Conflux/Parallax adventure Journal

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Parallax' Journey through ConfluxIII:

Chapter 1 - Starting Out

Greetings, I'm Gus, and this sorry lot here are Wuss, Grug, and Larry. Together we form the Maleficient Guild, the most badass band of sons of b... eh, who am I kidding, we're scum, nothing but liars and cheaters.

A long time ago, we got imprisoned together in a mirror for our crimes. Petty crimes they were, such as spell-scrounging and save-scumming, but we were punished nonetheless. And I don't use the term lightly; it was so cramped in there. Larry smells like snake. Anyways, now we're out, and we will not stop until we are free of our ancient, unspecified curse.

The way to redemption will be long and steep. I do not see us dropping our bad habits so easily. For instance, none of us would reincarnate without getting at least seventeen points in total stats, so it turned into a save-scumming competiton! Good going guys! You remember how we got in there the first time, right? Even now, we cannot test for illusionary walls (by running full speed into them) without dying. Following the ancient wisdom of the master Beowuuf, we set out for our first goal: Death.

That's right, we're going to die. Preferably in front of an altar of rebirth, and preferably also without gaining any level first. This will bump our hitpoints by a good chunk. The best altar for dying in front of, in my humble opinion, is the one right next to the long-lost wand path, in the storage area.

Gathering only the strict minimum (one torch), we make our way to the storage cellars. The air is heavy and still, barely an improvement over our undersized mirror. At least we can breathe more easily. The way to the altar is heavily guarded by some sort of floral arrangement. We bash it with hands and torch until it withers away. Stupid plant wouldn't get under the door, but it wasn't from lack of trying. We collect some tasty pods for later. Food is scarce and we have four mouths to feed.

Next up is a giant rodent. There is no avoiding it, we have to kill it to get through to the main cellar area. On the plus side, it is a lot more lively than the plants and follows us to the door without hesitation. On the downside, it's a lot more lively than the plants! Wuss and Grug go down before the door finally bashes the rat's skull in. Larry grabs the bones and we proceed.

The way to the altar is closed, but I am privy to the Ancient Wisdom of the way. "How come you know the way, Gus?" "It was written on a scroll." "What scroll? I didn't see any scroll like that." "That's because you're not privy to the Ancient Wisdom, Larry. Now, shut up." "You're not cheating are you? You know what will happen if we ch-" "Shut up!"

Nobody ever liked Larry. Even before we got all stuck with him in that mirror, he wasn't really part of the group. Always questioning my orders, always arguing, not a team player. At least he's fairly decent at carrying bones. In no time, we've made our way to the altar. We shove Wuss and Grug in, then Larry and I commit suicide. When I come to, I feel a lot more resilient.

The altar even contains some loot: A fire spore, a mana staff and a wind. We grab it all and rush back to the guild halls. We have to get Dolly. I can't believe we had to leave her behind. But there was no choice, we had to travel light. She is still in the alcove where she spawned, along with some scrolls, a key and a coin. I don't need to examine them to know they are all cursed. Everything we had was cursed. They even cursed Dolly. Bastards.

Craddling her in my arms, I lead the party down a few flights of stairs. We have some praying to do. The deeper we are when we pray to her, the more guidance she imparts upon us. Through the foul-smelling stairs we can only go down to the sewers, but it will be enough. There, in the dark, we gather around Dolly and take turns praying to her. Heathens, they called us, heretics, and some nasty other names. But they'll see. It isn't long until Dolly shines her wisdom upon us and we become enlightened. Mana, the long-forgotten magical power, flows through our bodies anew. They thought they could deprive us of our magical powers, but they were wrong.

Once we can pray no longer, we head back up. The mana staff we found in the altar has opened our way slightly into the Priests' guild, but it will take more, a lot more, to truly shake our shackles off, to fully unleash our power. I know of other staves, but they are not the only needed items. With 20 mana each (21 for that bastard Grug who keeps rolling insane level-ups!) we're ready to create our own light, and even break our way into the Wizards lair. I know a trick. I know all the tricks.

Chapter 2 - Supplies For The Weak

Next up, we need a rope, some experience, and food. Not necessarily in that order. The food we take care of in the cellar. There are cheeses lying just about everywhere which is strange, because there are giant rats just about everywhere as well. All in all, we collect enough food to have a temporary surplus.

There is also the "supplies for the strong". Supplies for the cunning, more like. A couple of well-placed sticks block the jaws of that trap long enough for us to plunder it. But we still need a rope, and the only one within reach is mighty suspicious.

It lays in a corner near the storage area entrance, looking abandoned and completely innocent, but it serves as bait for an elaborate trap. When someone steps near it, the rope disappears and a pit opens, blocking the victim between two pits, and presumably with no rope. We take the traditional Maleficient approach to problem-solving and rush it. Diving to the ground, I grab the rope before it can vanish.

Take that single-digit dex!

Now we are stuck between two pits, but we have a rope, so down we go, then down some more, into the sewers, then the mines. Our little foray yields clothes, weapons, coins and keys. We leave the Almighty Dagger for now, since none of us knows how to use it, but make a note of going back later to fetch it.

The mines intrigue me. Not just because I wonder who would be stupid enough to dig mine galleries under a network of sewers (the Dwarves, that's who!) but because someone left a trap for us there in a small room. I don't mean that someone trapped a room and we found it, I mean that someone went into the trouble of placing a trap there specifically for the Maleficient Guild. Someone knew we were coming, and they were none too happy about it. Smart that, because I'm not too happy about them either.

In the dwarven forge, a riddle. "The mightiest weapon of all". "What's the answer, Gus?" "How should I know? I expect it's something cheesy like 'love', or something. As far as I'm concerned, I'd take a bigass hammer over it any day. In any case, we have neither, so it's a moot point. Let's kill that pangolin over there instead." "Why?" "XP." That settled it.

The proper application of our budding magical powers also yielded a treasure trove of exploding spores that will come in handy soon, no doubt. On our way back up we drop some trees and clear the way to the guilds. We are now ready to fulfill the quest of the long-lost wand.

Chapter 3 - Hunger For Power

"Why do those screamers keep respawning?"
"Yeah, and why do they not drop screamer slices when we kill them?"
"You said it was going to be an easy quest."
"And we'd get some loot and some food."
"You said killing screamers is its own reward, but it hurts."
"I'm hungry."
"Shut up! Shut up all of you! If you didn't take forever and a day to kill those glorified mushrooms in the first place they wouldn't respawn all the time. Besides, they're poisonous, why would you want to eat them?"
"I'd eat anything right now. Damn, I'm so hungry."

Alright, so maybe it wasn't such a great idea to come here. Screamers come back faster than we can kill them, they've been in this rancid cave for so long they've turned inedible, and the lost wand is nowhere to be found. The only positives in this fiasco are the four moldy cheeses we found in an alcove and even then, Grug is about to pass out from starvation. Since there is no way back from here, we need to complete this quest or we will all die here.

I order Larry to start tossing exploding spores at the last remaining screamers and any that appear afetrwards. After thoroughly searching the room five or six times over we finally get the stupid wand. I wanted it so badly because it transforms raw magical energy into healing power, so we can heal ourselves. Unfortunately, we regenerate magic at such a poor rate that the wand is useless to us. We almost died because of this quest and I have nothing to show for it. I can tell it is not settling well with my lackeys.

I can hear them whispering behing my back. That bastard Grug is trying to convince them he would lead them better than I can, but he doesn't know the things I do. Just because he's been lucky on the leveling and he has a godly 12 strength or something now... They're quiet now. Suspiciously quiet. I don't like this.

"Look guys, we need to go down. Things are much better on the Emerald level, and Dolly-"
"Enough, Gus. You're insane. We can barely survive the rats in the cellar, we are not going to fight whatever horrors lurk in the depth of those levels. Are you trying to kill us?"
"We wouldn't fight. We can dodge every enc-"
"No we can't, and you know it. We'd get hammered. We don't even have the fireball spell!"
"We don't need it. What mana will you cast it with anyways?"
"Well, we'll have to get it since you're wasting our spores like they're going out of style."
"I can get you more spores than you can carry. MON ones! Listen to me, we just grab all th-"
"Enough! Gus, you are relieved of command. From now on, I'm the boss, and the boss says we're going to kill rats in the cellar until we're good at it and work our way down. As for you, you'll stay in line if you don't want this guild membership to drop to three. You heard me."

Stupid Grug. We're already capped in terms of fighting ability and, even if we weren't, the experience trickles so slowly up here that it's ridiculous. We need to be going deep down. But they won't listen to me anymore. Killing rats is fairly safe, it provides food, and it gives these idiots the illusion of being in charge. Well, hopefully at some point they'll realize they're not getting anywhere this way. I just hope that happens before the readers lose interest.

Chapter 4 - Restore Control

Bored. So bored. We've been killing rats for ages. At least we are well-fed and we are collecting skins, but we are no longer benefitting from this little exercise. Larry is blasting rats with a crossbow and Grug finishes them with a sword we found in the guild.

There. We're done. Pack all the meat and let's go.
Where are we going, Grug?
Down. Nothing can withstand our might here, we're going down to the Temple. Now we c- And what's so funny, Gus?
Nothing, we're going to all get killed is all. Those fanatics can cast fireball. I don't know if you've noticed, but we still can't. If you're not willing to listen to me and improve our arsenal before we do something this insane, may-
We're going down and it's final. You're welcome to stay behind if you're scared.
What, and lose this golden opportunity to say: "I told you so!"?

Grug is suitably baited, any more and he might suspect something. I decide to change the subject.

There's a lot of rat skins around here, we should probably take them too. I counted seventeen, so maybe we stay a bit longer and make that an even twenty. You know, just in case.
Just in case of what? This isn't World of Warcraft, Gus. There is no fetch quest for twenty rat skins and if there is one we're not doing it. It's stupid. Now move.
Fine, be that way.

I take my spot on the back row as we move toward the temple stairs where we found the crossbow. A gold key later we have the first leg of our shortcut to the depths of the Undercity open. Unfortunately, we are stuck in the High Quarters, and the door to the main Temple does not open from this side. No problem, we can open it later. Now, to the task at hand: Operation Restore Control.

I barely have to prod Grug to take a left by the tree of Fear and Courage, and we get to a door.

Alright, here's the plan. On the other side of this door there's a Vexirk fanatic. We open the door, and when it steps underneath, we close it on its head. Then Larry, you turn him into a pincushion with your crossbow, Wuss and I will bash it, and Gus will rotate in as needed. Let's do this.

Grug opens the door and I tense. There is no Vexirk behind it. We wait a minute in complete silence, then Grug decides we're going to "go bait it." I suggest we turn around instead just to spur him on. As we walk into the room, we see the little bugger on our left. He raises his arms, incants, and I barely have enough time to throw myself on the ground before a fireball explodes over my head.

It hurts. Oh, how it hurts. My head, my back, my legs, I'm hurt all over, but I am still alive. Losing no time, I dart into the small room down the hallway, leaving three corpses behind me, to attest of Grug's leadership. The Vexirk follows me, cackling madly.

Grug is an idiot of course, standing in front of a door and killing Vexirks statically only works if you can dodge the fireballs. With a full party we could not. Now that I am alone, I am also too weak to risk it. I survey the little room. A pit, a door with a sign that says "Retirement Room" and that's it. I'm stuck in a dead end, since Wuss had the rope. Quick, I press a hidden button and close the pit. When the Vexirk enters we turn around each other for a little while. Then he steps on the closed pit. (Almost) flawless victory.

I walk back to the corpses and gather the bones. Getting to the closest altar is not a problem, even in my condition, although I would love a healing potion. Wuss and Larry get resurrected first; we need to talk before we raise Grug, because there is a leadership vote coming up, and he's not going to like the results. My third degree burns might disagree, but operation Restore Control is an outstanding success.