Part 22: 11-2: Black Blood of the Earth, Part 2UPDATE 22: BLACK BLOOD OF THE EARTH, PART 2
<continuing immediately from the last post because of character count issues>
: What's going through that wrinkled head of yours?
: Why do you still run jobs with me?
: We're down in the ground deeper than the gods ever wanted us, and that's what you ask?
He smiles and coughs a little.
: Funny thing, getting old. The things you want, the things that make you smile...they change. Remember when I joined the Ravens? It was women, gold, fighting, and drink for me, in that order. Of course, you varl never understand the desire for women. Depths, maybe that's a blessing.
: I don't need to waste my time trying to impress someone.
Sparr chuckles and nods with a distant look in his eyes.
: So, what do you want now?
: Well, new places I suppose. But I like my memories of old ones, too.
He plinks a couple of sad notes, perhaps a song for battle in his mind.
: Companions more than anything though. You and these Ravens. What other family does an old mercenary like me have?
The old man appears lost in thought and you leave him to it.
Dytch got enough for level 6 that battle. Now he can use the pipe plant which restores a ton of willpower on rest.
It's dark. And we're thirsty.
Folka looks at you. "If these people start getting desperate for water down here..."
You cut her off.
: I know. Send out some scouts. We'll camp here until they return.
Some of your Ravens and other members of the caravan group up and grab torches, rope, and water skins before heading off in different directions.
: Better catch some rest while you can. Nothing to do until they get back anyway.
A hundred members break formation to dig holes in the cavern floor and place stone bowls in the depressions. The bowls quickly fill with water and the first is offered to you. You slake your thirst before seeing your red-armored reflection in the bowl.
Suddenly these visions make a lot more sense. Bellower isn't resting easily. We briefly had Alette having visions after arriving in Ormsdalr. Bolverk's been exposed to sleeping Bellower a lot longer...
: Dig holes. Put bowls down in them. See if they fill with water.
She sets some Ravens to follow you strange commands and shortly after you hear the whooping cheers of success. The celebration brings all the scouts back early.
We gain some renown and a ton of supplies. I guess there are advantages for being the recipient of loud Sundr dreams.
We come across a bridge. There are like zero bridges in this game that don't have an event tied to them.
: Valka. You and the cub are menders. Mend.
Both Zefr and Nikels move through the crowd and begin tracing patterns in the air with their staves. The only thing you see is a slight lift in the bridge, but they walk across first to calm any fears. The caravan crosses without incident.
We pain a little closer to the rest of the party as we approach...something.
: I've slept in caves like this for entire winters, but there's something about this place. Something old, unfamiliar. I don't like it. Then again, I don't like all these humans on the verge of panic, either. Maybe these dwellings up ahead will calm them down.
Welcome to an underground Godstone. I love the artwork in this game.
She wanders around the glowing pools of the godstone. "If we are correct, Vez'nan was not their only god, but he became one of the most powerful at the cost of everything dear to him." She looks at you. "Of course, if what you hold dear is something like control, maybe there is power in letting go."
Bindal is a mining town. Let's let the miners, well...mine.
The clansmen go about their work. You never knew that these men had the skills they did; two leverage the ends of large picks while two men in the front guide the tips. These men are miners.
It takes only minutes for them to skillfully pry the gem from its deep socket. Talented workers who should be learned from, not dominated. A man from behind claps you on the back, smiling. The miners walk forward and place the red gem in your hands with grateful smiles.
We gain the Gem of Vez'Nan, which is really damn good. It's rank 8, which is a problem--only Bolverk can use it right now. It gives 30% crit chance, +2 strength, +3 to strength talents, and takes 4 willpower away from you. Bolverk has a TON of willpower, and if I level him to 9 when he can start critting enemies, he'll have a 45% chance of critting on any swing. And do it with 15 strength (plus whatever he gets from Zefr). And do it twice per turn. And that's if I'm not using Cull the Weak.
In short, it's awesome in the right hands.
Let's see what Bak is up to. I like him as a unit but I've really just not been able to figure out a way to squeeze him into the party.
: If you take off down one of these tunnels, we're not going after you.
Bak doesn't respond.
: Never mind. I don't like him.
Folka gives you a look before turning to Bak.
: Tell me the best part of it all first.
: The best part? It may all be over sooner than we think.
You squint, not liking his words.
: That's...not really what I meant, but go ahead: what's the worst part of everything?
: It's the silence.
You give Folka a look.
: He hasn't slept near Oli. That man makes all kinds of strange sounds.
: That's just noise. There's a silence from the loneliness.
Folka inhales sharply; he's hit a sore spot.
: Maybe these tunnels and caves make it worse. There used to be days of talk. We used to laugh.
: Are you talking about your faen spear again?
Bak turns and stares at you with eyes of a man undecided on going mad.
: Lofn helps where she can, but no. There was another. Now there's an endless hole shaped like her, and if I don't keep filling it with work or drink...
He walks away without finishing his thought.
: He's not crazy. He's alone. Whoever she was, he still thinks she was the greatest. I'm jealous of her. It would be nice to have someone feel that way about me.
You shake your head, snort, and walk away. Faen humans.
This is low-key one of my favorite scenes. Bak is nobody of importance to the story, really. Just a guy doing the best he can in the end of the world. But he had a wife, perhaps a family. And he's not remotely OK even as he soldiers on. Folka gets it. Bolverk can't get it. Varl don't take mates and can't procreate. They can't know the loss of a loved one like the humans can.
Anyway, let's check out the pools that Zefr referenced.
We choose the middle pool. I rolled a 1d3 online.
Everyone in the party seems to've gained credit for a few kills. As folks in this thread have pointed out, you can get credit for kills in training, so this is a pretty crummy reward. But I don't really like training for the sake of kills, so I think it's great. I think the other two choices give us additional supplies (or maybe renown) and one gets Bolverk injured because he's not supposed to know the future. Or something like that. I picked the future one in my Rook playthrough, and picked the past in this playthrough before I realized I needed to restart to deal with all the bugs.
Why is getting Zefr enough kills to hit rank 6 important? Because Breeze is an incredible ability and I cannot wait to show it off.
Zefr really has rubbish stats. I'm putting everything in willpower so she can mend, but I need to work on that armor or she's just gonna die all the time.
Anyway, we're done at Vez'nan. Let's keep moving.
We'll let Folka handle this.
Others start collecting the berries to eat and squeeze, waving glowing hands in the dark. Mothers rub their smiling children in the juices in order to keep track of them.
The shieldmaiden turns and gives you a cocky grin. You snort and move on.
That worked out pretty well! We gain some renown and supplies, and also some morale.
We venture further into the depths. It's almost impossible to see beyond the front of the caravan, and...this probably isn't good.
Oh hey, time for more Bellower-vision.
[Bellower]: Lightning! White Tower...Who...Am...I?
You blink rapidly, but everything is dark. A purple glow casts its light on the skin of someone next to you. You growl and instantly have Claw and Fang in your hands.
Zefr approaches. "Is everything okay? You look..."
Your face snaps towards hers. "Everything's fine, Valka!"
She studies your face, then Folka's before saying, "Then we should keep moving. The air feels full of warning."
You walk past her without another word.
Valka Egg Shen takes us into the center of the earth. I should go watch Big Trouble in Little China again.
: What are we looking at, Valka? The center of the world?
: For the others' sake, it's best we not discuss it.
There are 700 in this caravan, and we seem impossibly small in this...whatever it is.
You feel more than hear a sound. Vibrations through the cavern floor, perhaps. "Get ready for anything," you say, and the Ravens spread the word down the line, each fighter drawing their weapons.
: Valka, you're getting us out of this one. Clear?
She looks concerned, but before she responds, you see movement over the rise in the massive cavern. It's the silhouette of a dredge force with large shapes you have never before seen.
Time to fight in the middle of the earth. Oli gets to 11 strength as he hits rank 5. The more times he can connect with axe storm, the better he'll be.
Finally we get to use Dytch in battle.
This is a pretty non-threatening formation. If we had archers it'd be better since the big guys can't cross those cracks in the floor without taking the long way around. But Bolverk can deal with the slinger on the left, and this should be fine.
Step 1: buff the heck out of Bolverk.
Step 2: have an idiot stoneguard try to close into melee range to whack Krumr, but bounce off of a stealthed Dytch, losing his turn.
Step 3: mash the slinger into a pile of rubble with a buffed Bolverk. Except the minute he goes down...
That's...a large stonesinger.
Whose eyes are stitched shut.
Well I guess it's not gonna block the eyesight anyway?
And we have ourselves a bossfight as the giant stonesinger is at the head of a line of tons of dredge.
She immediately starts casting something...
And the slinger we just wrecked comes back to life.
: She is the Sundr Eyeless and can raise the fallen! Destroy her!
So now we have a proper bossfight against Eyeless. Eyeless is, in many ways, even more horrible to fight than Bellower.
Her base stats are something like 23/23, which is stronger than Bellower. And her melee attack poisons like any other stonesinger. And knocks you back.
But more dangerous still: as she takes damage, she can warp into any downed unit on the board--ally or enemy, raising it and fighting as it for a while. In the possessed unit form she has reduced stats, but the minute you kill the possessed unit, she comes back in her regular body.
And gets to immediately take a turn.
So if you've been fighting a bunch of things and are standing on top of a pile of bodies, you make a kill, and then suddenly this giant damned stonesinger comes out of nowhere with 23 strength and one-shots one of your heroes.
It's awful. There's a moderate workaround here that we'll use because it's necessary. I think you can't lose this fight without a hard campaign game over.
The trick to fighting Eyeless: kill her possessed unit with Bolverk's Cull the Weak, which gives him next turn.
So now Bolverk can easily rush Eyeless and break her armor and do a bit of strength damage. He'll take a beating for it, but getting her to damage-able is well worth it.
Especially because with the Namejs' Ring he is basically immune to poison (though not from passing the poison status to adjacent units, as I realized too late) and he also doesn't take the full weight of the blow. He's still somewhat combat effective.
Zefr nearly gets one-shot by the slinger. Gotta work on that armor.
Here is Krumr's movement radius while under the effects of Zefr's Breeze. If there's ANY path to a location, you can get there. So he'll get himself in position to tempest both these clowns AND be in striking range of Eyeless next turn.
I screwed up here. The goal was to put Dytch somewhere that Eyeless would waste her turn trying to get to a soft target like Oli. Except Oli is diseased from standing next to Bolverk. And now Dytch is diseased from standing next to Oli.
So Dytch will take +1 damage on his next turn, which will immediately un-stealth him. I've effectively rendered his awesome ability null for the rest of the fight.
I also got a little too cute here. I wanted the renown for clearing the board, but I left Eyeless alive too long.
Still, Krumr is going to absolutely wreck Eyeless in a moment. I need to get his exertion up, though--he only has the movement to collect ONE of those strength runes.
Oli taking an injury here was wholly unnecessary. I could've killed Eyeless with Bolverk a while ago.
By the way, Eyeless also has 5 break and 3 exertion and a ludicrous willpower pool. So she will break 8 armor per turn. It's bonkers.
Enough of this. Dytch doesn't need stealth to take down a target so wounded.
But instead of dying, Eyeless starts to bring the cave down on us.
He turns to you and says, "I'm sorry if I was a nuisance." A large rock falls nearby and he stumbles away, back towards Eyeless. Nikels begins tracing a pattern in the air.
You yell for everyone to keep moving, tossing those who stop to turn around. When you look back, Zefr is standing behind Nikels, tracing an alternate pattern. The young man glows only for a moment, hair flapping as if a giant gust is blowing past him, then he crumbles.
Eyeless grows quiet in the distance. You watch the form of the Sundr shake and struggle to maintain its form. Then it fades, like snow blowing over a hilltop. A few more rocks tumble down and you grab the sagging Valka before she is crushed.
Once you have met up with everyone else, you tally the numbers. The losses are not as bad as they could have been.
RIP Nikels. It's unavoidable.
We keep moving further from Eyeless, who almost certainly is still alive behind all that rubble.
: Then get us to the surface.
: But I won't know where we'll appear. We could wind up in Strand.
: It's better than being lost down here.
Alas, we don't get a chance to get to the surface before we have another fight.
We have a new unit to worry about. Not just dredge, but warped dredge. And they're awful.
Bolverk will have the Gem of Vez'Nan available to fight warped dredge. We'll need it.
"Oh, there are only 3 of them," you might say. But:
1.) Remember how turn order works in this game. We're at a disadvantage and they're all strong as heck.
2.) Warped dredge are insanely dangerous.
They can attack at range with "soul bond," which does damage to a unit through armor calculated as "unit willpower subtracted from dredge willpower." Oh, and a character under soul bond takes damage instead of the dredge when you damage the dredge. Meaning you can only do armor damage to something that moves twice as fast as you and can one-shot many of your units. They're AWFUL.
Oh and when they die they leave a pile of dust as a hazard on the battlefield. If you step in it, you lose 1 willpower. Which is AWESOME since they do damage calculated off of willpower difference.
Krumr is now bonded to the far one, but it's so far away it's not that much of an issue. We can't reach it to do damage to it instead of Krumr anyway.
Zefr makes a pretty rubbish Runic Gale. No strength, and the tiles are too far out of Bolverk's way to be helpful.
Still, at least we've maimed one of them. We'll leave it alive so it sucks up turns.
Dytch backstabs the other.
This could have gone a lot worse. Folka went down tanking, but that's what she does.
Old Man Sparr finishes the last one.
The Valka is using her spear to sift through the glowing remains. Her face strains to hide her fear.
: They looked like some kind of dredge to me. So does this one.
: This one is a...mender of sorts.
: You know one of these slags?
: I know quite a few.
Folka gasps and you find yourself growling, but Zefr ignores the response.
: He says "Greetings," and that he...dreamed...of you?
All of the clansmen and fighters back away and whisper.
There is now a dredge stonesinger traveling with us. Zefr seems to think it's OK. On the other hand, stonesingers are trouble and even if they weren't the Ravens all hate them. They're not having the same weird Bellower dreams that Bolverk is, and who's to say if the stonesinger will be friendly once he realizes that Bolverk doesn't like Bellower and that he's not a willing vessel for these dreams?
A.) Kill the stonesinger
B.) Let it come with us and see what happens