After the Great Destroyer was killed, word spread of suspicious Stone Summit activity near the Verdant Cascades. When Malory and I arrived to check it out, we found a room filled with norn waiting for a great challenge. Veth the Storyteller told us that the last Stone Summit hierophant, Duncan the Black was trying to harness the power of the Great Destroyer’s soul. He has rallied all available Stone Summit and amassed a huge army of slaves. Veth hinted that it would be wise of us to kill Duncan before he reclaims the Great Destroyer’s soul, even though his fellow norn relished the idea of fighting what Duncan would become.
However the path to Duncan was closed to us until we defeated four of his champions: Justicar Thommas, Rand Stormweaver, Selvetarm and Forgewight. Malory and I gleamed some information out of the norn that had ventured into the champion’s rooms. Obviously we were going to fight a lot of Stone Summit dwarves, but Selvetarm enslaved undead, and Forgewight had fire elementals (aside from supposedly being one itself).
We sat by a statue erected for the slavers and talked over our strategy for the long battles ahead. It seemed like a good idea to fight Thommas and Rand first because they both shared the same cave in the depths. We would then readjust our strategy for each champion. With my experience fighting the Stone Summit dwarves in Sorrow’s Furnace, I knew that placing a spirit of Frozen Soil would prevent them from resurrecting in battle. Malory prepared some domination spells to interrupt any spell casters and cause them to panic.
Walking into Justicar Tommas’ area, I noticed that this area shared the appearance of other locations in the Depths of Tyria. It’s good that I’ll never get lost down here, but somewhat disappointing that nothing new will be around the corner. So the focus of my journal entry will be on the situation and not the awe of the depths.
Besides the Stone Summit, we fought centaurs and wretched wolves. I didn’t anticipate it, but the frozen soil came in handy because the centaurs could also resurrect their fallen allies.
Fighting our way to Justicar Thommas took some time as there were a lot of enemies between us. Veth told us Duncan was amassing an army, but I didn’t realized just how packed his Slavers’ Exile was. Malory and I had to take on Thommas while also fighting a group of dwarves. So it was difficult at times to keep frozen soil up (so they wouldn’t just keep resurrecting), but we managed to pull through.
A chest appeared after our small victory. If this is a reward for defeating each champion, I can’t wait to fight our way up to Duncan! (Although I will exclude these pictures until we get there, as it gets a bit repetitive.)
Moving on after collecting our prized spoils, we headed to the other side of the cave. There seemed to be an increase of wretched wolves as we approached Rand’s location. Like assassins, the wolves have quick, precise movements and seem to have developed the same techniques that remove enchantments. I never rely solely on enchantments in a group for protection, but it can put one on edge when you’re surrounded by ten wretched wolves and protective spirit enchantment isn’t on you!
As with Justicar Thommas, Rand Stormweaver had an entourage of dwarves at his side to fight us. I’m not sure how Duncan “recruited” a White Mantle justicar and a centaur leader. Perhaps it was a mix of greed, coercion, and force. Regardless of the threat, we killed Rand, grabbed our loot and prepared for the next champion.
Selvetarm’s area was so dark it caused us to bump into too many enemies. We had to retreat and pick them off one by one before progressing further.
As the norn had told us earlier, Selvetarm also had control over undead forces. So besides the dwarven minionmancers, we fought decayed dragons, chained clerics, and zombie horsemen.
To my surprise though, these blood thirsty ghosts appeared right before the door that leads to Selvetarm. It didn’t take long for us to realize that if you kept them at a distance they couldn’t suck the life essence out of you.
At Selvetarm the pattern of champions being guarded by Stone Summit remained the same. Although to make matters worse, some crypt wraiths and shock phantoms joined in the fight against us. It took longer than usual to overcome everything they threw at us, but we preserved.
It was readily apparent in Forgewight’s area that we’d have to use different tactics. This section of the depths was filled with flame djinn and flowstone elementals. If you encounter more than three at a time, they can easily burn you to a crisp!
I had the unlucky and very painful task going into combat alone, to make sure they unleashed all their powerful spells on me first. It’s much easier for our monks to keep one person alive, instead of a whole party of eight burning people.
The extra steps we took to setup our tactics slowed down the party a bit. After a wave of fire elementals, we would fight Stone Summit dwarves. It took us a while to reach an ominous looking large room with a circle of forge imps. When we killed them, a ghost called Dark Watcher appeared. His soul was somehow tied with this area, and only after defeating him did a key appear that would lead us to Forgewight’s chamber.
The large rooms leading up to Forgewight made it easy to spot troubles ahead. But as a consequence of the added space, more foes were able to fill it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed here if you’re not careful.
I felt a bit of relief as we approached Forgewight. This was the last champion before Duncan, and I was sick and tired of being set on fire all the time. (Seriously, burning hair is not a good aroma.)
It was all over in a matter of seconds. Charging into battle, I didn’t hold anything back and unleashed a barrage of arrows on Forgewight and his entourage of Stone Summit. Malory and I were quick to collect our prized spoils and return to Veth’s camp to prepare our minds for the last challenge.
With Forgewight’s death, the door to Duncan’s cave finally opened. Whether the door was unlocked by some magical mechanism, or Duncan himself finally opened it for some worthy opponents was unknown.
All of the norn cheered us on as we made the transition into the final section of Slavers Exile. Malory and I didn’t want to throw away our success, so we very cautiously made our way through. It took a cool head and careful planning to kill the hierophant’s enemy forces with minimal injuries.
I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as we approached the last room, where Duncan certainly awaited us. In the years I’ve spent adventuring, spotting a large empty expanse is never a good thing.
Making our way closer to Duncan, blood thirsty ghosts arose from the empty spaces I mentioned. It was clear right away that if one were to rush straight to the hierophant, the amount of ghosts that would appear would overwhelm your group.
When they had been taken care of though, all of that empty space around Duncan was filled with angry spirits bound to his command. A few of them were particularly deadly, such as a spirit that removes enchantments (like our protection magic!). We destroyed the spirits and then attacked Duncan, only to watch the spirits come back.
Our fight against Duncan the Black felt odd at first. Something was going on that I hadn’t anticipated and it took us a moment or two to realize it. We had been making progress; my arrows did indeed seem to injure him. But all of the damage dealt to him was directed back to us. The more effort we put into hurting him, the more we were killing ourselves. Our strategy changed from trying to take him out quickly to staying alive for a long (and excruciating) battle.
I could hardly believe my eyes when the hierophant collapsed to the ground. The battle went on for what seemed like an eternity. He wasn’t anything compared to Mallyx, but it was still a difficult challenge; a situation where you often doubt whether you’ll be successful or not. After we had put so much time and effort to just getting here, I had to win.
Before the battle, I imagined celebrating Duncan’s death with a bottle of champagne or fine dwarven ale. But now, the battle had taken it’s toll on us. Malory and I took our prized spoils and staggered off to the norn’s camp to share the news and relax until a new threat in Tyria arises.
Prized Spoils (total): 6 golden items, 2 diamonds, 2 onyx, and a Deldrimor Hero Remnant
Exits: Verdant Cascades
Friends: Malory K.