The Misadventures of Three Sorceress Archmages

Maltatai

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13. Magic Monday
Heretically enough, even winter vacations come to an end. What a nightmare. Back in the bleak and dull confines of the Sorceress Academy the WWW entertain themselves in whatever ways they can. They have heard rumors about a new safe delivered to professor Tapes office, presumably containing scandalous correspondence and arcane artifacts. It would be a stimulating group activity trying to reach that safe. Unfortunately it is placed in the cellar underneath her office and the only passage is through a long, straight tunnel with no cover at all. Even for an intruder that could teleport, it is all but impossible to avoid being spotted, and Theodora Tape is bound to have sentries and watchers guarding that passage. There is simply no way to approach save through the passage once you have entered by the stairs down just in front of it. Just like a dungeon of demonic or undead lordlings, when one thinks about it.

This ingenious design can only be the work of the foremost security sorcery firm - Franzesca Jaeger. The Franzesca Jaeger safes are world famous. Only the foremost adventurers repeatedly taking up insane challenges, such as the @jiansonz band, are believed to ever pose a threat to such deposits. Indeed, the tip about the safe is more than a little bit suspect. What if...what if it is in fact leaked by professor Tape in the first place? To lure Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina to try to crack a true Franzesca Jaeger safe and be caught in the act, and thus expelled from the academy? It would be just like that stuffy old desert wing bat! The WWW will not tolerate such provocations and promptly decides to break into the safe, just to show her. But how? There is simply no way to approach undetected through that long passage and even with the fastest cast rate possible to potentially teleport past prying eyes they would still be stuck trying to melt or freeze the safe for ages. However...the WWW do have those old building plans. They show that the areas around the passage and safe are rock and earth, with no other rooms, which makes it safe from surprise teleporting. But it is also safe to say that the safe location of the safe makes it safe from detection if one should decide that the academy needed an extra underground room or two, or perhaps a tunnel that happened to lead to the safe from an unexpected direction...

The witches have a plan. A brilliant plan. Everything is well timed and ready, to the smallest detail. They will tunnel parallel to the main entrance but at a safe distance to keep sounds minimal. Then they turn around and tunnel to breach the safe from behind. Approaching undetected will give them time to freeze the metal and crack it apart with telekinesis. But the work required is grueling! First they have to dig a deep shaft, so that the tunnel will go steadily upwards. That way they can construct a small rail and have a tiny mining wagon rolling down to the shaft with dug out rock and earth. Digging through earth is easy with telekinesis but takes such a time. Rock and stones are another matter. They must be cracked by heating and cooling the stone until it breaks. A slog of ice and fire awaits. Will such and endless crawl ever end?


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And so Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina go to work, masking their insubordinate intentions as deepened studies while they go to stupefying lengths to thwart the school rules in general and professor Tape in particular. They smile mischievously and glance from one side to the other in a most suspicious and shifty manner. It's just another magic Monday for the WWW.

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Wilma:

Six o'clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream
I was kissing with Haphet
While my hydras were blushing off-screen

But I can't be late
'Cause our fine plans have just been laid
These are the days
When you wish that your tunnel was made

It's just another magic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another magic Monday

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Wanja:

Have to catch the mining train
Rolling down the rail just fine
And if I had a flying mount
I still couldn't make it on time

It takes the writer so long
Just to figure out what we're gonna wear
Blame it on the train
Wilhelmina is already there

It's just another magic Monday
I wish it was Tuesday
'Cause that's my ruse day
My pranks to choose day
It's just another magic Monday

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Wilhelmina:

Of all of my nights
Why did the others have to pick last night to get down?
Late night, last night
Doesn't it matter that I work for the three of us
Employment's down

We try out our new arch-angels toys
I hope no one will hear all the noise
Digs isn't going fast
Mornings aren't fun

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it was Friday
'Cause that's my ride day
My kayak won't be dry day

It's just another manic Monday
All about one day
Boring I dare say
It's just another manic Monday
 
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Maltatai

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@T72on1
Nothing better than this thread to go with a cup of coffee when bored at work :).
Maltatai:
Pleased to be of service. Especially after reading your dreadful work description in the daily thread. Apart from bike distance to home that could pretty much have been the summary of my job too. Uncanny :eek:.
 

Maltatai

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14. Sky Trek: Exorcise
In the Sorceress Academy, both studies and mining operations have been put on hold for the moment. Not only is it Saturday, but an extremely important delivery by gloombat order has arrived!

"Nyyyooomm! Nyyyooomm!"

The federation sky ship Exorcise is on a super secret mission to explore the remote badlands of Tamoe. All is well on board but - oh dear! It is the mating season of the sky elves and sky elf first mate Spork is gripped by the porn fare. How will the brave captain Quirk deal with the situation?

To the delight of the lightning mastering Wilhelmina, the Exorcise comes with a set of copper wire and nails of copper and iron. They can be connected to lemons to power the lamps of the Exorcise. Wilhelmina is quick to conclude that most acidic fruits or vegetables should work too.

Wanja is not too pleased about this. Lemons should be used for lemonade or lemon sorbet or some other cool thing, which Wanja would know, being the master of cold among them.

"You are such a geek, Wilhelmina. Can't we use potatoes or something instead for the lights?"

Unfortunately the potatoes are reserved.

"No way! We're making salty chips with those! The potatoes are a hot potato."

"And you're a crazy potato, Wilma."

With the chips hotly defended by the master of fire, it seems the whole spectrum of nutritious ingredients in the WWW:s quarters are reserved for boring things such as eating. There is nothing left to do except raiding the teachers larder for yucky limey green lime things. They will practically be doing professor Tape and the rest a favor who won't have to eat such icky limey things. Wilma promises to cook hot chocolate for all once they are done.

After a brief detour towards the nether skies of eternal darkness, the Exorcise can resume its mission powered by the valuable fuel source that the crew has picked up. Although the crew seems to have grown to include both captain Jane Way the coffee addict and Seven past Nine, partly clock, partly human. They are really from the later Sky Trek editions. But...since when have the WWW really cared for such rules or conventions?

"Captain Quirk! Magical spyglasses have picked up another sky ship!"

"Very good Mister Spork, put in on crystal ball."

"There it is. The signature is not consistent with any known faction in this quadrant. It could be a scout for the clingy cling-ons, or perhaps the card-ass union!"

"Card-assians? I would have expected mules but not asses."

"That would be the Borg, sir. Their goal is to assimilate everyone to become a mule in their great collective, carrying their items like a droning NPC."

"Ha! We'll see about that. Activate the Emergency Meteorical Hologram, Mister Spork!

"Please state the nature of the magical emergency."
 
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Maltatai

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15. Current Nightmare Progress
The WWW have survived half the game without losing a single hireling and defeated nightmare Mephisto at about level 60. Not too bad for a supposedly underpowered kind of build and mercenary type. Both Wilma and Wanja happened to obtain optimal maps to hunt Mephisto as well, insanely lucky.

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I am not sure whether it is wise to take advantage of that, though. Even with the opportunity to use the moat to keep the distance to him, Mephisto is still an act boss and poses a quite real threat to the hirelings. Wilma would be best suited for the task with the range advantage from the hydras. Wilma could probably use fire wall to good effect but would need to go closer to cast it at the right place and angle. It is in any case a matter to be decided later since none of them have magic finding gear ready.

When speaking of magic finding, the most dearly missed items are Lum runes. None have found any and they need two each, one for a memory staff and one for a Smoke armor. It is possible that the hellforge will yield one, or something else useful. With only casters my normal priorities are a bit off. I consider a Lem, Pul or Um a decisive find, in the sense that once found I am sure the character can beat hell. For the WWW the needs are somewhat different. Pul would be fun to try out the Enlightenment rune word, which actually has some defensive ability as well. Um would be cool for Wilhelmina so Vanji could have Crescent Moon. As for all the combat abilities that may open up, especially since Wilma has already found a Lem rune earlier, I see the witches needing to apply Prevent Monster Heal and slowing on dangerous bosses, and preferably from a range. That limits the applicability of Lem, Um and Pul runes for weapons and weapon damage but I wouldn't rule them out completely.

Spell damage is quite adequate so far, and the witches have decent resistances, mana and skill bonuses from their current equipment. The hirelings could use more damage reduction and especially the assistance of weaken curses from the mentioned Smoke armors.

The next step will probably be to complete Act IV. I am too eager to see what the hellforge drops to do anything else, and once there I'll probably want to get the dreadful meeting with Diablo over with. Against him no damage reduction in the world will make much difference for the iron wolves so there's little point in collecting Sol runes and such before.
 
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Maltatai

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16. Recurring Nightmare Progress
They all made it! Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina have all defeated nightmare Diablo without losing a single mercenary! This is a personal record in keeping iron wolves alive and with a little luck and much conscientious attention to detail they may very well survive until hell.

Diablo was quite scary as his title implies. I found it best to try and hide behind the eastern corner between lord de Seis wing and the infectors wing. By staying close enough to the corner the witches would lure Diablo to keep casting scary spells but with the wall in the way they did little and the witches could run out to cast a meteor or fire wall and then jump back behind the cover before any mercenary came to harm. Wilma did of course have it even easier as hydras allowed her to stay back behind her cover and attack from afar.

Diablo dropped the Deathbit exceptional throwing knives for Wilhelmina. They have some attack rating and she also found a charm of Anthrax. Sadly not a Castle Anthrax which would have been funnier for her. That may allow her to keep resistant enemies poisoned form afar, I don't know. I stashed the knives in any case. Apart from that nothing of note rewarded the shaken witches but nobody cares since the endless plundering and experience gains of Act V now lies ahead and both Wilma and Wanja have perfect maps to reach Mephisto.

The Hellforge was a mocking disappointment! What interesting rune did Wilma get if not...a Ko rune. It means cow in Swedish and was obviously intended to be not only useless but also an insult to her character.


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Wanja, then. A Pul rune, which would be great and unlock the interesting Enlightenment rune word, were it not for the fact that Wanja is using SCALE MAIL that can only have two sockets! The taunting. She could theoretically have stood a chance of discovering an exceptional or elite suit of scales but since this is Diablo II the game knows I want to find such an armor and consequently it will not drop for Wanja ever but many times for the other characters. And of course Wanja found a Ko rune earlier from a common monster...

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Fine, to the unbearably optimsitic Wanja is halfway through to a Heart of the Oak staff which would be the ultimate and I have found a Vex rune twice before if I recall correct, but just drop those silly ideas. Actually, if she found the unique long staff Serpent Lord it would be very interesting to upgrade it and socket with an Eth rune to steal back her mana from frozen enemies.

Lastly Wilhelmina would receive...ANOTHER Ko rune, and not only that but she had got one before as well. Hephasto, you do what the overgrown mosquitos of Act III do! Screw you!


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Now on to gather some levels or runes or magical items or anything else more fun that visiting that overly hyped tourist trap. I will have those Lum runes even if I have to cube them up from Dols and Hels!
 
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Maltatai

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17. Graduation Day
The safe has been breached! But alas, not only must professor Tape have hidden her foul plans and plots elsewhere, but some of the ice from the cold spells used to weaken the safe has melted and leaked into it and smeared the ink on some of the documents. The headline and logotype of one particularly curious paper is beyond recognition.


"Dear professor Tape,

Thank You for choosing ANTS to assist with the elimination of Your magical or supernatural causes of trouble. We have received the stipulated pre-payment and our staff will be deployed in approximately one months time as per Your request. We have no doubt that we will be able to make all Your magical troubles swiftly disappear.

Natalya"



A mysterious note indeed. Why would Theodora Tape hire ants?

The WWW have little time to debate and meditate over the subject for the term is soon ending and it's nothing less than graduation day! Hurry up! It's graduation day!

WWW:
The world is open!
So’s that door!
No more studying anymore!
No one to yell "you're eighty minutes late!"

For years we’ve roamed these empty halls
What's wrong with a little fire balls?
Finally they’re opening up the gates!

There’ll be actual real world people
It’ll be totally strange
But wow! Am I so ready for this change!

’Cause for the first time in forever
There’ll be magic, there’ll be light!
For the first time in forever
We’ll be dancing through the night
We'll plunder the snacks and the beverage
They're somewhere in that zone!
’Cause for the first time in forever
Schoolwork's left alone

I can’t wait to meet everyone!
But Wilma has likely met THE ONE

Tonight, imagine her plate and all
Fetchingly draped against the wall
The picture of sophisticated grace…not
She suddenly sees us standing there
An ambushing danger, how unfair
We're gonna throw some chocolate in her face!

But then we laugh and talk all evening
And be totally bizarre
Nothing like the life I’ve led so far!

For the first time in forever
There’ll be magic, there’ll be fun!
For the first time in forever
I am noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy
To dream I’d find romance
But for the first time in forever
Now I have my chance!

Professor Tape:
We let them in
Why didn't we see?
Be the bad girls
You always had to be
Conceal
Don’t feel
Put on a show…
Make one wrong move
And everyone will know

But it’s only for today

WWW:
It’s only one more day!

Professor Tape:
It’s agony to wait

WWW:
It’s agony to wait!

Professor Tape:
Tell the staff to open up the gate!

WWW:
The gate!!!
For the first time in forever

Professor Tape:
Don’t let them win, don’t let them see

WWW:
I’m getting what I’m dreaming of!

Professor Tape:
Be the bad girls you always have to be

WWW:
We'll bring magic to the world

Professor Tape:
Conceal

WWW:
Our chips are heating on the stove!

Professor Tape:
Conceal, don’t feel
Don’t let them know

WWW:
I know it all ends tomorrow
The last pranks must be today!
’Cause for the first time in forever
For the first time in forever
Nothing’s in our way!!!

The Sorceress Academy laugh and cheer as the terror of the three is finally over. The teachers and janitors not the least eager to celebrate the grand occasion. The WWW have passed in all their three fields but like most students their skills and talents are not evenly distributed. Wilma and Wanja both favour cold and fire spells, and to compete against one another in the casting of those, but are mediocre when it comes to lightning. Wilhelmina is at home with lightning spells and fire spells but has much left to learn about focusing cold. It should come as no surprise that the geeky Sky Trek witch appreciates thunder storms and meteors that fall from the sky.

The Nightmare of education under professor Theodora Tape is over.

The Hell of finding work in the corrupted job market of Sanctuary begins.
 
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Maltatai

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18. Nightmare Looting Evaluation
So, let's ramble and rant about the material progress in nightmare. Did the predictions prove true and the planning prove sound?

1000 life and 500 mana is, I still think, an attainable and preferable goal. Two of the witches has about that amount of mana, thanks to Frostburn gauntlets mostly, and it feels like a sufficient amount to wage war somewhat comfortably in early Hell at least. None of them has that much life which is a little disappointing although it would have required quite a lot out of their charms.

The WWW failed to easily obtain the expected Smoke armours and Memory staves because of a combination of abysmal luck with those runes and my own slightly compulsive collection of magic finding equipment. I failed to take into account how hard it would be to collect the fairly low level equipment that was the plan and overestimated the amount of staves that would drop. Magic finding and rune word focus is in the case of the WWW mutually exclusive since you want to find non-magical base items to put the runes in.

This would have been no big issue if unique staves had been as common than I expected but in the event none found an exceptional unique staff, or Serpent Lord which would have been sort of funny. At least Wilhelmina had a strike of phenomenal and much needed luck in finding the Spirit Shroud just after I had wasted the second socketing reward.

What I should have been doing is to focus completely on runes and gambling to fill in the rest, together with picking up crafting materials and such to add nice jewellery. Hel runes are so much more common than Io runes that those should have been collected and kept to work my way up to a Lum.

Playing through nightmare on one player setting most of the time was probably right, it would have been too slow and tense otherwise and thereby risk of losing one of the iron wolves which I want to avoid as long as possible. Undefeated throughout the game so far, Haphet, Narphet and Vanji have performed impressively for being such an underestimated class of mercenaries.

Amulets with skill levels have been much rarer than expected but crafted items have on the other hand been a welcome surprise.

Currently the WWW are equipped as follows.


Wilma
Arch-Angels Cedar Staff of Lower Resistance/Hel Wilmas Buriza-Do Kyanon
Lore Crown
Lionheart Gothic Plate

Hwanins Blessing Belt
Wilmas Frostburn
Loath Spur Battle Boots
Death Heart Amulet
Blood Master Ring
Shadow Knot Ring

Extra equipment
Smoke Field Plate
Amulet of Life Everlasting

Haphet
Jeweled (44 Cold Resistance, 55 Lightning resistance) Crystal Sword
SolRalSol Large Shield
Circlet of Life Everlasting
Treachery Gothic Plate

Strengths and weaknesses
While high on mana, Wilma is behind on skill levels but going with lower resistance as main curse will make up for that loss of damage if need be. She found a burning grand charm that her hydras liked. And of course there is that overgrown piece of artillery (a ballista indeed...) that takes up half her equipment. One shot will stop regeneration and then it is only a matter of time and timely teleports to get into position to win with even the undeveloped chain lightning. Her resistances could use some improvement and her amulet is a weak point in this regard that will hopefully be replaced sometime later before spectral hit gloam lightning starts flying.

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Haphet is the least protected against physical threats with only 34 PDR but if fade triggers he gains some damage reduction that evens it out, and of course a good margin of elemental resistance. Not that Wilma will let him tank conviction bosses any century soon.


Wanja
Memory Battle Staff/Hel Wanjas Riphook

Nadir Bone helm
Enlightenment Tigulated Mail

Plague Clasp Plated Belt
Wanjas Magefist
Cruel Trample Demonhide Boots
Prismatic Amulet of Regrowth
Viper Eye Ring
Dread Grasp Ring

Extra equipment
Hailstone Crook Quarterstaff (Lower Resistance)
Ocher Amulet of Grim Ward

Narphet
Jeweled (26 Fire resistance) Ginthers Rift Dimensional Blade
SolSol Mosers Blessed Circle

Lore Bone Helm
SolSolSolSol
Full Plate

Strengths and weaknesses
Resistant and offensively highly skilled, Wanja is lower on life and mana and severely restricted by her limited magical ammunition. Nadir and one of her rings are currently necessary to wear the armour and use Riphook but with a couple of levels she can use the Lore bone helm and another ring with a bit more mana or life. Possibly Wanja will be better off replacing Riphook with the rare staff to gain access to a curse and reserve her archery for the enemy elite. Her lightning is her weak point but thunder storm from the staff adds a little more and poison from the charms allow her to stop regeneration for a while, provided she can hit.

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Narphet is probably the best equipped mercenary with 49 PDR and 11 MDR together with a good level of resistances. That will serve him well as he accompanies Wanja on close range assaults to make the most of her limited mana and costly spells. If Wanja decides to grab the Lore bone helm Narphet will need new headgear, preferably something similar.


Wilhelmina
Memory Battle Staff/Spellsteel
Ort
Hailstone Circlet Circlet
The Spirit Shroud
Wilhelminas Nightsmoke
Frostburn

Amber Light Plated Boots of Acceleration
Havoc Clasp Amulet
Bahamuts Ring of Regeneration
Grim Eye Ring

Extra equipment

Nadir Circlet
Gnarled Staff of Lower Resistance
Black Barbed Club

Vanji
Jeweled (23 Cold Resistance, 26 Lightning Resistance, 9 Fire Resistance) Crystal Sword
SolRal Chromatic Bone Shield of Amicae
SolSolSol Artisans Mask of the Fox
SolSolSol Gothic Plate

Strengths and weaknesses
Chronically underestimated by the chronicler, Wilhelmina is undeserving of that sentiment with the highest life and mana and decent resistance, especially against the most dangerous lightning. She has access to the most extra tricks and the highest skill levels, and should be able to find something useful for every situation. The problem will rather be to use all those options effectively. With more evenly distributed skill points and access to decrepify and lower resistance, no barbaric weapon-wielding will be necessary to put monsters in their place.

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Vanjis equipment is, as the attentive reader will register, scandalously crude with only three runes in the plate and insufficient fire resistance from the sword. One more fire resistance jewel for the last free spot in the sword will free up a spot in the shield for another Sol and if Wilhelmina could find a plate with four sockets and some more Sols Vanji would gain an additional 14 PDR, a not insignificant increase. Still, at 63 PDR he is already ready to stand up to many monsters long enough for a meteor to fall on their heads, not least after said monster has felt the icy flame of decrepification creep upon it.

Every witch possess regeneration, lower resistance and a mercenary with heavy defensive gear. So far so good. They are better prepared than most of my characters have been at this point in the game. Wilmas lack of cloak of shadows is not yet a cause for concern but maybe it was a mistake to not make a Nadir crown for her too. Strictly speaking she will only need it against stairtraps as hydra sniping or glacial spike freezing ought to keep mobs away so long as she has some space to work with. Another possible option is to use the Smoke armour and weaken lurking enemies as a safety measure but that won't stop her from being mobbed and interrupted.

Onwards toward the looting of a better amulet and a nadir crown for Wilma, mana rings for Wanja and improved mercenary defenses for Wilhelmina.
 
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Maltatai

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19. The Rogue Camp
Working experience this, extra-curricular activities that, the employment market of Sanctuary does what the Kurast mosquitoes do, twice over! The only ones hired before their studies are complete and able to obtain that experience are the ones with corrupted personal contacts who would be hired due to them anyway. Screw all that. Maybe private enterprising is the way to go these days?

The WWW decide to consult some of the mind-numbingly boring posters with such advertisements.

"Bring me 8 quill rat quills and you shall be amply rewarded with 50 100 400 gold coins.

Quest Giver 1
Box 123
17554 n00bville
"

What kind of alms is that for a reward, and what a ridiculous quest as well! What sort of heroes in what sort of world would accept that errand girl task?

"Bring me 9 tainted tongues, 8 carvers ears, 4 wendigo pelts and 1 steel scarabs left front claw. In return, I shall grant you a magnificent reward of 340 560 780 gold

Quest Giver 2
Box 456
16566 pwnton
"

Sigh.

But finally on a tattered notice board the WWW find a small poster.

"Mercenary demon slayers and undead hunters needed. Overrun monastic order offers Letter of Magical Marque to anyone willing to help us. All loot except for order relic may be kept and sold for revenue by private contractors.

Please apply as soon as convenient as we may not be around to hire anyone otherwise.

The Order of the Sightless Eye

Rogue Camp
Eastern Caravan Road 102 C
Tamoe Lowlands
"

Letters of Magical Marque issued by a state not in control of the realm... Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina are only swayed by the ominous looking black holes that once were the inner contents of their gold purses. Gathering their belongings they set out for the rainy homelands of the rogue scouts.

The rogues are as good as their advertisement and the formalities are quickly dealt with, especially since the camp is assaulted by a band of quill rats at the same time. They are too unimaginative to go past the palisade fence, though, and Wilmas hydras eat them.

The chief concern of the rogues are the many foes in the nearby Den of Evil. The bad guys live there. If you did not catch that. If the name was, say, a bit too ambiguous or open to conflicting interpretations.

In the Blood Moor Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina have no particular troubles and can somewhat surprisingly conclude that their magical education can be put to entertaining and amusing use. The Den is marked by obnoxious graffiti obviously made by the uncivilised fallen ones.

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The cunning Iron Wolves quickly prove their superior tactical insight compared to wood-headed town guards or cabbage-brained barbarians. When a big, hairy hooligan monster raises its arms to smash them to a pulp, they run out of the way! The brilliance is dazzling, and the enemy is left burning up for nothing.

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With teleporting and ranged attacks, the sorceress is a rewarding employer to work for if she is responsible enough to care for her mercenary. For whatever personality flaws the WWW may have, they will not leave their iron wolves unattended like amateur first graders would. Frozen foes litter their path.

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The shuffling commander of the demonic and undead host, Corpsefire, is too slow and lazy to react in time to organize an effective defense. The Blood Moor has fallen and the WWW have suffered no casualties.
 

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20. The Cold Plains
The WWW have arrived to the less than invitingly named Cold Plains and after the early successes decided to split up to cover more ground effectively. It is up to Wilma to present the preliminary studies of the ecology and ethnography of the next region. The structured miscreants are taking turns to chair their operational meetings as it is very democratic and promotes the spirit of shared chaired responsibility. Also, the witches can only afford one chair at the moment.

"We are looking at the largest concentration of the fallen ones, bringing us to the first objective - the fiery high shaman Bishibosh. His camp is somewhere in the plains and will include other shamans and large numbers of common fallen. Freezing them is of primary importance and cold damage is generally preferable. For that reason Wanja and Narphet will destroy those shamans.

"The plains are otherwise populated by large numbers of corrupted rogues as well as the brutish wendigos, very resilient to cold. The rogues pose the greater problem due to their speed and thereby greater damage as well as a group since more of them will close in to hit us in less time. Here, have some more bread while it is still warm. We need to buy more chocolate too. Our supplies are critically low and Gheeds prices are extortionate. He won't even show what is in the box, so you have to buy three or four to make sure you do not end up with coffee or tea or some other useless junk. It's all quite the gamble."

"Our two next objectives is eliminating Coldcrow and Blood Raven."

"..."

"What is this, the great bird watchers plains?"

"We should hit the Darkwinged Duck too!"

"And Uncle Scrooge, that ought to pay off well!"

Somewhere along this path of the discussion it took a long detour. Almost to the point of degenerating into the corrupted insults of the featherbrained corrupted rogues - twittering. As wise and experienced travellers like Warriv could attest, only idiots like Gheed think that twitterers are bold.

Thus briefed and prepared, Wilma sets out to invade the caves, where hydras thrive. Dragons are at home in caves as everyone knows. More to the point, hydras are excellent scouts and the confined spaces ensure that there isn't much risk of being flanked by an overlooked enemy pack as in the vast wilderness areas outside. There are also several corners and obstacles that can be used to stay safe while your adorable pets eat. Haphet is practically on fire on occasion but sometimes he just fades from sight.

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The second level of the cave is a narrow and restricted path, quite dangerous if you should be swarmed by lots of cold immune enemies or even one mean boss or champion pack. In this case the swarmed hero could perhaps teleport south or east if desperate but it would be preferable not to, and is not needed.

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Coldcrow herself is eaten somewhere around a corner.

Wanjas assignment is over before it has truly begun, for Bishibosh has made his camp right next to the waypoint, no doubt in the hope of taking cheap snipes at heroes emergingf from the transportation network hub unaware of his impending ambush. He is therefore quite the camper and very unsportsmanlike, meaning of course unsportsdevillike. Wanjas frozen orbs put his minons in their place, which is the ground, and contribute to the cold plains remaining the cold plains.

So far Wanjas frozen orb has proven to be much superior to Wilmas blizzard since it is far more reliable to hit enemies with. Blizzards damage potential against crowds is still notable but Wilmas dependency on it even for single enemies, except the odd fallen she can finish with her crossbow, brings forth the worst of the annoying inability to hit a specific enemy when you need it.


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Wilhelmina is somewhat peculiarly assigned Blood Raven. While her meteors crush the undead hordes the hostess herself is not what you would call a stationary target. Luckily Wilhelmina is familiar with the Sky Trek episode where Mister Spork must fend off the rabid vendors of the Vendengii and their market tents sprouting like weeds all over the ground. The heroes sublime and graceful solution to rid them of the assailants is called carpet bombing, which Wilhelmina finds to be quite useful in order to deal with Blood Raven. As a complement to just standing still and letting the thunder storm strike her down, that is.

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Most of the assembled army lairs underground. It is well that the witches has picked the right people for the assignment of clearing out the crypts.

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The Cold Plains has fallen to the WWW. Wilma has found a four socket full plate that may be useful for Haphet if she can find Sol runes for it. He already has good resistances without fade and 28 PDR will be more useful than 15 % DR most of the times. On the other hand it is a unique look to have fade and if Wilma could make use of the venom in some way, most likely by gaining strength enough to shoot with her crossbow even without the Lionheart armour, it is very useful to have a servant carrying the switch armour for you. Haphet does not need to be reminded of the similarity with a caddie carrying the golf clubs or a piccolo carrying the bags.

Wilhelmina has found a jewellers ancient armour of the squid for sale from Gheed, an excellent upgrade for Vanji if she can find four Sol runes. She also found a tiara that could make a stylish hat if imbued by a skilled smith. Perhaps there is someone nearby that can be persuaded to give it a try.
 

Maltatai

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That is one ninja commenting, I had not even finished the post! Don''t miss the pictures now due to being too quick a reader, that would be seriously ungrateful for you.
 
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21. The Search for Cain
"It is clear that we are facing an evil difficult to comprehend, let alone combat..."

No, actually it isn't. Demons ravage the world in service of the burning hells and the undead are their allies or minions. This is all a fairly straightforward military conquest. We witches eliminate the enemy and loot their belongings to sell for a decent profit. Couldn't be simpler. Magic is might and might is right.

Or is it that magic is right and might, and hence might is right? Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina debate the subject hotly as they walk towards the Stony Field.

The Stony Field is an easier area to battle in due to the simple reason that the unfreezable enemies are slower than their preceding colleagues. They are thereby easier to outmanoeuvre and hurt before they overwhelm the iron wolves and forces the witch to teleport them away.

The passage is far more treacherous, for the confined spaces and quick corrupted rogues could easily trap an unlucky sorceress near the entrance. She would then need to retreat or teleport past them blindly which is an unpleasant prospect. The WWW are in luck however and can clear a space before engaging unfreezable enemies.

Wanja may lack the sniping expertise of Wilma but fire walls are not only useful to keep intruders away from the witches personal information, they are also effective for attacks around corners. The dreadful damage capacity of the spell means that even a few seconds hits are enough to silence most opposition.


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The Underground Passage has a second level where demons nest and store some looted treasure. Wanja faces especially rabid and ill-tempered carver captains that practically boil over in their frenzy and just explode with ire when her spells cut their guards and themselves apart.

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On the other side is the Dark Wood, more risky than the Stony Field due to faster enemies and also the obscuring terrain. Ruins and old walls left by the woodcutters speak of a more cultivated age but currently the loudest voice is the roaring Treehead Woodfist, proud of his assignment of guarding a murky old tree. Or maybe just mad in general about trespassing witches. Once stirred from his fascinating hobbies near the tree, he chases Wanja to an old wall and must endure the brunt of WWW insults from across.

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Since Wanja has been blessed by a skill shrine her taunting is even more corrosive than usual.

"Larvae-eaten headmistress-rubbing old pile of herring remains", that is it! Treehead Woodfist sends his currently available subordinate brute around to catch the insufferable girl.


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After setting the lackey on fire, Wanja remains in place and continues her irreverent behaviour.

"Aardvark-romancing hair-knitter of a guano brain!

Treehead decides to take the matter in his own woody fists and charges around furiously. Wanja smiles under her horrifying bone helm and simply teleports to the other side of the wall, leaving a fuming brute squadron leader on the opposite side yet again.


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"Hedgewizard Hamfist is so thickheaded his left ear doesn't hear last mornings news from his right ear until tomorrow..."

Treehead Woodfist storms around yet again and runs straight into Wanjas firewall only to catch a glimpse of her teleporting away again. Furiously stampeding ahead he encounters yet more fire walls and so ends the most brutish of the brutes.

If any monster of the wood was left alive they could attest that the WWW waz here...unfortunately no one is left to admire their subtle ways.


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With the combinations in hand the Cairn Stones can be activated.

Haphet is testing some of his rather theoretical concepts of camouflage while standing practically enveloped by a hydra. Or perhaps the hydra just wanted a hug.


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Wilma takes point with eager hydras and is met by a cold and fire immune shaman. Her underdeveloped chain lightning would have trouble overcoming the regeneration of such an elusive and mobile foe were it not for the fact that she has all the time in the world after one hit with her crossbow...no hurries on Cains account or anything.

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Tristrams mighty goat men and undead are no match for the witches underhanded tactics. The many ruined buildings and walls make sniping the witches difficult for the skeletal archers.

Deckard Cain is the only one who hurries on his own account, not even bothering to join the party to fight the forces of evil so more people can travel with his town portal.


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Wilhelmina encounters a persistent smith that seems to insist on taking a closer look at their equipment and offer premium items from the good old days, classy wares instead of the everyday. Wilhelmina tells him rather coldly to get stuffed and return to his roots on his own, presumably found a couple of metres below the ground. Spellsteel is already perfect, thank you very much!

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22. A Vile Hole
The Black Marsh, unjustly shunned by picky travellers. Just imagine the beautiful scenery of the serene river banks the hurried wayfarers miss as they think of nothing but the next caravan to take them away from the uncouth neighbourhood.

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Or the classical architecture, the height of new-old gothic spookery. Wilhelmina made that term up, it does not exist. If anyone wondered. The tower cellars promise numerous stair traps, ambushes and confined spaces and the WWW unanimously decide to leave its sickly smells for later.

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The areas that Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmina have crossed so far have been curiously free of corrupted rogue, the most formidable foes in the region. In the Black Marsh that changes. Vile archers patrol the place and guard the Hole, the local tunnels. They are not immune to cold, but to fire which is a main damage source of the WWW, which proves troublesome enough for all but Wanja since blizzards and glacial spikes take their time to work. The former is inaccurate and the latter requires the caster to remain in a spot to cast it. To add to their unpleasantness, vile archers fire poisoned arrows that all witches and their hirelings are sensitive to.

Wilhelmina encounters an especially dangerous pack as she leads the way down the Hole. The less than stylishly named Sharp Froth the Grim hits hard, very hard, and Vanjis health descends into the yellow once or twice from just a shot or two. Even with decrepification from Spellsteel, tanking the archer captain is out of the question and spectral hit makes her tedious to wear down.


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Wanja for her part encounters not such an incarnation of danger, but one of obnoxiousness. Dire Touch the carver captain, immune to her main attacks and highly resistant to her feeble lightning. He curses his enemies by shouting his dreadful battle cry, or rather motto or slogan; "Can't touch it, can't touch me, AHA!". Obviously a tedious and repetitive acoustic disturbance.

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Wanja may not have much luck with her lower resistance cursing but the WWW are not without aces up their sleeves...or stashes. Riphook puts the little marauder in his place, which happen to be on a cliffside where he is trapped by Wanjas timely teleporting to the other side. Open wounds, slowing and poisoning is enough to help the lightning chew through that little rascal.

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Cliffs are the epitome of picturesque natural environmental beauty, at least in the opinion of the WWW. The opinion of others is rarely heard. They are obviously frozen in reverent awe of the scenery.

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Wanja is the only witch to deal easily with the vile archers. Frozen orbs hit everything in their patch and therefore Wanja never needs to stop to take aim and can conduct a fighting retreat so the archers never stop their pursuit to shoot at her. They act a bit like immature football players where everyone chase after the ball and congregates in one corner instead of spreading out to assess where they can actually be useful.

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Wanjas most dangerous enemies are brutish brute squads. One of the nastiest guard the second level of the Hole and she is forced to take extra care to keep Narphet away from its boss. The fire walls are rather well suited for corners like this part of the tunnels but still requires precision to aim properly.

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Wilma has had a boring journey throughout the chapter and frequently found carver crowds running in and out of her blizzards radius. Chain lightning is almost starting to look like a working complement while the snow rains down, just a few skill levels more to it...

The Tamoe Highlands await the WWW and their iron wolves, all still alive.
 
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Maltatai

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In a way, it's a shame that the areas are so square-like. I undertsand the logic behind it and all but the many superbly made terrain details don't get the attention they might deserve as they are sort of shuffled to the side to make room for the monster hunting arena in the middle. The dark wood could have used some dense obstacles shaped like hills with trees on, it would have added much to the feeling of an actual forest, for example.

I will have to make a walkthrough story where the characters are artistic archeologists who spend their travels across Sanctuary pointing out all the overlooked 2D art that is being overshadowed by the fast-paced combat...

I maintain with conviction that Riphook is the best bow in the game - long live it!
 
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23. A Dark Pit
The hills grow higher and the wilderness wilder. The Tamoe Highlands await the three and the conquered Rogue monastery will soon be in their sights. Charsi has issued a bounty on the foul demon smith that has taken up residence in her former quarters and stolen her enchanted hammer. Wilma takes the lead while Wanja and Wilhelmina busy themselves with something of doubtlessly paramount importance.

The Black Marsh continues to be a vile place of vile people. It has now also become a place of vile weather, such as sudden snow in autumn.


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In the Tamoe Highlands dark stalkers and spearwomen roam the land. They are dark blue, though how much of it that stems from demonic corruption and how much from the unwholesome practise of residing in mountainous lands without anything but tattered rags to wear in open for debate.

Frostbitten or not, dark stalkers are no joke when they are led by enchanted captains.


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Wilma is arguably the worst trained to deal with such an adversary. Her chain lightning is slow, costly, underdeveloped and specialised for groups of enemies. She would probably have been quite concerned about that had she not spent the time practising archery instead of lightning spells. With the belt of Hwanin, an unassuming item, one shot is enough to make even the most resistant enemy's demise a matter of time and mana.

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Wilma is a consummate sniper, fighting enemies at best from as far away as possible. The concept works and works quite well in some situations, but she fights over huge distances to be safe which has the drawback of requiring huge distances. If Wilma is pursued by a fast enemy her best option is to retreat to some sort of obstacle, no matter how far away really. Teleport makes a joke of even the most arduous distances and the opportunity to not only defeat but trick the enemy can hardly be turned down by any self-respecting wicked witch.

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The pit lies unexplored, and that can not be allowed. So down it is into the dark.

Tight passages and confined spaces like caves and tunnels can be a trap for any mage and all depends on securing an area where the sorceress can teleport around and cast spells from a distance. Wilma sends her hydras ahead to scout. It looks like they have picked up something.


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After a tense battle with scattered devilkin and a bone warrior captain Wilma holds the entrance. No more enemies are coming at her and there is enough space to teleport around to evade capture. Victory in the battle for the first level is hers then and there.

The pit holds scary archers and fast close quarter rogues that present a very real danger but the outcome is predetermined barring an outright mistake from the witch.


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The second levels of such caves could often be tight and excellent spots for a trap, or so it is said that it is said among experienced adventurers. Devilkin appears next to the entrance, costing valuable effort since Wilma lacks a reliable means of quickly killing single fire immune monsters.

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The devilkin are under the command of the local captain Soul Eater - dual immune, resistant to crossbow bolts and hitting hard. He corners Wilma and forces her to teleport into partially unknown areas to the east of the entrance where other devilkin comes at her. Wilma has to stay away from Soul Eater while she waits for blizzards to hit the common devilkin and most importantly their shamans, in order to clear a space where she can fight the captain without being interrupted.

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Eventually Wilma and Haphet can teleport east and west across the narrow upper path of the cave that makes up the second level of the pit and Wilma's chain lightning can eat through him in time after he has lost his regeneration ability.

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The pit has one last scare. Mind Eye the Dead, a walking trap of sorcery and tougher than most for an elemental spellcaster to damage. You would not want to be near when this one falls apart. Wilma casts chain lightning and shoots at him. The first issomewhat reliable damage, though still with the lightning's unpredictable wide damage range, but requires her to remain in place for a long time casting it. Shooting with her crossbow is unreliable but very quickly done and lets her teleport away before coming into the dangerous area of the frost nova range. She and Haphet moves across most of the huge hall that is the second level and at last the pit is conquered and the WWW can move forward.

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Only a complete idiot would want to set his or hers foot here a second time. Running into pits is certainly a pastime for those of a feeble mind.
 
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Maltatai

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24. A Holy Hammer
The mere appearance of the holier-than-thou habitat is enough to make the WWW slightly nauseous. Prim prayers and condescending commandments are practically saturating the place. Black rogues, probably some sort of former nuns in dull garments, litter the place and take out their frustration on any newcomer. Or at least attempt to. They must be suffering from a lack of better things to do, or perhaps a lack of unicorns to play with. Those would be better to search for in another potential multiverse Sanctuary where things are twisted to whimsy and unworthy ways.

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The Outer Cloister offers amusing opportunities to trap enemies behind stone bars and other funny games. Wilhelmina makes a mental note to lead the most pompous enemies to the outside to trap them in a corner in humiliating ways.

The insides of the monastery holds more dissatisfied nuns and skeletons of priests and dark one choir boys. Some goats inhabit the alcoves as well. Some of them are quite volatile.

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Some are just dry and stiff old skeletons from someone's closet. Embarrassing, as skeletons from cupboards tend to be.

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Wilhelmina does however soon after encounter serious trouble. Green auras of faulty environmental policies shine ahead. The corridors with doors in the middle of the wall are excellent ambush spots and with a fearsome aura like that the WWW would be wiser to find another path.

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Aura...make that auras.

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None the less, Wilhelmina manages to attract minions and managers alike. The desecration of the monastery can continue.

The death clan goats are not immune to anything but they are resistant and tough, taking some time to pick apart, which is something of an issue considering their speed and skill at arms. Freezing them is definitely not to be neglected. The dark ones are a mere nuisance for all but Wilma, who has only the costly and inaccurate blizzards or likewise chain lightning to deal effectively with them. Bone archers are the more dangerous to the WWW than their mage counterparts, due to their faster and less visible projectiles. Against their iron wolves, archers are a joke unless backed by serious enchantments from a captain.

Interesting as comparative necrodemonological studies are, the witches do after all have a more prioritized mission. Capitalistic overlords are enacting hostile takeovers of innocent little smiths weapons industries and Wilma, Wanja and Wilhelmin are the rare item stock market sharks of choice to orchestrate a hostile retrieval and payback. After confusing his subordinate secretaries and useless exchange brokers with their erratic movements and investment advice shouted across the halls, Wilhelmina finally lures the Smith to the corner of the Outer Cloister in a smooth display of sorcerous strategical thinking.

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The merchants assets are seized and the hydras eat the last stock broker, as fanatical and intolerant to new ideas as any prim priestess of the most orthodox Skatsim interpretations.

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Embarrassingly enough Wanja accidentally teleported next to the infuriated Chief Executive Overlord instead of casting a frozen orb but took no hit. Narphet was hit and they were cursed, but not seriously harmed. Wanja did in the end have the last laugh as she managed to lure the Smith to the stairs down to his vaults or something similar, and lock him out. Unbearable reverse trade union tactics worthy of the United Mercenary Troops (UMT), a lockout of the corporate management!

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Now that Charsi has reasserted herself in the role of domineering market force the WWW will have to realize what powers they have unleashed. There is effectively no competition in the heroic smithing business. Gheeds motley collections do not suffice to establish a niche of the market, which has degenerated into...it is almost too hideous to speak the word... Let it be known, however, that not even witches magics are enough to free them from the sad state of existence any time soon, but they will be locked in a meaningless struggle across the board for a long time simply by the aura of capitalistic influence emitted by the positively glowing Charsi, who is certainly both glowing and positive when she's in the mood. With nobody else left in the market, the helpless customers can now look forward to naught but to roll the dices and hope they win a crossword contest in time to afford lodgings in the red Burial Grounds Hotel.
 
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