I’m still not particularly able to pick the locks (or force the door) to Mendor’s Library, so when it comes to the main body of the city, this means we’re moving on to the Cadorna Textile House quest.
The Cadorna Textile House is another of those quests, like with Sokal Keep, where the quest objective that brings you to that city hex and the requirement to clear that hex mesh together fairly well. To complete Cadorna’s quest, you have to get the box from where it’s held – by the leader of the monsters in this area. To clear the hex, you have to kill the leader, and then complete 10 random encounters.
Where this gets tricky is the introduction of more advanced undead in this area. This somewhat makes sense, as if you look on the city map in the Journal, the Valhingen Graveyard is across the river and a bit of a hike from the Textile House, so it makes sense for some of the nastier undead from that area to make their way in here. This also helps to build up the threat of the graveyard by extension as well – whatever is lurking in the Graveyard is already starting to move their influence into the city.
The catch being that the trickier undead in question include ghouls and wrights. Each are very dangerous for very different reasons. Ghouls can cause paralysis, which means that your party members can be slain with a coup de grace by any other enemy. Wrights, on the other hand, introduce level drain, draining your levels – which can only be restored through the use of a restoration spell, either by going to a temple and paying to have the spell cast (which is something of a hike) or using one of your precious scrolls of restoration. Now, Restoration is a 7th level spell in AD&D 1st edition, which means your clerics can’t cast it until level 16 – well above the level cap.
Further, the restoration spell has the additional consequence of costing you any progress your characters have had toward their next level – you get your level(s) back, but you’re at the starting point for that level. Consequently, if a character who is on the brink of leveling up gets hit by a level drain, it’s going to be a long time until you get that XP back (unless you reload from an earlier save). This also gives you further incentive to keep your Thief and spellcaster characters further back, because losing their progress to the next level causes a lot more harm to their effectiveness.
To a degree, Gold Box Companion is something of a boon here – it allows you to basically replenish your scrolls of Restoration if you so choose – or if you end up in a fight with Wrights, you can make a note of your XP levels going in to the fight and reset the experience points to the right levels. Is this cheating? Yes. On the other hand – by the time you hit D&D 3.5, Restoration is a 4th level spell, available to be cast much sooner by the party.
That said, you’re still not totally outmatched by the time you’re fighting these enemies. At this point in the game, my party was leveled up enough that they were able to affect both ghouls and wrights with turn undead. They’re not high enough level to straight up destroy them (or any other undead).
This city hex does provide you a way to get some additional cash and a magic item, if you have a thief in the party. There is a well in this area that can only be climbed by a thief – any other party member who goes down dies. If you can get into this area, the thieves guild will offer to escort the party into a secret entrance in the Hobgoblin lair, also getting the party past the guards – and if the party brings the box back, they’ll be able to open the box and get some of magic items and treasure inside, without getting caught by Cadorna.
The monster base also has another temporary party member – Skullcrusher, a fighter working for Cadorna who was captured, and who also doesn’t use any weapons or armor. I kind of wonder if they had initially intended to implement the monk class in this game, with Skullcrusher using that class, before abandoning it when they decided to stick with the main 4 classes instead. Unlike Dirtan, the cleric, Skullcrusher leaves the party as soon as you get back to the protected area.
In any case, one of the items I got out of this chest was a set of Gauntlets of Ogre Power – which gives a party member 18 (00) strength – as high as a character can get (at least in this game). So, hopefully, next time we’ll finally be able to bash down the door to Mendor’s Library.