Search for the CROWN

The longest and most difficult part of the quest for the mystic KEY is the search for the CROWN in the Marsh Cave. In fact, this is arguably the most difficult part of the entire game. You will face Poison and Undead at every turn, and your resources will be stretched past their limit.

The Marsh Cave is located at the southwestern tip of the continent. You'll have to travel west from ElfLand, then up and around a mountain range to reach it. You'll want to bring several CABINS or some other means to save, because it is a dangerous journey both here and back to town. GEISTS in particular are a serious threat. Any warrior targeted by their attack is liable to end up Paralyzed, and they can quickly lock down the entire party and chip away at their HP. There is nothing more annoying than having your lone surviving FIGHTER killed 1–3 HP at a time.

One trick for the journey is to stock up on TENTS. These cost only 15 more Gold than HEAL Potions, but offer the same healing to all four Warriors at once. They are only found for sale in Coneria and Pravoka.

The Marsh Cave has three levels, but is divided into two distinct sections. One leads to a few treasures, while the other leads to the CROWN. This is the first time you'll run into the game's odd multi-chest system. Some treasures can be found in any of several different chests, but once found in any chest, the others will be empty. This gives you some flexibility in how you collect treasure.

Marsh Cave B1

The first floor has the simplest layout of the three. You have the options of heading north or south. To the north you will find treasures, but not the CROWN. I recommend heading that way first, since it is a much shorter trip and will allow to you test your mettle against the denizens of the Marsh Cave. The southern path branches off to the east, but that path is a dead end. The ladder to B2 is further to the south.

The encounters on B1 aren't as dangerous as those below. Your most common foe will be a group of SHADOWS that are very likely to surprise the party. They don't deal a lot of damage, but their attacks inflict Darkness, which will cause the battles to drag on. They are easy to kill, and a good target for level 1 HARM spells that aren't as effective against some of the more powerful Undead below.

SCUMS are another noteworthy enemy. They are virtually immune to physical attacks, and don't deal much damage directly, but their attacks are Poisonous. FIR2 will take out a group quickly, but you should try to conserve those valuable spell slots for more difficult encounters. This is one encounter it makes tactical sense to run from.

CRAWLS are rarer, but much more dangerous. Their attacks deal 1 damage apiece, but they get 8 of them (!) and they cause Paralysis. Because Paralyzed warriors can't evade attacks, even the BONES that accompany the CRAWLS can be dangerous. SLOW will help even the odds.

The other new enemy found here is MUCK, which looks similar to a SCUM but lacks their immunity to physical attacks. They are vulnerable to Lightning, but a simple physical attack works as well. Every other enemy found on this floor is something you've encountered before, and should not present a huge challenge at this point of the game.

Marsh Cave B2

Both paths lead to this floor. The destinations are separate, but both feature the same set of (nasty) encounters. CRAWLS now sometimes appear with the new R.BONE, tough Undead with a powerful attack. The CRAWLS are still the primary targets, but this is a good time to start using spells like FIR2.

The most common dangerous encounter is against GARGOYLES, creatures with four attacks that each deal moderate damage. FIGHTERS can take it, but they will make short work of lightly armored warriors. SLOW is an effective defense.

The rare SCORPIONS only get 2 attacks, but each is very powerful and causes Poison to boot. They are tough to kill, often gain surprise, and will quickly drain a lot of HP no matter what you do.

If you took the northern path on B1, you'll find yourself in the middle of three treasure rooms You'll find a Large Dagger in the northeastern room, and 680 G in the northwestern room. The 680 G can also be found on the path to the CROWN, but it is more out of the way in that case. The southwestern room contains 620 G and a Short Sword. The Short Sword can be found in either of two rooms on the path to the CROWN, but the 620 G is only available here, so it's a good place to pick up both.

The section of B2 you'll cross on the path to the CROWN has a wide layout, with two rooms to the north (including the one containing the ladder you arrived by), and four to the south. The second northern room is empty. If you didn't already find them, you'll find 680 G in the westernmost room (which must be approached from the north), and the Short Sword in either of the two central rooms. The path to B3 can be found by heading all the way south, then crossing through the southeastern room.

Marsh Cave B3

B3 doesn't introduce any new monsters, but it's nonetheless a dangerous place. R.BONES are more common here, and you'll sometimes run into packs of WrWOLVES. The biggest danger, however, are the WIZARDS that guard the CROWN.

The layout of B3 is a 4×4 grid of rooms, most of which contain treasure. The stairs back to B2 are in the northwest corner, and the southern row of rooms are all locked with the mystic KEY. You'll find the CROWN one room east and two south of the northwestern room, and all of the important treasures you can find at this point are along that path. You'll find a HOUSE and Iron Armor in the room southeast of the room you start near, and directly north of the CROWN. (The Iron Armor also appears in the room near the stairs and in the eastern room of the third row down.) There is a Copper Bracelet in the room west of the one where you found the HOUSE. You'll also find 295 G in the northeastern room, and 385 G in the room east of the CROWN, but you should pass on these if you're running low on resources. Remember that you will need to fight your way out of the Marsh Cave, not to mention back to ElfLand (or the Northwest Castle).

The treasure box containing the CROWN is surrounded by decorations, leaving only one direction for you to approach from. As you might expect, doing so will trigger a battle. The CROWN's guardians are a set of 2–4 WIZARDS. Despite their name and appearance, these are physical fighters with no spells or special attacks. Your best bet to beat them easily is to get lucky and only run into a pair. WIZARDS have high Magic Defense and resist Fire, Cold, and Status. LIT2 will deal moderate damage, but your level 3 MP is probably best saved for random encounters on the way out. Defensive spells like FOG and INVS can help, assuming they attack whoever you decide to protect. Most classes can't withstand the WIZARDS' attacks even with these buffs, so you may want to just enhance your FIGHTER and hope he takes the brunt of their attacks. FAST is useful if you have it.

Limping out of the Marsh Cave is no easy task, and if you do manage to escape, you'll want to save as soon as possible lest you fall to a group of GEISTS outside. The safest course is to return to ElfLand, but you may also head directly to the Northwest Castle to confront ASTOS, using the HOUSE you found to restore your MP before the fight.