Part 31: SILVER SEED - Aram Dol's Lair
Aram Dol's Lair
Another dungeon, another witch. Her name is Solaria. I'm mentioning this not to point anything specific out about it, but because she never tells you, and in fact her name is announced exactly one time in the Silver Seed endgame.
"Well hello, beautiful. I'm glad I did not give up on thee. Thou art worth the wait, assuredly."
"Give up on me?"
"Well, I would not have done that, really. After all, it's not often a girl gets the chance to play a part in prophecy. If I had given up, how would I have been able to help thee?"
"Are you people serious about this prophecy thing, or just going through the motions to spite me?"
"Thy coming was foretold long ago, Steve... though thou wert expected much earlier. I fear that the task before thee shall be much more difficult now. I suppose that the Ophidians learned of it through their Hierophants. We were told by our Guide... I was told to await thee here. And so I have waited... Thou hast been quite tardy, thou knowest, Steve."
"Just what is this Guide?"
"The Guide is who I follow, Avatar. I would love to stand and tell thee all about it, but thou shouldst really be on thy way... Thou art quite late, thou knowest."
"What do you mean late? We showed up when we showed up. It's not like this amulet has a dial or anything."
"The Ophidian's war has gone on for many years now, Steve. I don't think that Chaos will be able to hold off Order much longer. If thou art going to restore Balance thou wilt have to act quickly. The task of the pawn of prophecy -- or, as the Ophidians call thee, the Champion of Balance -- is to restore Balance to the world. I fear that the tide of battle may have turned so far that even thou canst not pull it back. If Order destroys Chaos, there will be nothing to bring Balance to, after all."
"What's the problem with that?"
"The Ophidians who follow Order believe that those who follow Chaos are responsible for the murder of one of their holy men. They have sworn to rid the world of Chaos... And now that they have created the automatons, they may succeed. With the added strength of the automatons, Order shall swiftly overcome Chaos... Thy time to complete thy task grows short."
"Then I guess you can help us?"
"Yes. I have been charged with the task of aiding thee, Steve. Beyond this gate lies a threat to thee. It is I who must give thee the key to escaping its snare. Not a physical key, but a hint... if thou wilt. Thou shalt come to a room in which thy passage is blocked. To win thy freedom, thou shalt have to know which of the many levers must be moved. Pull every other lever down to break free of the trap."
Another bit of advice. But is it another lie?
The upper tunnels have nothing in them, but there are a bunch of staircases to various parts of Aram Dol's Lair. Almost all eventually lead to the same places, though.
There are a lot of spiders down here. Big spiders...
...and really big spiders. The Arachnians are particularly dangerous because they shoot magic arrows at you. Fortunately, the party's got plenty of range of its own.
The great thing about these guys is they drop 50 Magic Arrows each. They respawn in various parts of the tunnels too, so it's very easy to farm magic ammo from them.
The dragon who was mentioned can be found in the westernish part of the lair. Optional, but somewhat amusing.
"A human. How interesting. What dost thou want?"
"Who are you, and why can't I find any of your money? Answer fast."
"My, what an impudent hatchling. Thou hast the gall to march into my home, walk up to my presence on thy tiny, ridiculous legs, and dare to ask my name?! I think that I shall be the one to ask the questions. We shall begin by asking thee what thou art called and why thou hast come to my domain."
"I'm not particularly threatened by you guys. We used to kill you people by the half-dozen. I've fought invisible caltrops that hurt me more than dragons do."
"How interesting. Thou dost not look like those humans who call themselves Ophidians, but I canst smell their spore upon thee. Art thou an official envoy from Serpent's Fang?"
"In a certain sense... well okay, actually no. I don't particularly even like those guys."
"I thought as much! Thou dost not have that irrational look in thy eyes as do those ill-mannered Ophidians. Now then, why hast thou come to my domain?"
"No particular reason."
"This is going surprisingly well."
"Let's not wreck it."
"I see. Well then. It hath been many years since one of thy kind hath dared to enter my domain. Now that I know something about thee, it is only fair that I tell thee that my name is Draxinar. My friends, however, call me 'Stumpy'. If thou dost desire to stay for a while I shall not prevent thee. Indeed, thy company would be most welcome. And perhaps if thou art willing, I shall puzzle thee with my riddles. Now then, how may I help thee?"
"As thou hast probably guessed by now, my friends started calling me 'Stumpy' because I loved to stump them with my riddles."
"That is one of the worst nicknames I have ever heard!"
"Come on guys, let's roll."
"Wait! It hath been years since I last talked with anyone. Thou wouldst not believe how lonely the life of a dragon can be."
"Everyone fears us. Dragons, that is. In the process of defending myself from countless attacks I have killed many men. Those who have come before thee let their weapons do the talking."
"So get outside now and then?"
"My cave hast grown comfortable. I see little reason to traipse about the hinterlands like some hatchling, especially when one considers the many hazards in this area. I have already mentioned the Opidian civil war, but I don't think thou art aware of the the liche known as Aram-Dol."
"What about him?"
"A more evil or cunning creature thou wilt not find! Fortunately, the liche rarely ventures from its lair. If thou art fond of thy life I would advise against venturing into Aram-Dol's domain."
"The Avatar has fought the undead before and triumphed!"
"Aram-Dol is not easily reached. The liche hath surrounded his lair with many creatures. If I were thee, I would avoid his domain... Although, I have heard that the liche possesses two fabulous treasures."
"That sounds like better than you've got."
"I have a treasure! What self-respecting dragon doesn't have a treasure hoard? Of course, there is my aunt's son Longtooth. A sorrier dragon thou shalt never find! Of course, what happened to him was not his fault."
"I'm sure we'll regret hearing this story, but..."
"Longtooth was once smart, handsome, and very fierce. Many hatchlings looked up to Longtooth, and many females wanted to mate with him. Then one day some iron-plated human warrior came along and tried to kill him. Longtooth thought the idea of a human challenging him, a prime example of dragonkind, was funny. So Longtooth obliged the human and the fight began. What my cousin was not aware of was that the human had friends who were hiding. When Longtooth had the warrior pinned, the jackals struck from ambush. Longtooth managed to escape, but he's never been the same since. Why, he can't even out riddle a goblin!"
"Too bad, I guess."
"So what are Aram Dol's treasures?"
"One of these treasures, I have heard tell, is a weapon -- an axe, I believe -- of unimagineable power. The other treasure is a pair of gauntlets that purportedly once belonged to some thief known as 'Karas the Quick'. I have not heard what power the gauntlets possess."
"So what do we have to worry about if we want to find him?"
"The liche uses dead humans that he has reanimated as guardians. To reach Aram-Dol, one must traverse a veritable gauntlet of undead creatures. There are also the abominations called the 'Arachnians'. In years past, Aram-Dol took many humans as prisoners. By means of the blackest sorcery, Aram-Dol fused the torsos of men with the bulbous bodies of giant spiders. These creatures are fiercesome fighters. They are cunning and evil. Pray to whatever gods thou doth worship if thou art caught by the Arachnians. They eat their prey alive..."
Draxinar can also give you some tips for fighting the Arachnians. He (she?) notes you need to set them on fire, but they aren't exactly very tough without that tip. Plus, a dragon probably thinks setting everything on fire is an effective tactic.
Scorpions. The combat here isn't as bad as in The Fiend's tunnels, with only the Arachnians to really pose a threat early on. Still, there's a lot of trash to clean out.
If you happen to follow a certain path, you'll find some intact staircases leading down to a set of intact Ophidian catacombs. The only tunnel leads to this door, which is locked. This whole thing is a red herring though; you can never find a key, and even if you hack the door out of the way, there's nothing out there. Imagine my surprise.
Where you want to go instead is to a big room with a burnt-out structure surrounded by Arachnians. Head down the stairs inside.
Eventually you wind up here, with locked doors to the north and west-south here. The teleporter is the only way you can go, so it's where we're going.
"Well, this would've helped him quite a bit if he'd cast it earlier."
"Maybe he didn't want to waste it when there was only one person around."
Let's play another rousing game of Spot The Key!
Take that hidden key, go north along the right route, unlock the door and head down here to flip the blue switch. Then it's back and up the left side.
After fighting off some ghouls, take a secret passage behind this huge rock...
...to a key you'll need to keep going. Aram Dol's Lair does this a lot, as you're about to see.
Down a ways is a new puzzle. The scroll tells us what we need to do.
The first room has three switches. The hint says "throw two down." So we hit the second switch.
The next room has five, you need to hit the switches where the plaques next to them have numbers totaling eight. The room after that has eight switches and you throw down four of them to add up to twelve. Get it wrong and you get instantly killed, so this is something to save on.
Once you pass that, take another secret passage (how are we supposed to notice these things?).
The key was hidden behind the rock north of here; I moved it out to be more obvious. This is, yet again, one of two keys needed to pass this crypt area.
Secret wall #3! This one goes north to another crypt...
...where some healing is stashed in a bag behind a crypt entry. Fight some mummies here and head downstairs.
"I'm gonna need a volunteer."
"Not i- DAMMIT!"
"Well, fair's fair."
"What the hell! I'm not walking into a hallway full of raging flames just because somebody called not it first!"
"Are you violating the sacred pact of not it?"
"Yes, I am violating your stupid games that I always lose! Screw you guys! Go walk in the damn fire by yourselves!"
"There now see, it was all an illusion anyway, the problem resolved itself. Was that worth getting snippy about?"
"Yeah, Iolo, way to act like a big baby."
Key #2. Back to the first crypt and up some stairs.
The next crypt is full of dragon liches. As awesome as that sounds, they're arguably weaker than regular dragons. They have spells, but spells aren't a big deal unless a lich is casting them, and dragon liches... well, they're just not that great. A couple go down like bitches before we take... well, guess.
Yes, another secret passage!
Almost to the end now. These rooms are full of golems and switches.
Kill all golems, flip all switches (ignore what Solaria said), then flip the center switch and head on down to Aram Dol's throne room.
No dialogue or anything. Aram Dol is just a regular lich, but regular liches are rare enemies in Serpent Isle. Given the less powerful weapons, Aram Dol ought to be tougher, but because he doesn't cast Death Bolts like the ones in Black Gate, he's actually quite a bit easier.
He did damn near kill Boydon though. Watch out for that; no matter how much armor you give the big guy, he's going to get hurt by traps and magic and if he dies, he's through.
"Well, that was suitably disappointing, just like the rest of this sidequest. Let's see what retardedly awesome rewards we got for this trivial task."
Some reagents, gems, a scroll of Swordstrike, mysterious gauntlets, and... awwww, just a freaking Magic Axe?
Wait a second, that's no ordinary Magic Axe. Say hello to Erinon's Axe. While the Ring of Shal in the Fiend's Lair is the best item in the Silver Seed expansion and Serpent Isle in general, Erinon's Axe is very close to being as good. What's so awesome about it?
It's a 20 damage one-handed melee weapon. Jesus. In Serpent Isle it's hard to break 15-18 damage on your weapons, and that's with Magic Bows and two-handers. Erinon's Axe is almost as strong as some of the uber weapons from The Black Gate and you can use a shield with it. Its only real flaw is that it's not a ranged weapon, although it has the reach of a halberd.
"Naturally, I'm taking this one."
"I thought I was the melee guy."
"Haha, right, because I'm totally letting you have something like this while the Black Sword is still missing."
Surok isn't sure what the axe is:
"'Tis truly a wonderful weapon, Steve! Where didst thou come by such? I do not know exactly what it does, but I am sure that thou dost use it well..."
It kicks ass, that's what it does. And that's all it does. But in a game less giving with super-powered weaponry, Erinon's Axe really stands out.
Naturally, the Ring of Shal we'll acquire next time will make it look pathetic, but the Ring of Shal is just that good. There's certainly nothing bad about this axe.
As to the gloves? Well, Surok's not trusting them:
"Hmmm... These are obviously enchanted to aid thee in the speedy deliverance of thy blows, yet I have never seen their like. They do have the look of an Order armourer, 'tis true, yet the stench of evil doth linger upon them. Thou wouldst be wise not to trust in these gloves, Steve!"
The lingering stench of evil is because these belonged to a thief. Hence, they're Gauntlets of Quickness. They boost the wearer's Dexterity by 10, which will help Boydon out a lot until I can get him some training.
"I still haven't gotten anything from this whole affair."
"Jesus, man, you're whining like Iolo now."
"Would a full suit of magic armor cheer you up?"
"That'd do it."
Back in the day I was beside myself wondering why this suit of armor didn't include boots. That was before I knew that all boots are exactly the same (except Swamp Boots prevent poison and Fur Boots keep you warm in the north). Now I'm not as stressed. Hell, Magic Boots are basically worthless as these things go. That's a lot off my mind.
Tomorrow we'll tangle with the Fiend, find the most ridiculous ring ever, and probably finish out The Silver Seed. Then it's back to Moonshade for some... fun.