Saturday, June 26, 2021

Go Your Own Way

Much as I love snow zones, after finishing this year's Dragon Bash meta-achievement on one account and making it about halfway through on another, I was feeling a distinct urge to be somewhere warm for once. Nothing says "warmth" like a fire festival, so I traded the bitter cold of Guild Wars 2's icebound Hoelbrak for the burning desert heat of EverQuest II's Sinking Sands and headed for the beach to join in with this summer's Scorched Sky celebrations.

I knew there was a new quest and I never miss one of those. Well, I try not to, not holiday ones, anyway. I don't do them for the story so much as the rewards, which can often be well worth having. Most festive quests in EQII follow roughly the same format. They always begin with a chat with an NPC, who explains that something vaguely related to the celebrations has gone ever so slightly awry. 

Sometimes some creatures have escaped and either need to be rounded up and brought back or hunted down and killed. That happened a couple of years back. If it's not that, it's a mystery requiring some brief detective work that leads inevitably to some deserted cave system or underground ruin.

Once inside you can all but guarantee to find a scattering of dead bodies and a smattering of hostile wildlife. As the search takes you deeper you'll probably run across a barrier or two that needs to be removed and eventually you'll run your quarry to ground, at which point a fight will break out. Usually the final battle will involve some small degree of tactics and a good deal of thumping.


For quests of this kind you really don't need a walkthrough. Well, maybe you do. I wouldn't presume to judge. I don't. And yet I like to have one to hand all the same.

I don't know when it happened but at some point in my long EQII career I started thinking of quests not as adventures my characters are having so much as recipes I'm following. I think it probably began when I came back after a lengthy layoff and worked my way through two or three consecutive expansions in a row. It was taking long enough without having to work everything out from first principles. It seemed more than fair to follow in the footsteps of those who'd gone before.

Now I pretty much always do it except in the new expansion each year, when I do at least make a nominal attempt to play the way nature intended. Or at least the way Tunare intended. (A little Norrathian humor there...). Even then, if I find myself in any way stuck I turn immediately to the inestimable EQII Wiki, quite possibly the best and most accurate resource of it's kind I've been fortunate enough to draw on for any game.

As soon as I logged in this afternoon I went straight to the wiki to see where to go for this year's new quest and... nothing. I'd googled there using the search term "Scorched Sky EQ2" and it had landed me on the correct page but nothing seemed to have been updated since last year. It was a worrying sign.

For EQII's holiday events there's another resource that's even better: EQTraders. Niami Denmother (who thankfully seems to have recovered from her serious operation last year and is back to her usual active self) runs the tightest of ships when it comes to anything pertaining to crafts and housing and since every Norrathian holiday always comes packed with both those things she can be relied on to cover the whole event.


She doesn't always do walkthroughs, though. She has more than enough to do without that. I found the name of the quest (Feats of Burning Devotion) and the questgiver (Devotee Arborash) from the EQTraders Scorched Sky page and went to see if I could muddle through on my own.

Which, of course, I could. Everything went down exactly as expected. Arborash told me a tale of some nutcase who'd summoned an Efreeti from Doomfire, the Burning Lands, aka the Elemental Plane of Fire. Probably. I think. Who can keep these planes straight? 

Arborash was deeply impressed but when I asked him where I could admire this Efreeti and maybe speak to the genius who'd summoned it I was told the man, one Adherent Drasithe, had wandered off along the sands. That didn't seem like a good thing so I toddled off to look for him and maybe see if he needed a drink of water or something.

I didn't find Drasithe but I did spot a pretty obvious clue: a massive chunk of glowing lava stuck in the cliffside. As you do when you happen across a highly dangerous quasi-natural phenomenon, I went straight over and gave it a good poke, whereupon I found myself... yes, you guessed it, in a cave.

The cave had formerly been the hideout of some Samiel pirates, a smuggling crew commonly found lurking in similar crannies and crevices all over the Sinking Sands. I figured that out for myself by the way they were all lying around dead inside. 

The current occupiers turned out to be some snakes, a bunch of fire elementals and those annoying flying imp things you get all over any place where lava comes boiling out of the ground. In EverQuest they were called mephits. I forget what we call them now.


It was obvious what I needed to do next. Same as always: kill everything, take anything not nailed down and if I happen to spot any clues while I'm doing it, so much the better. I got to the end of the first bunch of caves (Is bunch the correct  technical term?) and ran into a portal. 

I did literally run into it, to see if it would port me anywhere, but it wouldn't. I had a bit of a think and then I noticed the two big spikes of lava-rock either side of it were clickable. So I clicked them. I can take a hint.

The portal closed down and my quest journal suggested now would be a good time to find a way past the fiery barrier I'd seen earlier. I had a sneaking suspicion I might just have done that by closing the portal and it turned out I was right.

Just past the portal I ran into my quarry, Adherent Drasithe. Again, literally. I ran up to him, intending either to congratulate him on his success or possibly slice him into small pieces if he'd been possessed by the creature he'd called into being but I didn't get close enough for either. He waved his arms and sent me flying backwards and then he yelled something and ran off, deeper into the tunnels.

I followed him, of course. There were some more elementals to dispose of along the way before I found him again, close to a portal just like the last one. He yelled at me again and turned into an Efreeti. Or maybe summoned one and vanished. I'm no magician, I don't know the form.

Makes no odds either way. You know it's just going to end in a punch-up. Which it did, although there was a bit more to it than that. It was one of those fights where the "boss" stops taking damage every so often and starts summoning minions and you have to kill those until something else happens and you can start pounding on the boss again. Seen it a thousand times.


I got the hang of that pretty quickly. The message I got every time a minion died, telling me the portal pillars were weakening, gave the game away, really. I whitled my way through elementals and imps until both the pillars were gone and the portal shut down, then I finished off the efreeti. At this point my journal suggested I might want to find the Adherent himself, who had to be somewhere close by.

He was. He was flat on the floor behind a rock, as dead as the Samiel pirates. I took the handy exit that had popped up from somewhere and legged it back along the beach to give Devotee Arborash the bad news. 

He seemed remarkably unphased. In fact he all but told me it was the best thing that could have happened and that Adherent Drasithe had done a marvelous thing for which he'd be richly rewarded in the afterlife. That's zealots for you.

I was more interested in being richly rewarded in this life, or at least in this virtual life. I took the eight ember coins (Four plus another four for being a subscriber. See? Subscriptions are worth it!). There was also a choice of a huge bed of embers or a replica of the Tyrant of Fire. I looked at them both in the Dressing Room. One was very impressive. One really was not. I took the Tyrant.

That got me wondering how many ember coins I had. I vaguely remembered doing the 2019 quest a few times but I also had an idea I'd bought a few odds and ends back then. I'd read there was a new mount this year, one that can fly, so I went over to the vendor to take a look.

Blimey, Charlie! Now that's a nice mount. A coal-black horse with fiery hooves and glowing eyes. I'd ride that. Although not until I do something to earn more ember coins, I won't. It costs a wopping hundred and fifty of them. The other two mounts, neither of which can fly, are a mere fifty coins apiece.

And this is the thing about holiday events. When they're well-done they can be highly motivating. Mrs Bhagpuss and I have both already put in hours at Dragon Bash because a) a lot of the events are fun and even if they aren't fun at least they're easy and b) the rewards are kinda-sorta nice. That staff I mentioned. Some fancy gloves. If I can imagine using these things then I'm quite likely to make more than a token effort to get them, even if in the end I probably won't end up using them after all.

I do want that horse. I'd quite like it for several people but I think that would be pushing it. I'll definitely get it for one character at least. You get an ember coin for killing the elementals that spawn near the festival sites and again you can double that if you're a member. I already have about fifty coins from previous years so I only need to kill fifty or so. That shouldn't take long.

Oh, and it turns out there is a full walkthrough up on the wiki after all. For some reason it isn't on the Scorched Sky page but it's there if you search by the name of the quest itself. I'm glad about that. It's always a bad sign when wikis stop getting timely updates.

Of course, if anyone wants to know how to do it, they can also just read my post. That should take about twice as long as doing the actual quest. I'll leave you to decide which would be more worthwhile.

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