Monday, 12 January 2015

The Aielund Saga: Act Four - Part VI

The Black Tiger - The Silent Valley Battle - The Black Wizard

High Plains

The contrast between Cairnwood-ablaze and the chilly High Plains couldn't be starker. Upon our arrival at the gates a Barb Warrior coldly greets us.

Valennia refers us to her father, Chief Morik Far-Eagle.

Lazy barbs, always loafing around!

It seems Morik is facing another leadership challenge, this time from the Elder Shaman Talon Black Tiger whose father, Tald, we killed during the fight with the Half-orc, Erag Rulash.

Talon intends to defend the barbs from King Seamus by using his necro talents to raise from the dead the Dread Legion and hero of legend, Reikthor Black Tiger.

We are to travel to the burial grounds and wipe out Talon and whatever ancestors he's managed to raise - including Reikthor - in return for barb assistance in our diversion at Fairloch.

I suspect some here would like for Talon to succeed with his plan. The idea of our ancestors coming to save us has great power. - Barb Shaman.

I cannot bear the thought of meeting my honored ancestors in battle. How can we face such a thing? - Barb Warrior.

Black Tiger Tribal Holy Grounds

We bump into Talon almost immediately upon entering the burial grounds. There is an insight check here, perhaps based on Wisdom or just cosmetic (?), but Talon has made his mind up and nothing will change it, anyway.

Talon teleports to the burial grounds atop a hill. We begin our ascent in pursuit of him.

Here we face six enraged Dread Legionnaires...

 ... whom Nellise instantly implodes but for one (+70 EXP ea).

Ascending higher, Nellise quakes and flamestrikes the next lot of six, saving me much manual labor.

Now atop the hill, the expansive burial grounds of the Dread Legion stretch out before us. I order Nellise, Maggie and Criosa to hold their ground in the north, away from any potential aggro. As I explore the grounds, no less than fifteen legionnaires animate to attack me - and they are all tough muthas.

Talon is raising the dead - en masse!

I buff with Divine Shield and lure them to the north, ordering my three Henchmen to follow me to the south a little.

The undead legion

Maggie and Criosa stupidly wade into the fray (my fault), the former being cut down just before Nellise casts Mass Heal, inflicting massive positive energy damage upon the legion. 

Nellise casts Mass Heal again for good measure, reducing each legionnaire to Near Death status.


(This brings back memories of Maggie at the Edge of the Abyss against the specters).

Nellise having basically eaten the legion up, I feed on the scraps left over. Criosa, who literally did nothing all battle, ironically shot dead the last legionnaire (the turned unit at the back).

Nellise also turned a few of them - an all-star performance

I now spy Talon engaged in some kinda necromantic ritual..?

Oh, hi Reikthor! It seems the Elder Shaman has reanimated the Black Tiger of Legend

My critical hit knockdown on Talon is as solid as openers come.

I pulverize Talon with powerful "divine" blows which bypass his obnoxious Epic Warding buff. Reikthor rages, Nellise casts Implosion, Maggie casts Storm of Vengeance and Talon begins casting...  Horrid Wilting.

Horrid Wilting is dumped on three of the four heroes, inflicting "only" 270 damage all up. The annoyed shaman then quickly follows up with IGMS, inflicting a further 90 dmg, but really, his end is nigh (+393 EXP).

I now pick Reikthor apart while Maggie's Storm of Vengeance rages on, round by round (+866 EXP).

  • corpse of Reikthor: Cold Fury +6 greataxe (Keen, +2d10 cold, Dragon Breath, cold 1/day, Vamp Regen +8)
  • corpse of Talon: Black Tiger Amulet (Haste, CHA -10, Imm: Death Magic/Disease/Mind-affecting/Paralysis, Regen +5, Evil/Neutral only)


We return to the yurt of Morik and inform the Chief of our success. He promises to send a few barbs our way when the time comes.

+5000 EXP


I now recall to North Cairnwood and take the exit into Stoneguard Village.

Stoneguard Village

Maggie now farewells us, an amusing departure.

A large Tusonite and allied force is now assembled in the Dwarven village, but no Dwarves are in sight?

You have served us well. We will honor our bargain. - Ancient Treant.

I have come to honor the pact between us. Death to our enemies! - Barb Berserker.

Damn this chainmail. Sure it looks good, but it absorbs the cold like some sort of... cold sponge! - Sand Dragon Merc.

It seems that, for now, the Dwarves are off-limits, their entrance purposely collapsed to keep them safe from King Seamus.

We catch up with General Duquesne in the Miner's Rest Inn.

Short of it: Criosa offers to assist a Tusonite archer platoon who have just been ambushed by an Aielund force in the Valley of Silence. We head straight there!


The Battle of Silent Valley

I sprint past a Siege Engineer, three Aielund Knights (+8 EXP ea) and two Knight-Commanders (+350 EXP ea) en route down the slope to the bridge where both Aielund and Tusonite forces are engaged in heavy conflict.

An enemy engineer launches his catapult at the Tusonites

I carefully lure the five mounted Aielunders down to the bridge, upon which ten Rangers (+40 EXP ea) are attacking our allied Tusonite force who are attempting to cross the bridge from the opposite end.

This shot perfectly shows the initial situation

I shout out for Nellise and Criosa to follow me down the slope, tanking hard in anticipation of their arrival.

Heavy tanking right here

Having been slightly delayed by taking out the engineer, Nellise and Criosa soften the pack up very nicely with their ranged weapons.

Note the monastery top-right. Remember the slaadi?

The force all but annihilated, I clean up three rangers on the side of the lake - Criosa chipping in with a Fireball launched from the bridge.

Two allied Chevaliers and one archer died in the battle, compared to fifteen Aielunders.

The Tusonite Commander now warns of a second wave of hostiles.

Eight more Rangers now descend the hill to assail us, buffing with Protection From Elements, Cat's Grace and One With the Land, then launching an Imbue Arrow bombardment. I charge them, keeping Nellise and Criosa in the back row.

Center: Imbue Arrow strikes me

As I hold these Arcane Archers at bay, Nellise teaches them how to properly inflict fire damage...

... before imploding them.

Tons of loot is left post-battle, but Hasrinaxx, the Tusonite Quartermaster and the Grandmaster merchants have extremely limited buying power (about 12,000 GP, if memory serves). Only Hakim can afford this stuff (and he's a loooong way away):
  • Knight loot: Knight's Full Plate (2), Knighthood Tower Shield +3 (2), Longsword +3 (2).
  • Ranger loot: Great Sword +3 (18), Arrow +4 (1200).
Note that it doesn't matter whether you save one or all the archers, you will only ever receive +1000 EXP from the first Tusonite archer you talk to post-battle, and only three will appear in Stoneguard Village regardless.

We return now to the village inn and inform Duquesne of our success in the Valley, our failure with the elves (though we at least secured treant support) and our success in enlisting the barbs. The General now orders us to raid Terinus' tower for the Scepter of the Ages.

But before that, I travel aaalll the way back to Hakim in Trinity to sell off tons of loot and finally buy the Fortified Shield of Endurance +5 (DR 15/+6, CON +4) for ~400,000 gold. Our pockets are officially penniless. Whether the shield was worth it, only time will tell. 


Blackwood Glade

We arrive in Blackwood Glade, cloaked in mist. This is a creepy place...

Terinus' tower can be seen silhouetted against the night sky. It is built atop (or carved out of) a huge towering rock in the center of the glade, with a yawning cave entrance which we now approach.

I glow in the dark, I am no rogue. Tower in background.
Guarding the front door is an acid-breathing Mist Dragon (+850 EXP, Dragon Blood). I chop it up into a dish fit for the wolves.

Things look cooler when they're wreathed in mist

We cautiously creep into the tower...

Blackwood Glade Tower - Level One

At the end of a corridor is a room with fours doors, three of which are conventionally locked and one of which is magically warded (the leftmost/southern). 

I bash down the mundane doors to three cells. From one cell emerges a Balrog (+350 EXP)...

Two crits (85+62 dmg)

... and from another, a Beholder (+1200 EXP). They never knew what hit 'em. The other cell was simply trapped with strong fire and poison.

Too much EXP for such a weak enemy

Each cell contains a floor lever, all three of which I now pull (in no particular order). This dispels the magical ward on the southern door, giving us access to another large room with three pentagrams enscribed on the floor. 

Summoning circles that don't do anything. How odd. - Nellise.

These circles seem to be dormant, for the time being at least... - DM.

The pentagram summoning room
The corpse of a dead adventurer also rests here (Dagger of Assassination +5 (on-hit vorpal DC-20), Stealth Armor +3 (Hide/Move silent +8.. srsly..), Epic Mantle of Spell Resistance (SR 32). 

Of most interest is his journal, containing a riddle:

Twist and turn lest you fall,
The path below shall only stall.

We keep this in mind as we climb the stairs to the second floor.

Blackwood Glade Tower - Level Two

The first room on the second floor is also locked, and is furnished with a grand piano, an elegant standing harp and three wall-mounted paintings - one of which is magical. I touch the harp to the painting depicting a lady harpist. To my surprise, the lady in the painting plucks the strings of her harp! I mirror her plucks with the actual harp in the room, opening the locked door.

We're now confronted with a simple trapdoor maze which can be successfully navigated by "twisting and turning", as per the above-quoted riddle. There are three horizontal rows of six tiles each, side by side. To progress to the other side of the room we must take the far left tile (the only one that isn't a trapdoor on that row), then the far right tile on the second row, then finally the far left tile of the third and final row, leading to a door to the tower's third floor (+2500 EXP).

Three lines of six tiles each
For extra EXP, we purposely fell down a trapdoor of each row to land three separate times in the "pentagram room" below, facing off first against two Balrogs (+350 EXP ea)...

Whee! *thud*
 ... second, against two Glabrezus (+950 EXP ea)...

 ... and third, against two Vorlan Demons (+850 EXP ea).

Nellise's Banishment makes short work of a Vorlan

Level Up to 30!

(Epic Characters)

Lilura: Champion of Torm (14) / Paladin (12)/ Fighter (4), Great Strength III, Great Charisma I
Criosa: Rogue (18) / Wizard (12)
Nellise: Cleric (28) / Paladin (2), Great Wisdom III

Blackwood Glade Tower - Level Three

This is quite a library. Terinus must have the knowledge from hundreds of years stored here. - Nellise.

Three insultingly weak Spectral Librarians attack us (+8 EXP ea).

Bookshelves here contain various scrolls: Legend Lore, Shapechange, Wail of the Banshee, Mordenkainen's Sword, Great Spell Breach, Displacement and Resurrection. 

In the next room stands a Banshee, an ex-elven sorceress who buffs with Epic Warding and Epic Mage Armor.

You should not be here, pretty mortal. - Banshee.

She has a nasty repertoire: Power Word, Stun, Horrid Wilting, Wail of the Banshee and then alternating between IGMS/Cone of Cold spam.

Two more irrelevant spectres uselessly float around, but they just die by the wayside.

This fight went on for quite awhile, the Banshee having epic tanking ability and a scary battery of spells to unleash.
  • Banshee: +850 EXP, Banshee's Robe +5 (Bonus sorc spell slot 6-7-8-9, CHA +4, Haste, on-hit Bestow Curse [12]).

IGMS has been nerfed by EMS.hak, but still hurts

Bookshelves here contain even more scrolls: Improved Invisibility, Invisibility Purge, Meteor Swarm, Greater Spell Mantle, Glboe of Invulnerability, Isaac's Greater Missile Storm, Mass Charm.

The final room of level three is yawn-inducing: three more spectres and a bookshelf containing Fireball and Mordenkainen's Disjunction scrolls.

Criosa now detraps and unlocks the door leading to the fourth and final floor of the tower (DC-45/50).

We rest first, then buff before climbing the stairs.

Blackwood Glade Tower - Level Four

We don't even have time to climb the final stairs before three hulking Enhanced Iron Legionnaires charge us (650 EXP ea)! Ternius hangs back, buffing with Improved Invisibility, Epic Warding, Epic Mage Armor and Elemental Shield.

As we knock out two of the golems, Terinus - outside our line of sight - centers Greater Ruin on Criosa.

He follows up with IGMS before I can get in his face, at which point Criosa is insta-killed by Weird.

Terinus now unleashes Meteor Swarm, Prismatic Spray and then zaps Nellise and I a few times with Ball Lightning (60 dmg ea - they hurt).

Hitting Terinus inflicts solid fire damage on me (Elemental Shield), so I quickly swap out my Ring of Protection +5 for the Ring of Fire Resistance, and just before he unleashes Firebrand, too! (Which scorches Nellise for 60 dmg, prompting her to Heal herself immediately).

Terinus now shakily absorbs three critical blows from me as he desperately tries to hold on with lesser spells like Melf's Acid Arrow, but the power of the sustained attacks overwhelm him and he surrenders.

Crits of 62-61-60
I yield! Stay your attack! - Terinus.

I raise Criosa, then demand the Scepter of the Ages from Terinus, who also gifts us the Belt of Null Magic (CON +2, Imm: level 6 or lower spells).

We learn from Terinus that he has "masters" who will be most displeased with my progress against King Seamus, however he reveals nothing more than that, adding only that if we succeed in dethroning the King, he will reveal all.

We've searched for this scepter for a loooong time, but only now do we hold the assembled artifact in our hands.

+5000 EXP

There is a portal room in the center of this floor which teleports us outside to where we fought the Mist Dragon at the entrance; and in the most distant room - which we can't yet access - are illithid mechanisms, presumably used later.

We nose around the top floor a bit... Tick-tock - a grandfather clock? ...

Nice placeable!

... And two Brownie servants from another world..?

Oi! Don't step on me! - Lucas.

We take our leave of Terinus' tower, portaling outside and then heading northwest back to Stoneguard Village with the Scepter of the Ages FINALLY in our possession.

The Battle of Fairloch!


  1. "Note that it doesn't matter whether you save one or all the archers"

    Saving the commander grants an XP bonus. Saving none obvious gets you no archers and less XP too.

    What did you make of the twist and turn puzzle, by the way? Did it work for you, did it seem silly, did it seem unfair? Curious.

    1. I didn't mind it since Savant didn't really include any puzzles so far from what I remember. Why, have you had complaints/thought about modifying/removing it?

    2. I suppose I was never fond of the fact that it was completely trial and error initially. Once you found the first "safe" spot you could theoretically guess the other two safe spots -- though one could imagine a crueler author still making it "twist and turn" without using an edge spot for the middle and end rows.

      The other annoyance is that it's to your BENEFIT to fail on all three rows for the extra XP. Seems that shouldn't happen.

    3. It's an action series, not a puzzle series. Anyone playing it would be looking for blood and explosions, not thinky stuff :)

    4. Oh and yes, there should be no XP for falling down those holes, obviously. Get to work Balky!

    5. Oh, goody, I have a pet name now...


  2. Had a major issue during the Terinus fight (well, fights, as I kept getting one-shot by the greater ruin spell). I quickly ran past the Iron Legions to quickly take out the main problem, Terinus. Problem was, when he goes blue, the henchmen haven't killed the Iron dudes and every time that they hit one of them, Terinus would start attacking them again and I'd have to hit him a time or two to turn him back blue. Made it very annoying. Once he is defeated, he should stay neutral until you can speak with him

    As to the puzzle, Balkoth (my response to your question to Lilura), I didn't like the trial and error of it. Same thing with the number sequence on the teleporter puzzle earlier. D&D puzzles are all about solving it via the clues given. There is no fun just randomly or bumbling through a puzzle. If there were clues, then you could have an EXP reward for actually solving the puzzle without falling through

    1. How in the world were you getting one-shot by Greater Ruin? What was your HP?

      The Iron Legion thing is interesting, never heard of that issue before. I suppose could just make them "surrender" as well when Terinus does and hopefully that fixes it.

  3. Greater Ruin was hitting for 210 damage against my meager 152 HP in that fight. And yeah, I had the same thing happen where if I take out Terinus first, he goes nonhostile but then starts casting meteor swarm on us again as we kill the golems.

    1. How in the world do you only have 152 HP at level 25+? I mean, at that point 4 Constitution (from Endurance, for example) is 50 HP on its own...

    2. I was going for maximum glass cannon. 10 con all the way through the game except a couple times I had gear that gave me a bonus.

  4. There actually is a way around Talon, although you probably don't get the XP of a fight (which I really think authors should rethink---usually takes more finesse to talk someone around than to annoy them into battle). Glad I didn't look here first or I wouldn't have retried! On the second try, I started with the dialogue option you're less likely to choose, just introducing yourself without referring to Chief Monk. I got a completely different set of dialogue options and got him to agree to hold off until he saw whether the plan to attack Aielund came off. The first time I tried, I tried the obvious response (your boss sent me) and he warned me off (after a couple of, oddly, successful persuade checks) with a great nod to the SF classic Babylon 5: "If you value your life, be somewhere else."

    1. Yeah, it really annoys me when you resolve a situation peacefully and get either no XP or fewer than you would have if you killed them. Darkness Over Daggerford has a few examples of that, too.

  5. But also---I can't get into Blackwood Glade area, although I've spoken to the general and done all ally quests (so have barbarians, mercs, treants, have dealt with werewolves and people from Bracksworth, have encountered Maggie and Hasrinax). I can go straight to the Valley of Silence battle. Will this louse me up? I've tried reloading, exiting and reloading, reloading from different save, exiting and reloading the entire game, and most quick bug fixes I can think of. Any advice?

  6. On the request for help on Blackwood Glade, nvm. Misunderstood where the archers were...


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