Chapter 9: Wizard's Lizards
We have three missions from the Council.
1. Find the source of the river pollution and deal with it.
2. Another ally mission, this time it's lizardmen camping out in the ruins of an old castle to the northeast.
3. A little boy, the heir to the House of Bivant was captured by buccaneers while traveling by boat on the Moonsea. Intel says their hidden camp is to the west, along the coast.
I haven't mentioned this so far, but the Stojanow River, which runs east of the city to the Moonsea, is heavily polluted. On the earliest game messages you read after you start playing is about "the barren river" that flows around New Phlan.
Since we've been around a lot of places, we've heard a lot of rumors concerning the river pollution and whomever causes it. We've heard about a pyramid on an island in the middle of the river, but we've dismissed it as ludicrous. We keep hearing rumors about it, though, and the sorcerer than runs the place... They say he's paying for certain creatures which he uses is experiments.
A thorough search along the riverbank it is, then, starting from the north reaches of Phlan.
We discover ruined lizardman huts, still inhabited, though. And inside... kobolds?
We release them, four kobolds won't be doing much harm to anyone. They warn us to watch out for "changed" lizard men, who are bred for killing. Ha-ha, these wimpy kobolds always tell good stories to cover up their cowardice. Then, in the next hut...
I haven't shown the random encounters on the world map, but there's a good variety of low-mid-level mobs out there, along with repeats of familiar faces like ogres and gnolls. Phase spiders and displacer beasts are the most difficult, I reckon, those do require to expend some spells.
As we stroll along the riverbank, we find this unbelievable sight.
Narancs: -- I told you that the pyramid rumor has more than a 22,5% probability of being true.
Citrom: -- You also told us that Mendor's Library is most likely empty. Plus-minus a petrifying basilisk and a life-draining specter, you were so right!
We also see that indeed, this pyramid is the source of river pollution, a black oily substance is released from pipes protruding from it. The burning question is: how do we get in? Swimming in the polluted river doesn't look like a good idea, not to mention the heavy armor half of the party wears. We don't have a fly spell, a flying mount, a walk-on-water spell, a flying carpet, neither of those.
As we circle around this 'swelling' of the river where the island is, we find a rowboat hidden in the reed. How convenient. A few minutes of rowing later:
Inside, there are no guards, no wizardly protections, no traps, just a long corridor. About halfways into the corridor, two small alcoves sit to the right. The alcoves have a number of rocks scattered around the entrance, with no apparent purpose. We enter the first.
Barack: -- This is the first time I've been teleported away! What a wonderful experience, it's better than pony riding!
Alma: -- Where are we? Are we trapped somewhere?
Narancs: -- I could use Wizard Eye to scout ahead... If I had known that spell, that is.
Eper: -- *sniffs the air, knocks on the walls, looks on the floor* We are on a higher level. The draft is different, more vigorous. The footprints tell me this passage is used regularly. I don't think we're trapped.
Alma: -- But I still don't see a way back. How are we going to leave?
Citrom: -- The same way the residents leave.
The next stop is a T-intersection. Past that, Eper finds a secret door. There are a of bunch lizardmen inside, who think we came to kill them. Szilva tries to comfort them, but fails. 'Foul servants of Yarash!" is all we get, and then they attack. We feel a bit sad, it seems they were enslaved here, could've been a good source of information. Dear Yarash, we don't know how you are, but rest assured, a marinated asskicking with pearl rice and pickled plum side dishes is coming up for you!
Yet another secret door leads to a laboratory.
Oh come on, every wild rumor we heard about this guy is true? The pyramid on the island is already unreal, and now it turns out he did mutate the lizardmen? Next stop, world domination plans, to be foiled in the last minute by unlikely heroes!
A third secret door on the back wall of the lab opens on another long corridor, this one twisting. At the end of the corridor, another unexpected teleport happens, and... We're back in the lizard slave room. This place is confusing.
At the T-intersection, we go the other way. Another secret door -- we think Yarash ordered these in bulk, at discount prices -- reveals a place of terror.
No living prisoner, no hidden treasure, just green lizardman bloodstains everywhere.
At the end of this other corridor, we find a place that looks like the first teleporter: rocks scattered about in an alcove.
Narancs: -- We need to study this teleporter in detail. It could take some time.
Szilva: -- I'll tell you the end result of your study: We either throw a rock or two into the teleporter, or we don't. I'm a genius!
Eper: -- Can't stop... the rock. *throws rock*
Everyone: -- HEY!
Eper: -- It wasn't my fault, the rock made me do it!
Another twisting corridor, another teleporter. We don't throw a rock this time, and we're back to a place we've been before. Corridor, teleporter, rock, corridor, teleporter, corridor, for longer than we care to remember... And finally!
Oh yes, another code wheel task! The password is 'noknok'. Ha-ha. Humor level: dwarf. The password is correct, and we finally see something other than corridors, rocks and lizardmen.
This picture is animated, the liquid flows, it looks great for its age. There were a few animated pictures before, but this one stands out.
Alma: -- At last, we found the source of the river pollution. I'm itching to leave this place. I was never good at riddles, and it's like it was created by a devious riddler.
Narancs: -- This isn't the source, to be precise. This is just the machinery that pumps it out of the pyramid.
Alma: -- Will someone punch him for me? I don't want to hurt a scrawny wizard too much.
We start destroying the machinery, and our final reward is an explosion which hurts everyone. We're going to charge the Council extra for all this **** we needed to endure. Curiously, no one responds to the sounds of destruction. Maybe we can get this one solved without combat?
The true source is not far from here, in a room to the south. In the pumping room, another group of enslaved lizarmen are at work. They are chained, and gladly accept our help.
Bonus reward: We've found the means to turn the lizardmen in the ruined castle into allies! They're not worth a lot of XP, so we might as well help them.
We learn that Yarash has a half-dozen successfully mutated lizardman bodyguards. No problem for the usual fireworks.
Aha, did you hear that? "Subdue them!", he said. Not "Kill them!", as usual. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a Genuine World-Dominating Moustache-Twirling Evil Mastermind Villain. He's got class. The battle screen looks the same, though.
This wizened old fellow wields a Wand of Lightning, so he has a means to dish our Real Damage even after being hit during a turn. And after the battle, so do our mages. His magical AC 4 bracers is now the property of Eper, and with that, every character has no worse than 0 AC (that's 20 AC, for post 3ed youngsters). Looking good.
On his desk, we find a mess of papers, including letters. One is a conversation with the Boss, he rejected the Boss, like Norris. And died like Norris. Another interesting letter is about sahuagin, Yarash set a substantial reward for live ones.
Szilva: -- This Yarash was really into lizardmen. What a pervert.
Citrom: -- Everyone has her secret fantasies. I mean, who doesn't dream now and then about being seduced by strangely handsome, well-built aquatic men with forked, sensitive tongues?
The room offers more riddles. Next to another teleporter, we find this device.
Barack: -- Blue is perfect. We set out to the wild blue beyond! I love teleporters!
Eper: -- Gold. The only bet worth making.
Citrom: -- I liked that silver dragon's scales, so magnificent, royal.
Szilva: -- I'm partial to copper. My holy symbol of Lathander is made out of copper, to remind us of the warmth the Morninglord gives us.
Citrom: -- He hugs you regularly or something?
...10 minutes later...
As it turns out, the three "metallic" settings each took us to a treasure room. Magic scrolls, a long sword +2 plus a ring of fire resistance are the noteworthy loot.
The blue setting, which we tried last, dropped us back in the long entrance corridor, right at the first alcoves we saw.
Barack: -- We should try the other one...
Alma: -- No, we're going back. Our mission is complete.
Barack: -- Oh pleeeeease! This is the best fun I've had since I came to Phlan! I wish I could take a teleporter home! I always just follow your orders Alma, you're so self-absorbed, you never listen to me!
Eper: -- I never thought I'd agree even once with happyfuntimegirl here, but we haven't mapped out this entire place. More treasure awaits, and we're not in a hurry...
Alma: -- All right, all right, I feel we're safe enough with Yarash removed to look around.
...1 hour later...
The second alcove drops us into a maze on the lower level, with no teleporters leading out. Only monsters and clean skeletons of other 'visitors' of the place...
.. 2 hours later...
Eper finally finds the secret door which leads to a teleporter which deposits us yet again in the entrance corridor. No treasure at all, just wounds and bruises.
Alma: -- Szilva, remind me the next time I'm softening to Barack's whining: don't.
Barack: -- It wasn't my fault! And it was good fun, anyway!
When we leave the pyramid, an animated sequence plays out, showing how the pollution starts to clean up from the river. It changes the river tiles permanently. It's pretty cool, being able to change the world map!