Part 39: FURNACE - Grasp The Serpent Pillar Firmly In Both Hands (This Is Innuendo)
Grasp The Serpent Pillar Firmly In Both Hands (This Is Innuendo)
"Time to touch a random pillar."
"I'm not really sure how careful I can be with this, to be honest. It's just one of those things that will probably teleport me to a mysterious other plane where I must endure tests of my virtue."
"I always wondered, does that hurt?"
"Oh boy, here we go. Random chamber with three doors and I don't have any weapons. Might as well get this one over with."
Pick a door and the Avatar heads inside to be tested in... something. It'll be explained afterwards, and I'll offer some interpretation, so let's just head on.
"We feared for thee when thou didst disappear from between the pillars. While searching, I became trapped here. I cannot seem to find the way out. Though I suspect that those buttons on the wall might be part of the answer."
"Well, yes, I was under the impression that touching the pillar would do something like this."
"Thou didst examine the fiery pillar, as Zhelkas instructed thee... And then thou wert gone! I think the Gargoyle hath tricked us, Avatar. Never trust their type... When we sought to question him about thy disappearance, he was nowhere to be found. So we divided to look for thee... I became confused when trying to return to the pillars. And here I am... With all these lovely people."
"Who are they?"
"They seem to be trapped here as well. They have been trying to discourage me from using the button on the left... but there are powerful rewards for pressing that button!"
"Well, these people seem to have been here a very long time. They are... lonely... for company. There is much that we could do to make them feel less lonely, Avatar, if thou dost know what I mean..."
"Not following you. So we're stuck?"
"Thou canst see for thyself... There is no way out of here. I can find no concealed doors. It is only reasonable that these buttons hold the way out. Though they also hold much more... Apparently the buttons also control the doors to the private chambers. And also the private passions of these people! This is such fun, Avatar. I can show thee, if thou wouldst like... Or thou canst press the button on the left post and see for thyself."
"Uhhhhh, I'll pass."
"Perhaps later, when thou art more relaxed, eh?"
"Well, this is kind of an obvious solution."
"The slaves, Avatar! Thou didst release them all! Damn thee!"
Naturally, pressing the left button forces the slaves to... do their thing. It also causes you to fail the test.
"I suppose it was too much to ask that I'd only have to go through one of these doors. Alright then, heading north!"
"What is that, a Moongate?"
"Thank the heavens I have found thee! Thou didst disappear..."
"Oh, and Iolo."
"When the Guardian appeared, we feared thou wert taken. Thou must hurry, I have found a way for thee to return home!"
"Oh really? What happened?"
"One moment thou wert standing between the pillars... The next, thou wert gone! That fiend Zhelkas laughed and said that the land was well rid of thee. Dupre tried to slay him, but he was no match for the gargoyle's strength. And then the Guardian came..."
"Dupre tried to fight him?"
"Dupre fought valiantly, Avatar. But Zhelkas threw him aside and ran into the caverns. I heard one of the sliding doors open just before the drums started."
"The drawbridge, Avatar! They were the only thing standing between us and the trolls! Zhelkas must have let them down... We must flee, while there is still time! Zhelkas said that the drums were a sign that the trolls were on the move. We must escape, Avatar, the drums are growing louder!"
"I don't hear anything."
"Wilt thou flee with thine old friend Iolo?"
"That's ridiculous, you're acting stupid."
"Thou wilt reconsider when thou dost hear what the Guardian said... Zhelkas said that the land would be better off without thee. The Guardian said that the end is inevitable. Why stay when we shall all die?"
"Come on, the Guardian just randomly showed up right now?"
"The Guardian spoke to us after thou didst disappear. The Guardian said that he hath grown tired of the game here on Serpent Isle. The end is inevitable now... The Guardian said to tell thee that he was changing the venue..."
"The Guardian said that Balance could never be restored now. He said that the land will soon destroy itself... And us with it. Without Balance, the earthquakes and storms will continue until there is not one rock upon another. Soon the seas will swallow all that remains of the land. There is nothing that thou canst do here, Avatar! We will be crushed and dragged beneath the waves if we stay!"
"Then what venue would he prefer?"
"The Guardian said that he would await thee on Earth, Avatar! Thine home... He said he was going to unleash horrible maladies upon thy people. The Guardian said he would send vile, lingering plagues to all the leaders of thy land. Then he would set minions in their places to destroy all that thou dost hold dear. The Guardian even threatened thy family..."
"How would he even know? Besides, it's not like I-"
"The Guardian told us to tell thee that it would be of no great matter to find out who all thy friends and family were, Avatar. He said that we were to tell thee that he had special plans for them. Wilt thou follow me? I can help thee escape to save those that thou lovest."
"No, of course not. This is obviously some kind of test."
"Wilt thou allow the Guardian to slay thy friends as his minions slew poor Spark's father? How canst thou consider staying in a doomed land when thy family is in danger?"
"And what makes you think we can even get away?"
"When the Guardian disappeared, we began searching for thee. The Guardian's interference into this place hath opened a gate... To thine home, I think. It is much like the Moongate that brought thee to Britannia the last time. Shamino thought perhaps the Guardian's passage had not fully closed. I do not think it is a trap, Avatar! I do not think the Guardian knows that the gate here still exists..."
"That's a bit of a stretch, isn't it?"
"Why would the Guardian go to such lengths, Avatar? He already has thee trapped here... In a land he says will soon rend its heart out. Wilt thou come with me now? I am sure that thou canst return home at last."
"Look, the Iolo I know is a gigantic pussy, but he would never abandon someplace in danger just because of some vague threats from the Guardian. Also this is pretty obviously a test of something since Zhelkas told me it was."
"Reconsider, Avatar! Thou couldst spend the rest of thy life waiting for another chance to return to thine home and family..."
"Iolo" flees through the gate without us. And so...
...big surprise there. Last test, and it must be Dupre.
Indeed it is!
"Zhelkas hath appointed me moderator of the Game, Avatar. He hath also given me leave to explore... Art thou ready to begin?"
"What game? What are you talking about?"
"That is how Zhelkas referred to it, Avatar. Perhaps it is a test of thy skill or versatility as a warrior. If thou art the Hero Zhelkas seeks, surely thou art a skilled enough fighter to stand alone against the Worms. If thou canst not best the Worms, how canst thou expect to stop the very destruction of the world?"
"How will this test my versatility?"
"A true warrior doth not rely on only one weapon, Avatar. What would happen if thou didst not have thy sword and had to battle the Guardian? A true Hero would make anything a weapon if need be..."
"So you're the... moderator?"
"It is my duty as moderator to see that thou dost know the rules. After I have informed thee, I cannot aid thee... In any way."
"Alright, I'll play ball... or worms, or whatever. Tell me the rules."
"The rules are few... Thou shalt face ten Worms. Thou canst not leave until the last Worm hath been dispatched. Thou shalt face each Worm singly, one after the other. Each Worm shall seek thy death, Avatar. So be prepared. Each Worm can be slain only by hammer blows."
"They are Worms, Avatar! Everyone knows that if thou dost use a sword against a Worm, thou wilt face twice the number of foes after each stroke. There is a small hammer on the floor near thee..."
"Everyone knows this?"
"'Tis common knowledge, Avatar! I am surprised at thee... Cease such questions and put thine attention to the Game!"
"So what will you be doing while I'm doing this?"
"I cannot assist thee in thy struggle against the Worms, either directly or indirectly. I cannot join thy fight against the Worms. If I do, thou wilt lose the Game. I cannot give thee anything I find while exploring. If I give thee anything, thou wilt lose the Game."
"So what are you going to do instead? I hope you're not going to watch this farce."
"Zhelkas said there were rooms in this area that I would find interesting. By acting as moderator, perhaps I may find something to benefit our quest. Well, unless Zhelkas was talking about wine casks... I'd say he might have been referring to weapons."
"I figured you'd say something like that."
"Do not worry, old friend! I shall try to save thee a drop or two. But thou shouldst be quick, lest I forget... If there is time after the Game, perhaps thou canst join me. If I can carry it... Perhaps I'll bring thee something."
"Alright, well, I guess I'll roll with this."
"Then let the Game begin!"
And so we pick up the hammer and click frantically on the worms. They're easier to hit when standing above them for some reason, and it takes three hits to destroy each. Needless to say, it's dull stuff.
"This is boring, indeed. I will leave thee to the Game, Avatar. I am going exploring..."
Hit the worms enough and they explode quite nicely. The explosion doesn't harm you, and contrary to Dupre's claim the worms are in no way dangerous.
"Avatar! Thou shouldst see the treasure that I have found! Stay and finish the Game. I shall try to bring some to thee..."
Several worms later...
"There is no wine, Avatar. But thou shouldst see the weapons! If thou dost not finish soon, I cannot promise to share..."
"I'm actually kind of having fun with this, now that I'm used to it."
"Alright! Just one left."
"Avatar! Thou must come and look at what I have found! Come now... Zhelkas may not allow thee the time to see this. Wilt thou come look? Thou canst finish off the last Worm when thou dost return."
"I got this far, I might as well top it off, you know?"
"It looks important, though I am no judge of such things. Thou shouldst come look while thou hast the chance..."
Naturally, we ignore his protests and continue destroying the last worm. Dupre comes back steamed.
"...thou dost not have any need for what I have found here... Damn thee!"
"I was having the most idiotic dream. And you guys were in it. Except Boydon. Thanks for staying out of my stupid virtue tests, Boydon."
"My pleasure, ma'am."
"To be certain that you are the Hero we have dreamed about, Avatar. To be relieved that you came before the dreaming sickness spread. To have feared that none would remain awake to give you the ring. Now it is yours."
"No problem. So what was with that test?"
"To reveal that the emotional pleas for you to flee this dying world were a test of your Logic. As all worlds are connected, it would have done you no good to flee. To commend you for your Ethicality when faced with the coercion of others. To be heartened that you did not seek to benefit from their servitude. To see that you are the Hero, for you are Disciplined and able to complete a task -- no matter how tedious. To be relieved that you have come at last..."
"Alright, well, I guess that's done with. What would you have done if I had failed?"
"To have sent you to recover a magic cup."
"That's a lot better than this dumb test, no offense."
So we just passed a test of Logic, Ethicality, and Discipline. It shouldn't be hard to recall that these are the Ophidians' virtues of Order. This, I believe, is further proof of Furnace's status as a city of Balance. By grasping the pillar of Chaos, we're tested on virtues of Order. Presumably if we'd been able to grasp the pillar of Order, we'd have been tested on our Tolerance, Emotion, and Enthusiasm. The crossover of the virtues suggests to me that the purpose of the tests was to see how dedicated the follower of a particular side was to the principles of Balance, perhaps to see how suited they were to join those few who followed it.
Of course, with the other pillar broken, we're left with the "Test of Purity" as Zhelkas sees it. We passed, but perhaps not quite as the Ophidians would have liked us to have done.
Serpent Isle just loves rearranging your fucking inventory every time you go through a sequence where they remove your stuff. Goddamnit guys.
At any rate, let's ask Zhelkas how to get outta this dump.
He agrees to meet us back at the entrance. Before that, though, let's go seek out that magical goblet. If you fail the test, Zhelkas asks you to recover the Everflowing Goblet from the Great Conjury before he'll give you the ring. Even if you pass, you should go do that anyway. You get to keep it either way, and it's nice. More on that in a sec, we've still got some Ophidian looting to do.
The nice thing about Ophidian ruins is that there's a lot less key-hunting and hiding. Most keys are on corpses, so just check every body.
The one in the library, for example, opens a room in the basement where we can find some Ophidian spell scrolls. Create Automaton, Serpent Bond, and Invoke Serpent were all apparently invented by their culture, which makes sense.
And here's the Great Conjury. It's not locked up or anything, really, so it's theoretically quite possible that one can come in here without ever taking the test.
Just inside is a dining hall with the aforementioned Everflowing Goblet on the table. Regardless of whether or not you pass the test, you must have this goblet. It is, without question, one of the best utility items in the game, right up there with the Ring of Reagents or the Keyring. Why?
It's an everflowing goblet. As in, it provides nourishment. Forever. Once you have it, you don't need to carry food anymore. Just keep hitting the 'f' hotkey and clicking on your party until they're full. Food, especially very filling food, tends to take up enormous amounts of weight and space. The Everflowing Goblet weighs less than a single stone and fits in a bag.
In the back is the lab of an Ophidian alchemist. In addition to general reagents, he has the facilities needed to mix the other chemical compounds into phosphor. This is largely pointless, unless you just really want to light all the lamps in Ophidian ruins. But why you'd bother to do this when you have the Helm of Light or a Great Light spell is kinda beyond me.
The back tunnels of Furnace are locked in most places (has anyone found the key for it anywhere? I couldn't locate it), but if you go behind the Conjury you can find an entrance that doesn't require a key. Down some steps in one spot is another Ophidian torture chamber (these were not nice people). No real secrets that I could find, though.
There's also a crypt, but all the coffins are empty. I mean, you know, because I just happened to find this coffin open. Ahem. I certainly wasn't desecrating any Ophidian graves to find loot or anything.
Anyway, Zhelkas flips the lever, allowing us to finally leave Furnace! At least it was shorter than Moonshade.
"Oh right, the trolls."
Not that trolls are a big deal. They even drop gems, and since we now have a jawbone to teleport back to Moonshade that's 100 free Guilders from Topo each. Although we really have no further use for money at this point, except training.
"Something tells me this particular band of knights didn't fall prey to the heat."
"Or perhaps they were so thirsty they beat each other to death in order to drink the blood?"
"That's just stupid."
"Who would do something like that?"
"Someone who's been off the wagon too long. Not that I'd know anything about it."
There are actually some alive people in one part of the caves, but they're dying from thirst and desperately beg for water. Yet if you actually use a water bucket on them, they protest like you've just force-fed them a poison potion or something. Dicks. I'm not wasting my Water of Tolerance on you.
I guess that's kind of ironic, isn't it?
The trolls haven't been wholly successful in their ventures, although they still control most of the caves.
Eventually, we stumble upon their lair. The troll with the sword is the troll king (not that you can really tell). It's important to keep this in mind because you'll want to take a key off his body.
That key opens the vault in the back, where we find a mysterious Serpent Staff.
That brings the grand total of Serpent gear we've collected so far to a Staff, Earrings, a Ring, and a Crown. You might be able to guess what these objects are by now, because the game has dropped a few big hints to that effect. If not, don't worry, we'll be collecting these things pretty frequently the further along we get in the plot.
Everything else in the lair is junk... hey wait, what's that red thing on the mats near the vault?
"Hey look, guys! My old spellbook!"
"Why would you even want it now? Your new one has about twice as many spells."
"You can never have too many spellbooks. Let's see what's survived in this one..."
So much for that. I guess it couldn't stand up to the heat, and after zapping us it disintegrates. But as Shamino helpfully reminds us, the one we've got now is better, so there's no love lost for our old spellbook.
"Daylight! Actual daylight! We're finally out of this stupid run down ruin."
"After stealing everything of value from the bones of those who once dwelled there."
"Well sure, what the hell else would we have done?"
And that's the exit of Furnace, which conveniently dumps us right out at the foot of the ancient highway.
A mere stone's throw from Monitor. Naturally, you could go into the caves at the very start of the game, but you'd have no way to prevent the heat short of healing with potions frequently, you can't get into the Ophidian city, and so you're basically stuck getting the Serpent Staff. Don't get me wrong, the Serpent Staff is an okay non-magical weapon, but any actual magical one is superior in the end.
Since we're back in Monitor, why not take advantage of the opportunity to finally use all those training points the boys have racked up?
In addition to maxing all of Shamino, Dupre, and Iolo's relevant stats (Strength, Dexterity, and Combat), Boydon's been touched up a bit and is considerably more competent. I kind of screwed up though and decided to take the Gauntlets of Dexterity away and then bumped his Dex up to a natural 30. I could have gotten it to 20, given him the gauntlets, and used those 10 training points to bump his Combat instead. He should still be pretty okay though.
"And now to ditch all the food we'd been accumulating."
"Boy, I hope somebody actually comes by and cleans this stuff up before it starts rotting all at once."
"I'm not sure how that's our problem."
"Not anymore it isn't."
Let's see, what other unfinished business do we have on the mainland... oh, of course!
"A letter from Freli! Oh, what joy! Let me have it! Alyssand must hear of this."
"I am here, father! Tell me how Freli fares. Hath he become a Mage?"
"A moment, a moment... It will take me a moment. His writing is terrible! Oh, for this piece of good work, Steve, thou must be rewarded! Let me see... ah, yes! How wouldst thou like a discount on anything within the store? Yes, yes... half my normal price -- but just this once!"
Awww, isn't that nice. Too bad I exchanged all my Filari for real money after the Fawn trial sequence and have nothing to buy from him.
Incidentally, this quest is apparently repeatable. I went back to Freli and mentioned his father and he gave me another letter. I guess you could keep doing this to get a discount from Delin, but I feel bad exploiting his senility like that.
"Alright then. Time to face off against our next great enemy: a fucking swamp."
Before we plunge headlong into the Swamp of Gorlab, why not stop by a curious structure out in the mainland wild?
This strange burned-out building features a giant red portal.
It's here, tucked into a corner near Gorlab's border with the sea.
Enter and you're teleported, Oblivion-style (or is Oblivion teleporting you Serpent Isle-style?), to a small plane filled with hostile gargoyles.
Beat them and you can sneak into a teleport chamber full of skeletons (who don't have much in the way of loot, but there's a few things you could snag).
For once, Serpent Isle supplies its own sarcastic dialogue.