Part 4: Sidetracked(Actually this was part of the last update but it got so long I decided to cut it in half.)
The party quickly retreats to the cave again, only to find all the monsters respawned while their backs were turned.
Unfortunately, the treasure does not respawn, but Thor and Questor take the opportunity to level up again, so the trip wasn't a complete waste.
Oh, and: this is why you don't let the dragon attack.
I forgot to show off where the locations I showed off were. To give you some idea, here's a map with the "unmarked" locations we've been to. Where the lava pit itself is should be pretty obvious.
Only a short while north of the dragon cave, we come to our destination.
This must be the beastmen camp. There's only one things more northwestern than this, and I don't think beastmen are fireproof.
But since we're this awesome already, why not see if we can sequence break a little?
A fun fact: if you keep to narrow passages, away from open areas, the encounter rate is nearly non-existent. I didn't run into anything I had to kill on the way here, even though I've travelled damn near the entire map's width.
Well, there is a cave here, guarded by something big and ugly, but...
So much for that attempt, I guess. Clearly, this needs something to unlock it before we can proceed.
But if not there, maybe somewhere else?
(Another fun fact: you can save at any time you're not in combat. Save when enemies are on screens, then reload? Enemies despawn. Even if you do run into something, you don't have to actually kill it to progress. This is almost worth another "breaking WotES" label, but you'll be doing this mostly to get out of trash fights that would take more time than they're worth, not to avoid powerful enemies. Always room for more dragons!)
Another innocent-looking cliff wall...
...hides a cave. And it's full of bears.
Even at the current levels, bears are nothing you want to tangle with, so it's a good thing there's room to manoeuvre.
The next part of the cave isn't quite that spacious, however.
This cave is divided into sections by the "secret" doors, which enemies won't cross. The third part has enemies close on both sides, and the cats shred the party pretty thoroughly before they gain the upper hand. Questor fashions himself a pimp coat from the remains, and we're off to the last section...
...which is also full of bears.
And no room to run.
A quick blessing later, we somehow manage to kill all the bears mere moments before they turn Thor into a rug.
Thyra levels up in the process, gaining third-level magic.
Continual Light: Like Light, but permanent. Enemies don't live long enough for Light to run out. This is a waste of a slot.
Continual Darkness: Like Continual Light, but not!
Cure Disease: Does what it says. Very nice to have around.
Cause Disease: Worthless.
Striking: Target character deals 1-6 points more damage with every hit for a while. Speeds up long fights like, well... ones against bears.
Thyra goes with Striking for now; we're not up against anything that will make us sick, except maybe the long-ass dungeons that are all full of fuck.
Here's another suspicious cliffside.
are those spiders
I'm pretty sure they can poison us and that would be bad so I don't give them a chance.
The ranged weapons can be fired really quickly. Just mash away and it's like you're holding some kind of fantasy machine gun. However, enemies will actually take cover rather than just stand and take it, so sometimes you have to stop firing and wait until they pop out again. Then pump them full of
This cave is really small and has nothing of interest in it. It's not worth it to grind spider respawns either, when there's giants and dragons to be had. Fuck this place.
And what do we have here?
Another, even smaller cave... which is full of bears.
There's not enough room to run circles around them. We just have to charge, hit them fast and hard and hope they die before we do. Strike on Thor, Bless, and we actually manage it pretty easily. Go team!
Our reward for killing them all... absolutely nothing save the EXP. Boo, team.
...it's that time again.
Bears! Why does it have to be bears?
This is our reward.
Okay, maybe this one has something of value...
Better, and the ants are pretty weak; I'm not sure what this cave is doing so far into the valley. I'd rather have these things than the goddamn scorpions earlier.
Oh, you thought we were done?
This one has rats.
The second enemy we encountered was a rat.
This place should have been a basement in town or something; it might actually have been a challenge for a first-level party with no enchanted gear. Hell, put the +1 sword at the end of it and it's a great first quest kind of thing. But no. It's all the way over here.
And here we are: another cave, far, far from our starting point. It must be full of great stuff.
...and we can't proceed.
Screw this, I'm going to murder some innocent wildlife.
Green dragons breathe venomous clouds. The Darkness method works on them, too, but don't let them get the drop on you... like I did here. Wasn't paying attention, I guess.
Merlin shows why Magic Missile is awesome.
It's worth the effort. Green dragons carry more cash than blacks.
We cross the other bridge on the way back. The trip is entirely uneventful.
Finally back in town, and look at what that +1 chain is worth, holy crap! But the stores still haven't upgraded their wares, meaning still no second-level spells for Merlin.
Anyway, the results of this trip...
Thor hit level 6 and picked up new gear and is as beefy as beef can be.
Questor still needs a million experience points but is otherwise doing well.
Thyra is very happy she doesn't need to scribe scrolls to learn spells.
Merlin hates everybody and everything and they will feel his wrath as soon as he finds some goddamn scrolls.
Good thing, too. I lost count of how many days that took. I think we slept for like a week after that short trip into the Kingdom of Burning.
Oh, your bacon isn't anywhere near out of the fire yet.
Next, let's actually explore the beastmen camp.