Level 36: You are unsure about this place
Detecting evil finds little to fuss about. Only a shade and thirteen hill orcs sleeping in the distance. And a sabre-tooth tiger - since when are those evil?
Ah, but it is not evil. It has merely charged Marash from out of the darkness in her first moments here. She turns her rod of fire bolts upon the tiger and immediately its charge becomes a scramble to escape.
The rod has recharged just in time to send the tiger fleeing again upon its return, while Marash explores the dark room she has been recalled into. On the sabre-tooth tiger's third return, a quick jab with her main gauche disposes of it. A shame the Enemy has twisted so much life to his service, so that it can no longer be dealt with peacefully.
As she trudges along the northward corridor out, the only path out, Marash looks longingly at some treasure trapped within a quartz vein. Beyond her ability to pry loose.
She is interrupted by something in the darkness casting a ball of cold at her. Though not seriously hurt, she is worried, and retreats back to the room, around the corner to await the arrival of this mysterious foe. It does not register as evil, but at least blessing herself will help.
But nothing comes. Cautiously she steps out again, then a few steps forward until she is back where she was. Marash holds up the Phial of Galadriel, hoping to illuminate her foe.
No luck. But something out in the darkness is trying to magically blind her. So far it has not proved capable of seriously harming her, so she presses on, and finally the source of trouble is revealed: a potion mimic.
Keeping her gaze fixed on the mimic, Marash reaches to her right and closes an open door. No sense being vulnerable from additional directions. Then, she aims her rod and almost shatters the bizarre creature with a single firebolt.
It is overkill, but a follow-up lightning bolt finishes the job.
Heading north, a white wolf bursts through a door behind her. Satisfyingly, she pursues the wolf and its packmates through some winding corridors, slaying many, until she is brought up short by the sight of a giant fire ant trampling a white wolf to death.
This is a vexing development. Never has Marash faced such an ant in battle before, and she has no wish to do so now. Yet, it is right before her and not quite so fearsome she believes she must bail entirely.
She calls upon her staff of sleep, and the ant looks drowsy momentarily (while the white wolf behind it collapses to the floor), but shakes the spell off. Its bite envelopes Marash in flames.
That failing, Marash blesses herself and prays for resistance to heat and cold. The ant is not so tough as she feared, though tougher by far than she'd like, and soon loses the exchange of blows. Not even another wolf attack from behind distracts Marash.
She attempts to finish off the white wolf sleeping in front of her, but it flees around the corner, where she discovers another six fire ants lie in wait.
Immediately Marash sends a lightning bolt through the line of ants, then heals and re-blesses herself before joining melee.
With re-blessing and renewing her heat resistance every time they falter, along with a lightning bolt every time her rod recharges, Marash gets through the ants almost unscathed. Her only casualties are a scroll of phase door and a scroll of recall, and even when a hill orc joins the fray she is free to mostly ignore it in favour of the more threatening ants.
Finally, a bolt of lightning kills the second to last ant at back, and her main gauche sends the last fleeing around the corner. Marash pursues it... into still more ants.
Luckily this turns out to be just one more ant, or so Marash thinks until, when it is nearly dispatched, another giant fire ant wanders over to join the fray. Not so worrying, even at the cost of a staff of sleep lost to fiery ant bites, nor even when a hill orc and a couple of white wolves come after her from the other side.
Worry comes when a new beast follows behind the latest ant, a dark brown form rippling with power as it stalks the dungeon. An impact hound. She does not think it will be alone. Nor does she know what manner of damage this forceful form might do; she is only sure it will be unpleasant.
She turns her attention north, trying to carve a path through the hill orc and out of harm's way. Of course, as soon as she strikes the orc down, the wolves take its place.
No hope there, especially as now there are three wolves clamouring for her. Marash turns her attention back to the ant. Slow going there, until at last the hound breathes.
Pure force tears and stuns her. The wolf nipping at her heels dies instantly; another wolf and the giant fire ant are both dazed by the blast. This is... not good.
She steps into the space vacated by the recently deceased wolf. At the same moment, her rod of lightning bolts recharges. She celebrates by toasting the three wolves blocking her line of retreat.
Her head clears. Marash decides she is best off elsewhere. Perhaps chasing those hill orcs... she heads north. The hill orcs are just to the north-west, while there is a young multi-hued dragon to the north-east. Orcs first.
The path leads to another large, dark chamber, and what appears to be a solitary white wolf. Two white wolves, when the room is illuminated. Marash takes long enough attempting to dispose of them that hill orcs begin pouring in.
She steps back into the corridor to deal with them. No need to get surrounded.
The first two orcs flee quickly enough, so Marash presses into the corridor from which they emerged. A lightning bolt weakens several severely, and none of the orcs tax her. Very little they drop is of use to her, however. Only a potion of Restore Mana.
She must choose a next action. To the southwest are at least four cave trolls, and the young multi-coloured dragon remains. Since the trolls are near where she encountered the impact hounds, it may be best to avoid that area. Marash heads for the dragon.
One step and force buffets her, stunning her. Unseen hounds. She steps back. It would be very useful if she had some way of remotely detecting these, so as to better avoid them.
If that direction is off-limits, she will take a different path back around to face the dragon. In preparation she protects herself from evil, fire and cold, and blesses herself.
A couple of steps away, Marash uses her rod of drain life on it. The dragon flees to a corner immediately, then breathes lightning and fire at her. As Marash pursues, it retreats around the corner before making its stand, main gauche against claws and teeth, lightning and fire and frost.
After some fierce trading of blows the young multi-hued dragon retreats down the corridor. Eventually it turns back to fight, its escape cut off by a pile of rubble, just as Marash's rod of drain life finishes recharging.
She fails to use her rod properly and suffers under another round of sharpened, angry dragon. Finally, one last jab with her blade does the creature in.
Its treasure, sadly, is nothing much. Marash attempts to clear away the rubble blocking the passage, as her various protections fade with time, until finally she spots an impact hound approaching her from behind.
No good, no good. She prays for a portal... and finds herself in an unknown part of this floor.
Nearby evil: a young gold dragon, a shade, and a hardened warrior. None of these hugely frighten her; she wonders if they might be worth tangling with, if she might extract something of value from them before leaving this place.
It seems inevitable that she must leave this place, soon, if she is to be pursued by hounds everywhere she turns.
She hears a door burst open, and rounds a corner to find herself face to face with a spectator, a large, fanged floating globe with eyes on the ends of stalks. Not something she has faced before, nor something she wishes to face now.
Marash blesses herself in preparation for combat with this non-evil monstrosity. As she does so, a water hound stalks into view behind it. She steps to one side, hoping to keep out of line of sight of the water hound, but the spectator's gaze confuses her.
She zaps herself with a rod of curing, clearing her head. One of the water hounds - out of Marash's sight - breathes acid. Fortunately the spray hits her acid-resistant armour, and she hopes the spectator is hit harder than she.
Marash then tries to turn her rod of drain life against the spectator but fumbles the activation. The spectator attempts to paralyse her with its gaze, fails, then succeeds at confusing Marash again.
She uses her second rod of curing, then fumbles with the rod of drain life again. Fortunately this time the spectator doesn't confuse her again. Finally Marash's rod works and the spectator falls to the ground in a lifeless heap again.
A water hound took its place immediately. Stabbing away at the hound only gets Marash's shield damaged by its acid breath, so she finally concedes to the inevitable and reads a scroll of recall.
Long, tense seconds pass, of stabbing hounds to death, her equipment being corroded by the seemingly endless stream of hounds that flow in to replace them, until finally she feels herself yanked back up to the surface.