Arena, Part VIII: Defanging the Lair

This post is delayed by over a day, but I return with good news: I bested Fang Lair and recovered the first piece of the Staff of Chaos! Only seven more to go…Sigh. But I’ve already made some progress toward the second piece, as well, so it’s been a good week of Arena game time.

I ended last week’s post at the entrance to Fang Lair.

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This week, I pushed hard into exploring its depths.

Fang Lair proved to be labyrinthine but not overly challenging. I quickly reached Level 9 in the dungeon, which seemed to be in a safe range for tackling it. I still needed to rely on health potions and healing spells in many combat encounters, but I’ve fallen into a system and am better at juggling potions and spells. I’ve even managed to fight ghouls in face-to-face melee combat and prevail.

This challenging-but-not-frustrating level of combat really rewards continued play. I’m continuing to have fun with the game. The biggest challenge of this dungeon was exploring it; the corridors are dark, narrow, and winding, with plenty of side passages and dead ends and sudden openings into great empty chambers of little significance. Additionally, mine shafts crisscross between and below chambers, providing potential shortcuts through a maze of incredibly dark and backtracking tunnels.

I kept getting lost, and sometimes my efforts to note a dead end or explored passage just caused more confusion for me. My first big push through Fang Lair revealed a fascinating temple, which derailed a lot of my efforts. I assumed it had to be significant to the plot–that’s how games are built, right?

No. This is Arena. The temple and everything about it are completely irrelevant to the quest and story. Boy! Now that’s some powerful environmental storytelling and world-building. An ancient temple devoted to some sort of bloodthirsty rat-deity, occupied now only by spiders and ghouls…It’s a fascinating enigma that has no bearing on your own journey.

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I had such a hard time believing that the temple could just be there, serving no narrative function, that I consulted a quest walk-through online (this time courtesy of The Elder Scrolls Wiki).

I did not memorize the route to my needed destination, though, so I quickly found myself lost again. I even found a hidden treasure room lined with molten walls well before I figured out where the quest objective was.

My inventory was filled up. I dropped some loot. My inventory filled again. I made the tactical choice to withdraw, heading to the nearby town of Belkarth Guard to rest, resupply, and inventory-purge.

My trip here was relatively uneventful, except for a tasteless and bizarre snake charmer NPC and the presence of snowfall.

The snow was cool (pun retroactively intended), and people donned cold-weather gear with cloaks and fur-lined garments. The townfolk were Redguards–this was still Hammerfell–but it definitely had a distinctive far-northern character that, I would discover by the end of this adventure, was decidedly more Nordic than Redguard.

After my trip to town, I returned to Fang Lair. This trip was considerably shorter because I had explored basically every area but the small portion where I would discover the key to the piece of the Staff of Chaos–a literal key.

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I broke into a few of the cells I could crack, looting some treasure and killing some spiders. I also broke into a cell holding a bronze key or something similar. I don’t think I ever realized what that one was for. The riddle to get into the cell with the gold key needed to open the door to get to the other chamber with the staff piece was easy enough to solve. You might be able to work it out really easily, or you might be familiar with it already, but I had to work it out in a handy pocket notebook I had nearby.

The chamber beyond was fairly straightforward, leading to a bunker on an island surrounded by lava.

The bunker was sealed with another riddle.

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Somehow, I had not only seen the riddle answer when I saw the walk-through earlier, but that particular answer stuck with me. Read on with the knowledge that I’ll discuss that riddle answer and the conclusion of this dungeon.

 

 

 

 

 

So the answer was “gauntlet.” My natural assumption would have been “mittens” or “gloves.” “Gauntlet” certainly works for the setting, but it’s not where my mind would have gone to. Since I remembered this particular riddle answer, I just entered that. I don’t know if it would have allowed alternates, or how strict it would be about spelling.

I was not prepared for what lay behind the door, though. FWOOM, fireball spell, and I was dead even as I saved a screenshot:

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Because I have no sense at all, I loaded and repeated the same process. This time, I did not instantly die:

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But I was facing two hellhounds. I managed to use enough potions to heal and get some fire resistance (I’ve been stocking just about any kind of status restoration or resistance potion that’s commonly available, and I had one resist shock, one resist cold, and one resist fire potion in my inventory when I opened that door).

I also saved. It was a good thing. The hellhounds managed to kill me a few times before I finally won through hellhound friendly fire, my own cold spells, and a last-minute melee charge. (For the record, throughout Fang Lair the hellhounds were my only serious opponents–one ghoul got the better of me when I was climbing out of a mine shaft, and I once blew myself up with a close-proximity fireball I cast, but I was able to keep surviving otherwise).

With the hellhounds vanquished, I entered the bunker and claimed my prize.

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On my way out, I rested in a mine shaft, knowing I was safe from any spawning monsters there. I was greeted by a dream vision–this time, though, it wasn’t Ria Silmane.

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I get the impression that higher-level enemies were probably spawned in my area with that. Well, I just ignored it. I went further through the twisting mine shaft and came out several rooms away, then beat a hasty retreat to the exit.

I returned to Belkarth Guard, and at this point I was apprehended by several thugs. One did manage to take me down, but thankfully I had saved upon my return to town. There was actually an interesting death text from Tharn, taunting me, but I clicked through too quickly out of habit and didn’t get any screenshots.

I repeated the process of resting, resupplying, and purging. When I rested in town, I had another message from Ria:

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This message is a bit confusing, because Tharn actually did now have interest in me and was quite aware of my survival and activity. I suppose Aizen didn’t really tell Ria what happened, or else Tharn’s threat still does not seem that serious since there isn’t an entire army after my Dark Elf avatar.

I thought Fang Lair was labyrinthine, but this next dungeon is actually called Labyrinthian, so I do suspect it will live up to its reputation as a “great maze.”

Since I knew that this maze was somewhere to the north, near a “Fortress of Ice,” I was easily able to infer that Skyrim should be my next destination. I was already near the border, so I headed north and got my first taste of Nord culture in Falkreath.

Asking about Labyrinthian in Falkreath revealed that there were rumors about the place coming from the city of Winterhold, which was to the far north. Off I went.

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In Winterhold, asking around quickly led me to the Mages Guild. The Mage tending shop there filled me in on a recent raid and offered me a trade: recovery of an artifact for the location of Labyrinthian.

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A pattern has made itself quite clear. Get a vision telling you of the region containing your next objective. Go to that region. Ask about the specific quest location. Follow rumors to quest-giver. Recover an artifact so that quest-giver can interpret Elder Scrolls to get you a dungeon location. Go to dungeon and recover quest piece. Wait for next vision.

I’m okay with that pattern, though doing it eight times seems a bit much.

Next week will start my adventure into the Fortress of Ice.

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It’s also Gen Con week, though, so I might not make it very far.

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