weren't doing that much resting, and this place was already pretty defiled."
Vampires hit for 10-300 damage with a physical attack and can inflict sleep. To put that in perspective, the armadillos outside Sandcaster hit twice as hard, and we dealt with those like a dozen updates ago. They selectively target Clerics, but Anleisa's got plenty of armour on so that's not a big deal.
They can survive a little longer than their 500 HP would suggest thanks to a high resistance to all damage types, but a party that can get into Castle Blackfang in the first place probably won't have much trouble with them.
"Niiice. I know what I'll be wearing for Hallowe'en this year!"
Many of the coffins in Castle Blackfang contain a guaranteed top-tier piece of armour or accessory of a particular type. We got an obsidian cloak from this one, and the one next to it contained (in addition to another Vampire Lord) an Exacto Scarab, good for a +30 Accuracy bonus.
As you may have noticed, these Vampires are palette swaps of the Bat Queens from back on Nightshadow in Clouds. Like their Vampire Lord masters, they target Clerics, but they only hit for 10-100 damage with a chance to inflict weakness. Even if they somehow hit Anleisa, they'd be lucky to do any damage at all through Power Shield.
With no real capability to harm the party, their 400 HP gets whittled down in no time.
"Hmmmm. Stairs down lead nowhere, teleport spells not work. Probably no way to get to Queen Kalindra from here."
"But if we can't enter from the front, and we can't enter from above... what are we to do? We certainly can't leave the queen in a place like this!"
"Maybe if we go and see Dimitri back at Castle Kalindra, he'll have some ideas. His job is to defend the castle, so he'd have to know a thing or two about breaking into them. It's just common sense."
"He's done kind of a lousy job of defending the castle so far, what with Alamar having kidnapped the queen and handed her over to a bunch of vampires, but I guess it's worth a shot."
"That jerk in the tent near Necropolis? You think he can help us? If you say so."
"I am anticipating your question. It was Dimitri who sent us!"
"... you can see I have my hands full with this beast. I will gladly pay you for your trouble if you take this bridle to an enchantress, have her enchant it, and return to me."
"Hmm. Wasn't there an enchantress in Sandcaster?"
"There were many enchantresses in Sandcaster, as I recall."
"I mean, one we didn't kill."
"Yeah, yeah, we're going. Keep your helmet on."
"Have good news, bad news. Which first?"
"Every time someone says that, there's only one logical order for the news to go in anyway. Just get on with it."
"Good news, we find enchantress."
"Bad news, we already spend all our gold on training."
"Also lobster thermidor. Fubar pick up expensive tastes when living high off hog after saving Cloudside."
"This is an embarrassment indeed. What are we to be doing now?"
So yeah, I fucked up and ran the party dry of gold, forgetting that this was coming up. There's nothing for it: we're going to have to sell some of our stuff.
Luckily, I've been holding on to quite a few surplus magical items that I'm probably never gonna use.
We don't really need everyone's missile weapons any more either: they've been badly obsolete for most of Darkside. Slaying Barkman was their last hurrah.
In the end, I manage to scrounge together the gold we need without giving up anything too important.
"Perhaps we should give thought to keeping some gold in reserve for future emergencies, lest this happen again."
"Uh, that's kinda where we were going, too. See you there, I guess."
And after all that, we get back the money we spent on enchanting the bridle as a reward for completing the quest, as if to mock my poor financial planning habits. Welp, instead of further contemplating my own boneheadedness I'm going to head off to Castle Blackfang and try to forget this ever happened.
"Those vampires are pretty lame. You should probably do some serious training if you can't beat them -- maybe gremlins or sewer rats would be more your speed. While you're doing that, I guess we can go do your job for you."
"Lucky for us castle have open-air courtyard with room to fly in. Flench guess is important convenience for people who turn into bats."
... somewhere within its walls, and we must remain inside the castle 'til nightfall or she would surely die once we brought her into the light. I fear, however, that we lack the means to restore her humanity, and the people may reject a vampiric ruler. On the bright side...
Floor traps are regularly spaced. Remember to get Sorcerer to Jump us over them.
The Count's magic keeps us from descending. Be sure to kill him when we get a chance.
"It sounds as if we'll have no choice but to find and exterminate the source of this castle's evil."
This gong opens up a passage leading to the area of the castle we explored before, the part connected to the skyroads.
To find Queen Kalindra, though, we'll need to explore other parts of the castle, mowing down hordes of vampires along the way.
"There is no question about it: we cannot be far from the count now! Unless of course he is estranged from his family, in which case we may be as far from the count as possible."
Royal Vampires are very similar statwise to Vampire Lords, except that they have more HP, do more damage, and their attacks can curse the target's items, negating all weapon and armour bonuses from materials or other special properties until we get them uncursed at a temple. That's potentially a real problem, since a lucky hit on Anleisa could leave her very vulnerable to further attacks, and if she's knocked unconscious the vampire could then start cursing the rest of the party's gear too. We manage to kill the vampire before that happens, though.
The Duchess and Countess Blackfang also have coffins nearby, also containing Royal Vampires. Searching them after defeating the vampires nets us an Obsidian Belt (vendor trash), Kinetic Ring (top-tier energy resistance bonus) and Photon Scarab (top-tier Might bonus). Not a bad haul.
"I guess we'd better open Count Blackfang's coffin and get this over with, then."
Count Blackfang's no pushover: he's got 1500 HP and a 75% resistance to all forms of damage, he selectively targets Clerics and inflicts 10-1000 physical damage per attack, and has a chance to cause instant death. Fortunately, Anleisa's basically a walking obsidian-plated tank and the rest of the party dishes out enough damage to finish the Count off before he can even score a hit on her.
His coffin contains a guaranteed top-tier cape, cloak and amulet: I got an obsidian cape, kinetic cloak and leprechaun's amulet (+30 Luck). At this point I'm happy for every bit of energy resistance gear I find, since that's the main damage type endgame enemies will inflict on us. Anyway, now that the count's down for himself, let's head down those stairs.
"So that would be one of the floor traps we're meant to jump over, I'm guessing."
"Have to give Count Blackfang credit for smart choice of trap. Poison gas harmless to undead, slightly less harmless to us. Much more practical than spikes or fire."
The damage isn't too severe, so you could just put up Protection from Poison and walk straight through, but as the adventurer's note said, the traps are in predictable locations: always the second step in every north-south stretch of the corridor.
"Apparently Count Blackfang stop caring about practicality at this point."
The traps on the next floor are in the middle of the east-west stretches of the corridor. Once again, you can either jump over them or put up Protection from Fire and laugh off the damage.
"I slept through most of my exorcism classes, but aren't vampires meant to be unable to cross water? Wouldn't that make it hard for them to get around this dungeon?"
"I believe that restriction only applies to running water."
"The Count's sure got some weird taste in pets."
"At last! I have found Queen Kalindra! The great Vandesloof, saviour of Clouside, is now also saviour of Darkside!"
"Well, almost saviour. Always there will be a hitch or two."
"We talked to him already. He thinks your crown will help, somehow. Trouble is, it's in your safe, and I guess the Royal Safecracker's on vacation."
"I have to say, I'm not so sure how this crown's gonna help either. Come to think of it, the queen seemed pretty rational -- do we need to restore her at all? Now that we've rescued her, couldn't we just let her stay the way she is, let her rule out of this castle, and have her servants bring her some raw meat or condemned prisoners or something every day?"
"No. Just like Dragon Pharaoh rule over monsters, Queen Kalindra rule over humans and human-kin. If humans ruled by monster, big political shitstorm happen. Not good."
"Okay, I guess we'll go get that crown then. Here goes nothin'."
"Well, the combination worked. That's a promising start, at least."
"Now let's get Ambrose and his griffin to fly you out of here, and then he can fly me to my castle." (5,000,000 experience)
We've earned five levels' worth of XP that we can't really cash in because we're totally out of gold for training, and more importantly, we've got our next plot coupon.
Queen Kalindra's back in her castle now if we want to visit her, but she doesn't need anything more from us.
"It'd be polite to offer us some gold for saving you from an eternity of cursed unlife, y'know. Just sayin'."
Next time, will we rescue the Dragon Pharaoh from the army of Alamar's monsters besieging his pyramid, or die valiantly in the attempt? Aw, who am I kidding, of course we're gonna succeed -- our party kicks every possible kind of ass at this point. See you next update!