Level 36: "You are unsure about this place"
First, detecting evil. A mature green dragon sleeps just out of sight in the very room where Marash has descended. To the south, a dark elven druid. North, at least ten stone trolls and further north a mummified human.
All of these she has faced before. The greatest threat is clearly the nearest, the green dragon, the only of the nearby evil Marash has disengaged from rather than fight to the death. Could it be the same dragon? Marash is suddenly acutely aware she has no resistance to poison.
Protection from evil, blessing herself. One step forward, the dragon in sight. Still asleep. Immediately Marash turns and leaves the room. She passes one of those weird electric blue ants on the way. The druid confronts her as she makes her escape.
Marash takes one step toward him, letting him get a single hit on her. The other of the druid's strikes is turned aside by her protection from evil. This time the druid is much tougher to take down, healing himself, confusing Marash, but fortunately forgetting to do much of either.
She takes care of a sudden air elemental, then walks a wide arc north around the green dragon. Preparing to head back west, Marash caasts detect evil just as a non-evil basilisk comes into view (meanwhile there is a non-sleeping mature gold dragon out there).
Marash blesses herself. She learns the basilisk is faster than her and breathes poison. Enough to hurt her badly. She takes it on with her whip and soon realises this fight is not going in her favour.
Marash turns her rod of drain life against the basilisk, persuading it to flee. She launches a bolt of acid from her gauntlets at its back. The basilisk turns and fills the air with poison, advancing on her again. Marash is unsure if she can survive another close encounter with the beast. Lightning and fire and finally down it goes.
The basilisk was carrying a book of magic spells, useless to her, but the true prize is her survival. Marash's first action is to pray the poison out of her system, her second to call upon the Phial of Galadriel to illuminate the room and hopefully any remaining threats. There are none she can recognise in the immediate vicinity. So her next action is to rest.
Healed up, Marash crosses the lit room to inspect an aquamarine ring laying on the floor. At first she puts it on, before remembering she has staves of identification to use more wisely. As she puts it away she finds herself suddenly terribly afraid.
Must be the dragon, casting a spell on her. Marash flees for the corridor by which she entered, hoping to narrow her exposure.
Protection from evil, bless. An ill-advised ducking back out and finding the dragon almost atop her.
The first round is uninspiring, each taking a minor chunk off the other. Bad bargain for Marash, so she brings out the rod of drain life. That puts things much more in her favour. Lightning, fire and acid to round it out and... meanwhile the dragon's carved her up into a similar state of damage.
Will she have to flee? Marash experiments with an orb of draining and finally sets the gold dragon on the run. Now the dragon is near-dead and fleeing, Marash finishes it off with a second orb. This is not an environment for showing mercy to one's foes. Particularly those so fearsome as a dragon.
Nothing the gold dragon left behind is useful to her. But she does realise that aquamarine ring grants resistance to poison. This is a dilemma. Protection against poisonous attacks could easily save her life, but what to give up for it? The ring which grants her strength or the ring which enhances her constitution? Tempting to keep both and swap one for poison resistance as needed, but what if she needs it before she realises or can act?
Well. If the goal is to stay alive as long as possible, then strength can go... except now she lacks the strength to carry her kit unburdened, and her ability to damage her foes is drastically reduced. So back on goes the ring. Perhaps if she stowed that useless heavy crossbow she's been carrying around, it would work. But Angband is not a safe place to be slowed by one's burden.
On the floor she finds an awl-pike which her staff identifies as enchanted to slay undead. Not useful to her. A mummified human attacks her, giving no trouble, and when destroyed leaves behind an axe. This turns out to be an Axe of Westernesse.
At first, it looks tempting, until she compares more closely. Sure, she could hurt orcs, giants and trolls more with it, but everything else would suffer less. She'd lose her stealth, and her resistance to cold and electricity. No deal; Marash leaves it on the floor.
In her wandering, Marash confusedly completes the loop she had been travelling in and nearly stumbles back to the green dragon she has been avoiding since she arrived here. Hastily, she backs away and puts a closed door between them again. It appears to still be sleeping, which is to her benefit.
Wandering west instead, detect evil reveals a gang of trolls just to the south, right on the other side of the corridor wall. Further west, in her direction of travel, is a baby multi-hued dragon. Something she feels more comfortable tackling. Farther along lurks a master vampire and another gang of cave trolls.
Two strangely moving puddles in the room ahead of her, black oozes. None have have touched her yet and she means to keep it that way. Marash activates one of her staves and for a moment thinks these puddle-creatures look drowsy, but it does not work. She sighs and boils one away with a bolt of fire from her rod.
On the second, she turns her rod of lightning, but fails to activate it properly. The ooze approaches. A second attempt sends electricity crackling across its surface. Not quite enough; the viscous fluid rears up beside her, but Marash shatters its cohesion with her whip before it can strike.
They leave behind some silver and a useless teleportation amulet. Marash continues on, pauses at a door, detects evil. Sure enough, the baby multi-hued dragon lies directly on the other side of the door. Beyond it, she senses not only the vampire and cave trolls from earlier, but also a banshee, a werewolf, a dark elven mage and a batch of gnomish mages. Fortunately all asleep, these creatures of greater or lesser danger.
After some thought Marash decides to head back and confront the nearby stone trolls. Those are, if memory serves, not so tough. More importantly, she believes they have an unimpeded path to her. She would rather not be attacked from behind by nearly a dozen trolls.
An unwise decision. Heading back east, Marash hears the door behind her open. Soon after a cloud of poison washes over her, seeping into her system. The baby dragon, it must be. Quickly she scoots around the nearest corner, praying her defences into place.
The poison fades before the dragon arrives. The battle is not long, Marash hardly touched thanks to her wards against evil. She collects her prize in garnets from the dragon's corpse, then learns her surmise about trollish accessibility was incorrect. No path that way from here to there, she should have girded herself and gone directly after the baby dragon.
What's done is done. Marash continues west.
At the very moment her protection from evil fades, the banshee appears beside Marash. Immediately she prays for its restoration, and not a moment too soon, as the banshee is repelled from attacking her. Marash blesses herself and... the banshee teleports away.
Marash continues exploring the chamber she is in, watchful for the banshee's return. But what she finds is a nest of black oozes just to the north. Their density worries her. Are they multiplying while she isn't looking?
The last, the fifth, leaves behind a main gauche when dissipated. Expending an identification charge over it reveals the blade to be a defender too. Almost just like her whip, but slightly better at striking back. When she hefts the main gauche she feels uncomfortable with it in her hand; there is no difference in her capabilities she can discern however, so she resolves to keep and use it.
Her trusty whip, Marash would rather not leave to rot on the floors of Angband. She abandons her staves of monster-slowing instead, with regret. Probably she never would have used up their charges anyway.
Marash finishes her rounds of this large, oddly-shaped chamber, and settles beside a rubble pile blocking one exit to check again the local disposition of evil.
It seems the Enemy has sent reinforcements. There was no sign of Bolg, son of Azog before. He is escorted by nine black orcs, with a further nineteen uruks backing him up. And just nearby, a full dozen forest trolls. Perhaps it is recklessness, but she feels she can take them. More importantly, she feels she can escape if the confrontation turns nasty.
Another closed door, another pause to check for evil. At least one gnome approaches, awake. The flood of orcs is held back by an unwitting troll skeleton. And the region is being visited by Mîm, Betrayer of Turin. Many unknowns in the region. Perhaps she will be best off waiting here, letting them come to her. At least her path of retreat looks relatively clear.
Marash protects herself from evil. She waits. And waits. And eventually tries the door, discovering it to have been locked until she picked it open. One gnome mage was waiting for her there; she fells it easily.
Another quick check for evil shows nearly all the nearby creatures still at their positions. So perhaps she will indeed have to go after them.
Marash girds herself, steps out into the corrider where the gnomish magi have been sleeping. The banshee appears before her; she strikes it down. Its dissipating form leaves behind a potion of intelligence restoration, valuable for one such as Marash whose intelligence has been drained to almost nothing. Her rod of fire bolts does in another gnome, just as one of the others summons reinforcements.
Khîm, Son of Mîm. Father and son here to hunt her down.
Marash takes a deep breath. She prays that the evil around her be dispelled. The Gnome mage she can see is dissolved before her eyes; she hears the sound of others meeting a similar fate in the darkness of the corridor before her. Khîm, as she realises too late, is not evil and strides toward her unaffected.
She sends an orb of draining his way but he shrugs it off. So she follows up by reading a scroll of Phase Door. That gets her trapped between Khîm and the skeletal troll that in its sleep holds back a horde of orcs from assailing her.
A second scroll lands her in the corridor from which she approached, so she scurries back behind her resting door, closes it behind her and attempts to rest. No good. Khîm opens the door soon after. Marash speaks the prayer of Portal.
Relief. She has landed in an unexplored, apparently quiet part of the area. Nearby evil: an invisible stalker, also a single Gnome mage and Uruk at the far range of her awareness. The stalker could be dangerous. She knows it is normally found about this deep, which means it is probably very dangerous.
The room she is in turns out to be large, but safe for her to recover in. As she leaves north, the uruk approaches. Although she no longer regards those dangerous, she girds herself against surprise that may be lurking behind it.
The uruk is struck down easily. Another, behind it, is sent fleeing when Marash's bolt of fire takes it to near death. Finally, the remaining gnome mage shows itself, leaving a useless merely magical lead-filled mace with its corpse.
Denizens of the depths begin to filter in from the north. A black orc, then the skeletal troll. It must have woken and now, not blocking the flow of orcs hunting Marash, they come for her. Worse, Khîm has found her again.
She heads south, pursued by the skeletal troll and Khîm behind. Her path leads her to the invisible stalker, so fast it can pursue and fight her as she runs. A single orb of draining takes care of it, and hurts the skeletal troll so badly her next blow destroys it. Leaving her now with Khîm again.
Another scroll of phase door takes her to the far corner of the chamber in which they are now fighting. A prayer illuminates it. Khîm meanwhile attempts to slow her with his magic. Behind him she can see a black orc, harbinger of the potential flood to come.
From her rod of fire bolts Marash learns Khîm is fire-resistant. He shrugs off a lightning bolt, doesn't seem to notice a dose of life drain, and although damaged by acid from her gauntlets, is not hurt enough. Nor can her staff put him to sleep, although the two orcs at the back of the room drop off immediately.
She tries her wands of wonder. A few doses hurt him, one heals him, and when one of his strikes disenchants her boots that is the final straw.
Marash prays for an earthquake, only to find that though his former location is now a column of solid rock, Khîm himself is barely scratched and continuing his attack. In hope that he may be trapped, Marash reads another scroll of phase door and attacks the sleeping orcs.
But Khîm is not trapped, attempting again to slow her from the darkness behind. Marash runs, attempting to cut herself a path through orcs to safety. They are too many, and not frail enough. Khîm catches up with her, disenchanting her further. She portals away...
...landing beside his father, Mîm, Betrayer of Turin, who gets a flurry of blows upon her and disenchants her cloak. Another portal, this time landing her in what looks to be a safe north-east corner.
Time, perhaps, to head back to the surface.
Marash reads one of her scrolls of recall, then waits patiently for her return to the surface. There she drops off the useless and weighty heavy crossbow she has been lugging around, along with the whip she is no longer using as her weapon. This lightens her burden enough that it becomes practical to cease wearing her ring of strength and to wear the ring of poison resistance instead.
But, she will keep the strength ring handy in case she needs that.
While in town, Marash also buys a pair of recall scrolls to replace the one she just used and the one she is about to use, and a cloak to replace the uselessly tattered one she still wears. But, having forgotten how she has conditioned herself to react to such things, she instead immediately tosses aside the cloak she has purchased as useless.
Finally, she buys both scrolls at the alchemy shop that promise to enchant her weapon for accuracy, reads both of them to no effect, then reads another recall scroll to take herself back down.