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12 November 2016 @ 01:21 pm
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XXXI: Who Watches the Watcher's Keep?  
I've finished basically everything there is to do in the base game, unless there are some quests left added by mods that I don't know about. My quest log only has a few leftover bits from quests that weren't cleaned up because the triggers failed to fire or because I did things in the wrong order or because I jumped the gun and used the console to fix what I thought was broken and it turned out I was just in the wrong place, and only a couple of those. The next stop is Suldanessellar.

Except, well, since I have Throne of Bhaal installed, there's one place I can go first.

The Prison Gates
Watcher's Keep has been sitting there at the bottom of my world map since the game started, but before now I've never even gone there. So after a quick trip to Waukeen's Promenade to sell off all the loot I picked up in Bodhi's lair, that's my next stop.

The keep is surrounded by beautiful fall foliage, with a glowing glyph of the god Helm above the entrance and a group of knights outside:


I talk to Odren, the leader of the knights, who tells Chiyo that he was expecting the Child of Bhaal and after a moment of rejoicing, explains himself:
Odren: "Ah! The Child of Bhaal has come! We had hoped that our call for aid would draw you here...praise to the Watcher for hearing our prayers!"
Brother Pol: "Praise be to Helm!"
Sister Garlena: "Does this mean we have a chance, Odren? Does this mean our duty is not lost to us?"
Orden: "Be at peace, Sister Garlena. Chiyo has yet to hear our story, let alone agreed to aid us. We get ahead of ourselves, here. Please accept my apology, Chiyo. The Watcher's Keep is a long journey from any nearby settlement, and your trip could not have been an easy one."
Chiyo: "I would be happy just knowing who you are and what you want."
Orden: "Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am Brother Odren, currently the leader of the Knights of the Vigil. We are...a small sect that was given a most solemn charge by the Vigilant One, Helm, Himself."
Brother Pol: "A charge we are unable to fulfill, sadly."
Xan: "And Helm is not a god you easily say 'no' to, I take it?"
Orden: "Indeed. Helm appeared to us during the Time of Troubles, when all gods but He walked Faerun as mortals. A great evil had been imprisoned, He said, and we were to be its keepers. Watcher's Keep, this ruin you see before you, was once a great prison for the most terrible foes of the gods. It was abandoned for many, many centuries until Helm came to us with His news. The old prison would not hold this great evil for long, He said. Our order would have to maintain a vigil, to watch for the day when the evil would begin to break the great seals and escape. That day has come, Chiyo. The great evil struggles within, and has infected the Watcher's Keep to the point where we cannot bypass the creatures and foul magic that blocks our path. It is our shame that we are too weak to get to the lower vaults and enact the ritual that will strengthen the old seals once again. Our need is obvious, then. We need a group to enter the Keep and descend to the lower vault so they may repair the mystic seals. Might you... might you do this, Chiyo?"
Chiyo: "Just what kind of creature is imprisoned here?"
Orden: "We do not know. Helm called it the 'Imprisoned One' only, saying it was a being of great cunning and power. Enough so that Helm, Himself, was forced to deal with it."
Jaheira: "Interesting. A god was forced to deal with your Imprisoned One? No ordinary apparition, this."
Orden: "If enough of the seals remain unbroken, however, the Imprisoned One need not even be encountered. We just...do not know. That is why our need is so dire, Chiyo."
Chiyo: "I'll help you...but I need to know what to do."
Orden: "You...you will aid us? Ah, praise to Helm!"
Sister Garlena: "Praise Helm, He has answered our prayers!"
Orden: "Thank you, Chiyo! Brother Pol will give you what you need and explain...come, let us ascend to the top of Watcher's Keep."
Odren leads the party to the top of the keep and says to speak to Brother Pol to learn about the ritual that needs to be performed, and to Sister Garlena to supply ourselves, and the door to Watcher's Keep opens.

I talk to Sister Garlena first, of course, being the good murderhobos that we are. She has a Short Sword of Mask and Firetooth, both of which would be great if had anyone who used short swords or crossbows, and a potion bag that I immediately snatch up and stuff all my potions of fire giant strength and elixirs of health and all the excess potions I have in my inventory into. Then I talk to Brother Pol and he explains exactly what the party must do:
Brother Pol: "Helm's praises upon you, child, for your aid. As Brother Odren said, there are two things you will need within and I shall give them to you now. The first is the holy symbol that shall allow you to pass through the seals of the prison. Do not lose it, child. Without it you cannot enter the Keep...or, if you are within, you will be trapped forever. The second is the ritual scroll which will repair Helm's seal upon the Keep. It need only be read aloud in the presence of the Imprisoned One...you require no special training to do so. Reaching the Imprisoned One is the difficulty. The Watcher's Keep was built many ages ago to contain great horrors that walked Faerun, but it was abandoned centuries before Helm restored its purpose."
Xan: "Great horrors, ancient evils, the Imprisoned One...is there anything you might have missed? Please, do share your knowledge with us: I am very interested in our exact cause of death."
Brother Pol: "When Helm came to us, he asked half our order to sacrifice themselves...to become spirits guarding the Keep and adding to the ancient seals that were already in existence. The spirits will guard against all who enter...they cannot be reasoned with. Add to this the evil which has been drawn to this place by the infection of the Imprisoned One. All these obstacles must be bypassed. When you finally reach the lowest level, you must open the final seal to gain access to the Imprisoned One, himself. I...do not know what state he will be in. Read the ritual quickly before he attacks. Have you any other questions for me, then, child?"
Chiyo: "Why do I not just destroy the Imprisoned One and get it over with?"
Brother Pol: "Oh, no! The Imprisoned One must not be killed! If, indeed, he can be. Helm has strictly forbidden us from even attempting...though I do not know why. Perhaps death, too, would be a form of freedom."
Chiyo: "Is there anything you can tell me about what else lies within the keep?"
Brother Pol: "Very little, child. We have been into the first level, combatting the creatures that assaulted us...but we were driven back before we could examine the first seal. It is an ancient archive and temple, long unused. It may be a temple to Helm, I do not know. I did not get enough time to examine everything. I would suspect, however, that the clerics that once existed within were able to access the second level in some manner. Many of the old tomes within seem to be in good condition. Perhaps somewhere there may be found more information on the other levels and their seals. Helm's blessing on you, child."
And with that, I enter the keep.

Level One

Engraved on the floor in runes is, "Caged within these holy walls, the Imprisoned One forever lies beneath." I open the door to the left and move through, and see a ghostly archivist pacing back and forth across the floor, muttering about how cold he is. Talking to him, that's all he says as well, so I loot the chests in the room and pick up a couple spell scrolls and the paladin's bracers and continue on. The next room has a stone golem that dies in a single hit from Minsc, and the room after that, a large library with shelves covering all the walls, containing a variety of scrolls and books. Elminster's Ecologies, Appendix IIIa, with information about new monsters like fire trolls that require cold or acid to kill them, a scrap of tattered parchment that reads:
"...Let the bell be ring forth a second time, in honor of the Holy One
As His name shall forever ring across the lands.
Let the Ritual Candle be lit, in honor of the Holy One
As His name shall forever be a glowing beacon to the faithful..."
Another tattered parchment that reads:
"...And the Sacred Book shall be placed open upon the Altar.
Let the consecrated wisdom of the Holy Word bless the Faithful,
Let the Bell ring forth a final time in joyous celebration of His name,
Praised and triumphant to Eternity's end, the ritual complete."
And a small handwritten note that says, "Short medium square make big muscles. -Lum." There's also a golem manual that, if I were playing the tabletop game, would provide instructions on how to create a flesh golem, but since this is a CRPG it's just about how to summon it from the ether instead. The next room has a statue of...something. Something in a glass case, tentacled and vaguely simian, that makes me suspect just what it is that lies imprisoned within Watcher's Keep:


The shelves and chest on the north side of the room have a few more books I've seen before--apparently the priest of Helm really love the History of Shadowdale--a bell, some magical armor, the Crimson Dart, and a History of the Imprisoned One:
"He also serves who stands and waits and watches carefully.

Such is the lesson of the Great Guard, Helm of the Unsleeping Eyes. Let the events of this forgotten temple serve as an example to all who would follow the Vigilant One. Beneath this hallowed earth the avatar of the Watcher confronted great evil, a Prince of the Underplanes.

Through steadfast perseverance Helm, Guardian of the Gods, fulfilled his sacred duty and bound the creature in the bowels of the temple that it might walk the world no more. Speak not the beast's name, ye Knights of the Vigil, but guard this place. Protect the wards which seal the Imprisoned One within, and remain ever watchful.

Never betray your trust - such is the will of Helm."
The first part is a quote from the dogma of Helm, and apparently adapted from "When I Consider How My Light is Spent" by John Milton, and the rest of it confirms what is imprisoned here. I open the door to the next room, but because Imoen is already on that side of the room, she gets to the door first and is promptly murdered by the vampiric wraiths who are waiting just on the other side. After Minsc, Jaheira, and Chiyo cut them down, Aerie resurrects Imoen, I put all her gear back on, and enter the next room.

This room is a giant hall, with some kind of stargate device in the middle, a table on the north end next to a giant statue of Helm, and statues of what I presume are Helmites lining the walls, though they may be petrified priests because this is a D&D world. The table is actually an altar and has images of a man in priestly robes performing some sort of ceremony using a bell, a book, and a candle, because of course it does. And as I go south, I see that not all the statues are of Helmites--there's a golem and a ogre among them as well.

After killing a couple poison mists, I try the last remaining door on the west side, which opens onto a small study full of mustard jellies. In the room is a chest with some magical ammunition and a candle. Two pieces down.

Next I try the southern-most door on the east side, and out comes a floor of shadow wraiths that level-drain Chiyo to death. Reload! This time with negative plane protection safely on Minsc and Chiyo, I open the door again and...this time there are sword spiders? After they die I check the bookshelves, finding more copies of History of Shadowdale and various other histories and a wardstone with the inscription
"Two towers to ever guard the tomb, two wards to now enter the room."
Back in the main hallway:


I head to that giant door straight up from the stargate-looking machine...and it's a magical lock that says it will only open for a specific key even though I have multiple high-level wizards in my party, because computer games. The other door leads to a bedroom, and in a bunch of trapped alcoves and drawers I find more books, a note about a priest who couldn't remember the words to the sacred ritual so his underlings conspired to embroider them on his robes, a set of old slippers that are falling apart, a scribbled note about how cold everything is and how he misplaced his tinderbox and so can't light the fire, a quiver of plenty, and a tinderbox. Do you think this connects to the ghost wandering around complaining about the cold? Because I do.

Unfortunately he doesn't have anything to say to me, but I notice there's a room I didn't check in the southeast part of the level. Entering the room triggers a popup that it has runes similar to those inside the foyer of the temple, and--of course--there are more shelves about. There's another wardstone, some books, and a tattered parchment with another part of the ritual:
"Place the Book, Bell and Candle upon the Altar!
Celebrate the Holy Name, forever praised and renowned!
Summon the Faithful, gather at the Altar!
Witness His glory and triumph, Ring the Sacred Bell!
As it is written, the Ritual has begun..."
That sounds like I should have found that note first. Oops. There's one more room with a note that says, "Tough guy? Tough guy! Long red circle is tough guy now! -L.t.M." and a key.

There's a fireplace in the room on the northwest, so I light that and the wandering ghost priest appears and starts a conversation:
Archivist: "Ahh...few things in life are as fine as the simple pleasure of a warm fire."
Chiyo: "Are you a ghost?"
Archivist: "I am Giltham, the temple archivist. I look after things around here--mostly maintaining the library and waking the old priest for services. But I was not expecting visitors. It seems the outside world has abandoned us. It is just myself and the old priest here now, wandering through the dusty archives."
Xan: "Of course, of course. All alone among dust and silence. A horde of monsters stalking this place can be easily overlooked, especially if the one overlooking it is a ghost."
Archivist: "Monsters? Where?"
Chiyo: "Can you tell me anything about the old priest?"
Archivist: "There is little to tell. A good man, though he has become forgetful in his old age. Perhaps you should speak with him. His chambers are near the northeast corner of the temple. Approach him with caution. He has developed quite a temper. When I wake him up in the morning, the only way to calm him down is to have his favorite slippers ready and waiting."
Chiyo: "Thanks for the advice, but I need to be going."
Archivist: "I would offer you a tour of the library, but it is so nice and warm by this fire. I hope you understand if I prefer to stay right here."
With the key I can open the last remaining door, leading to the somewhat-excessively-decorated priest's room.


Does he just...sleep with the ghosts watching him?

When Jaheira gets close with the slippers, it turns out its not a bed, it's a sarcophagus, and opening it causes the priest to rise from his grave and intone:
Priest: "For a thousand years I slept in peace, forgotten by the world beyond these temple walls. Now you dare disturb my eternal rest? Oh...I see you have brought my slippers. How thoughtful. May I have them?"
Chiyo: "Sure, take the slippers."
Priest: "I apologize for my...undeserved reaction. I will take my slippers and let you finish your work here. Look through the sarcophagus if you wish."
And he vanishes, I get a bunch of quest XP, and Minsc gains a level. Inside the sarcophagus is the priest's robe with the ritual, so Chiyo jots the verses down, I walk outside to the altar, and place the bell and candle next to the door that's already there. Immediately, all the statues in the main hall come to life and attack, because of course they do. Fortunately, I knew this was going to happen and pre-emptively summoned a planetar and an elemental swarm, which keep the statues back while my wizards strip off their buffs. When the last of the close statues fall, it's time to begin the actual ritual by ringing the bell, because that's what the parchment told me to do. Then ring the bell again, light the candle, open the book, and ring the bell one last time. Then the rest of the statues attack.

After a gigantic battle, or actually several gigantic battles and multiple reloads, I get them down. Since this is Sword Coast Stratagems, it's a wizard who gives me the most trouble, including one heartbreaking attempt where Xan blows through the statue wizard's final protections and Minsc and Jaheira cut him down just as Chiyo dies on the other side of the level after fleeing due to a demon's fear aura, and then the final attempt, my summoned planetar, deva, and elemental prince kill the wizard while I'm dealing with the other statues and I have no idea what happened. Shrug photo shrug001.gif Among the various bits of magical weapons and armor is Usuno's Blade, which I stash in my bag of holding. Then, after a trip outside to sell off the various treasure and drop off all the notes and tattered scrolls on the roof, I take the gate below.

Level Two
This was described as the "elemental level," but the first thing I see when I pass through the portal is not an elemental:


Chiyo: "Forced into service? What are you talking about?"
Chromatic Demon: "Hmm...sounds like you have been tricked into doing Helm's dirty work. Looks like we are both unwilling participants in this little drama."
Chiyo: "Perhaps you can show me the way down to the next level and I'll see if I can get us both out of this mess."
Chromatic Demon: "Listen, friend. We can help each other. The fact of the matter is, you cannot get through the gate to the next level unless I open it for you. So I'm not going to let you through the gate unless you help me end the enchantment that has kept me bound in this infernal dungeon for the last thousand years. Do we have a deal?"
Chiyo: "What must be done?"
Chromatic Demon: "Glad you've decided to be reasonable. The Helmites were never reasonable. It is so much easier to deal with one who isn't a fanatic. The cage I'm stuck in was fashioned over a thousand years ago by four arch-mages, who combined the power of four diverse elements to imprison me here for all eternity."
Chiyo: "How can I get you out?"
Chromatic Demon: "The wizards who trapped me here each had a lab on this level of the dungeon, where they worked to fashion the enchantments of my cage."
Xan: "Four wizards. Four laboratories. Years of fashioning the enchantments--and powerful enchantments they are. And after all this, you are trying to persuade Chiyo to let you free?"
Chromatic Demon: "Be stubborn, and stay on this level, for all I care. Make me free, and proceed on your way. I offer a fair deal. Each wizard created a scepter to focus and channel his power. Only the combined power of the four scepters can lock or unlock my cage."
Chiyo: "I will find the scepters. What next?"
Chromatic Demon: "Gather the scepter keys and place them in the four slots around the cage. Once free I'll be on my way, and you can go through the gate and take on the Imprisoned One - if you still want to."
Ah yes, the ever-popular ridiculously elaborate prison. What would powerful murderhobos have to do without wizards making binding enchantments such as these?

First I head southwest, into a library filled with vampiric wraiths and poison mists. The shelves mostly have history books, but there's a note that reads, "The beautiful people are short, red, and green -L.t.M.", and animal horn that radiates magic but has no discernible use, and a note:
"The others refuse to recognize my contribution to this project! When the Demon assumes the shape of a winged, red-bodied beast it becomes vulnerable to my powerful winter magics, yet my "companions" insist their own enchantments surpass my own.

"The flame mage, with his 'invincible' servant, is the worst, of course. But I have discovered the secret to destroying his precious giant!

"The fire elementals are the key - dispatch them and the giant becomes vulnerable! I will lure each of the four elementals into my ice lab, and destroy them in my frozen realm. This will trap their spirits in the ice crystals, and keep them from being reborn in the lava pit from which they are continually spawned!"
There are hallways north and south and each of them is trapped, and with no reason to pick either I go north. When Imoen gets close to the door she can feel strong heat almost make her skin blister, so I head south instead, where the door is so cold she can feel it radiating into the hallway. Alright, time to set up the plan! Except both doors are locked, so time to check out the rest of the complex.

The room to the southeast is, like Australia, filled with mutant spiders:


Everything is going fine until one of the spiders bites Jaheira and, again like Australia, the poison kills her instantly. Aerie resurrects her once the gas clears out of the room and I check the shelves. There's more history books, the key to the north-east door in the slime library, and another note:
"...forces we do not comprehend ... concentrate on my own research... acid and poison are potent against its air incarnation...

The final words of the last page are the most legible:

"...devised a way to be rid of the cold-hearted monster. If I set the air mage's fan on high and open all the doors between the fan room, my own lab and the ice wizard's frigid chamber, the drafts will blow my toxic vapors down the hall towards the frost wizard's minions. Once touched by the poison gas they will become tainted and vulnerable. That snowblind fool won't know what hit him!

"I can then close the doors or turn the fan back to the low setting, and the gas will drift back into my noxious lab to preserve my own precious pets."
It looks like there's an order I have to do these levels in? I wonder if there will be another requirement once I go through the northeast door? It opens, revealing a bubbling pool of green slime out of which green slimes continually spawn. I kill a couple of them and run out back to the main room with the demon and try the north-east door there. The room beyond is another library, filled with golems which quickly murder everyone.  photo stab.gif

On a second attempt, I buff up, call up more summons, and then open the door. As soon as the golems run toward the group, Xan casts time stop and unloads on them. Only two are left and Chiyo is able to mop them up while they're still focused on summoned elementals. Imoen checks the library, finding another note from one of the wizards:
"...power of my electrical enchantments... our caged pet...the form of a green slime giant is vulnerable to lightning..."

Only the final entry has survived in its entirety:

"I finally have a plan to be rid of that sorry, slime-loving excuse for a mage. If I turn my fan to its highest setting while the south-west door to his noxious laboratory is open the poison mist will be blown clear, making his noxious pets vulnerable!

"I must remember to use my lightning on that ooze puddle, unless I want thousands of those things crawling around the dungeon.

"Soon I will put my plan into action, and be rid of his caustic presence forever!"
And another note from Mr. L.t.M.: "Word to the wise - Circle, Square, Triangle. -L.t.Mad." I have a hard time to take that seriously. I mean, I know that he was called Lum the Mad, but calling yourself "the Mad"? I mean, was he like, "They said I was mad! Mad! And...actually, you know, they're right"?

Both other doors out of the air mage's library are locked, so all that's left is the last of the rooms to the northwest. This is clearly going to be the flame room, so Chiyo casts blur, Aerie casts resist fire and cold on her, and I open the door to find...fire giants:


How do they even fit in there?

I was expecting fire elements, so I immediately send Minsc and Jaheira in as backup. Jaheira gets smashed flat, but I kill both giants, resurrect Jaheira, and rest to get all the spells I've used clearing this level back. After everyone sleeps, Imoen looks around the room. The shelves have more books and random scrolls, but there's a desk in the corner. When Imoen approaches it, an imp floating in the corridor shouts out:
Imp: "Hey you! Yeah, I'm talking to you! Only the Masters are allowed in the libraries...what are you doing here?"
Chiyo: "I'm looking for four sceptre keys. Can you help me?"
Imp: "What do I look like, a wizard? Nobody tells me nothing. Run this book across the hall. Fetch that vial. Don't play with the wands. I'm just the resident whipping imp! A menial servant. A serf. A slave. A vassal. The Masters couldn't care whether I live or die!"
Chiyo: "Your masters are dead and gone."
Imp: "Dead? Huh...not surprised, I guess. I knew trouble was brewing. The Masters must have finally killed each other off."
Xan: "Dead." He sighs. "Of course. What was the point in hoping someone sane enough would finally answer our questions?"
Imp: "You know, I bet that explains all those screams and explosions I kept hearing a while back. And now I know why the fans shut down--nobody left to start them up again."
Chiyo: "You mean you've just been sitting here for centuries, doing nothing?"
Imp: "Hey! One of the Masters told me to wait right here for further instructions, so I waited right here. I'm smart enough to know better than to disobey an order from one of the Masters."
Chiyo: "After the first hundred years, didn't you realize something strange must have happened?"
Imp: "Look...I'm an immortal spirit, okay? What's a thousand years to me? And if you knew how the Masters punished disobedience, you wouldn't have moved for a thousand years either! With the Masters dead, I've got no reason to stick around anymore. But since you did bring me the news that I'm free to go, I'll help you out. This whole place is powered by a magical fan. Without it, all the labs shut down. If you want to find anything besides empty rooms, you should start that fan up again. There were four Masters and each kept a library and a lab. Air, Slime, Cold, and Fire were the magicks that they practiced. The Masters' pets and creations probably still inhabit their labs, so beware. Some of them are near unkillable if you don't know how to hurt them. A little hint for you, the Masters were always planning to kill each other. Each Master could use his unique elemental power against one of the others. So before you go stumbling into something you can't handle, you should check out all the libraries. The Masters were into some pretty strange stuff... but at least they kept written lab notes of their work. These notes will be invaluable."
Chiyo: "Wait, I have some more questions to ask you!"
Imp: "Sorry, I've wasted enough time hanging around here already. One last tip: Go to the Air Lab first. It's behind me. The fan has two settings: high and low. That might be important. And now I'm gone."
And it vanishes in a burst of hellfire. Clearly I was supposed to go here first, but maybe if I turn on that fan I'll be able to open some of those doors.

In the drawer that Imoen was moving toward I find a last wizard's note:
This note is scorched and blackened, obscuring much of the text:

"... companions are stubborn fools... demon almost immune to physical damage... transforms into its ice incarnation it is vulnerable to flame and fire... destroy the wind-bag air wizard and his pathetic servants... my giant is invincible!"
Now I'm pretty sure what I have to do. But first, I have to reactivate the fan. That's as easy as walking into the room and turning it on, which spawns a bunch of air elementals and the "air guardian." None of them are dangerous, and when the air guardian dies it leaves behind the air scepter. One down. The scepter says it will open the doors between the slime room and the air room as well, so I'm on my way to being able to blow poison into the ice room like I'm supposed to.

The slime room is filled with poison gas now, as well as slimes, poison mists, and a gigantic snake:


I open the south door of the lightning room, causing powerful wind to blast down the corridor and blow the gas out of the slime room. That done, everything in there is vulnerable, and the snake drops the slime rod that will open the eastern door of the ice room.

Chiyo opens the ice door as Jaheira runs into the air room and slams the button, turning the fan on high and blowing the poison mist into the ice room. This battle is more difficult, since the ice golem shoots out slowing and poisoning icy mist and the room is also filled with poison, but I win and pick up the ice scepter. After I do, Aerie moves back and closes the door between the slime and ice room, dispersing the mist.

After healing, I set everyone up in the ice room and send Chiyo to open the door to the fire room. The fire giant runs over immediately, blocking the doorway preventing the fire elementals from getting out. And so the dance begins. After four fire elementals are lured into the ice room, where they instantly freeze solid, no more spawn and I run in and kill the fire giant. Thanks to a timely proc from Chiyo's Celestial Fury, the fire giant freezes in place and does no damage to anyone. When he dies, he drops the Helm of the Rock and the fire scepter. That's all four.

The Chromatic Demon keeps switching between forms, and from the notes I know that it's almost immune to physical damage. So I wait until it's in its ice form and then release it. Immediately, it proves that it's a demon:


It turns out that I didn't plan that it would keep changing after I released it, but I still manage to win by summoning a bunch of elementals so that I can keep damaging it in most of its forms. Whenever it transforms into ice form, my wizards pour fire damage into it  photo onfire.gif, and it finally dies after doing a lot of damage but not killing anyone. It drops Ixil's Spike, the Circlet of Netheril, and the key to the next level. I spend a while picking up the magical ammo scattered all around the level, including one note I missed that reads, "No magic! Long blue green! Back, magic, back! -L.t.M." and then go to the roof and sell all the trash I've collected.

And, before the final confrontation, I go back to Athkatla. First to the Adventurer's Mart to buy some scrolls--energy drain for Xan and black blade of disaster for Chiyo--and to Cromwell and have him forge the black spider figurine into an improved version, reforge the Shortbow of Gesen and give it to Imoen, and turn a ring of protection +2 and a ring of regeneration into a single ring. Then I head to the inn, because the party has spent days with Cromwell in his forge.

That night, before bed, Chiyo and Xan talk:
Xan looks over his dusty robes in distate and sighs. Then his gaze falls on Chiyo, and his expression softens.

Xan: "Chiyo, do you like surprises?"
Chiyo: "Depends on the surprise."
Xan: "This time is is a good one. At least, I hope so--and you do deserve a good, solid surprise after everything we've been through in the graveyard. I found a bathhouse nearby, and given how our clothes and skin are full of sweat, grime, and vampire stench, I would say we nearly need to visit one. Besides, wouldn't you like to spend a relaxed evening in a whirling hot tub?"
Chiyo: "Lead on, then."
Xan: "Follow me, then. I'd carry you all the way, but if I tried, I doubt we'd get there by the next morning. Though I seem to have a strength spell left..."
They proceed to the bathhouse:


For a moment, the shining marble floor reminds Chiyo of polished stone slabs in Bodhi's lair, but the soothing sounds of running water soon banish the thoughts. Xan disrobes next to Chiyo with a thoughtful look on his face.

Xan: "You know, I never believed in sayings like, 'The winner takes all.' But now I am starting to understand."
Chiyo: "That we won?"
Xan: "We won. And we live--the most important victory of all. We exist--your naked shoulders, your hair, your feet on wet floor--you are here, alive, not a ghost or a memory."

Chiyo's clothing falls to the floor as Xan takes her into his arms with care and slowly, gently lowers her into the blissfully warm water. Hot currents caress her body, whirlpools form all over the tub, and the crypts she left behind seem like an old, faraway dream. Xan settles next to her, nestling his head on a folded towel. His eyes are half-closed, but he does sneak a glance at Chiyo's breasts now and then.

Chiyo: "I like it here."
Xan: "I am glad. You look well. And feel well, it seems. I hope I'll be able to...keep you well, until your soul returns."
Chiyo: "If it means more hot baths and evenings of relaxation, I fully approve."
Xan: He frowns briefly and sighs, turning to Chiyo. "You can still feel me through our bond, can't you? Weaker, fainter, but our love is there. I've been transferring my life force to you during our communion. As we shared thoughts, bodies, reverie, you became a little stronger."
Chiyo: "Wasn't it dangerous?"
Xan: "I was sure I was going to die, melamin. What would it matter if I died feeling somewhat weaker? We will face Irenicus within days, so I doubt I'll need to do it again. Your spirit...even as Irenicus holds most of it hostage, it has not waned yet. You still feel me...still reverie...still open your eyes in wonder. And I hope it will last. How can it not, with such mischief in your eyes?"

His hands travel down Chiyo's arms, caressing her body. She doesn't notice how a soaped loofah ends up in his hands, but it does, and Xan starts massaging her knees and hips with it, his own face still deep in thought.

Xan: "Irenicus and Bodhi were once elves like you and me. She was beautiful, and probably kind at times, luxuriated in a bath, gazing at her love through long eyelashes--not unlike you do now. Like me, Irenicus enjoyed wind in his hair, felt compassion, love...perhaps even wanted to help others? What went wrong? Will we ever know?"
Chiyo: "Not if we live a thousand years, I hope."

Xan finishes up his task with the loofah, paying particular attention to her more sensitive areas, and gives Chiyo a slight smile.

Xan: "In any case, we are here now, and Irenicus, thankfully, is not. Would you like a massage? Or would you prefer to lie here? With these currents, we'll never run out of hot water."
Chiyo: "Here is perfect."
Xan: "It is. Seldarine, it is amazing. Though with you, I'd be happy in a gutter. To think I could be in Arvandor now, locked in the afterlife, knowing nothing about your fate... No. Never. I wanted to die for you--and I would. But most of all, I want to live. And to be with you."
Chiyo: "And I'll make sure you keep that promise."
Xan: "We'll get through this, Chiyo. I know we will."
Game time elapsed: 123 days, 23 hours.


I was actually expecting to have an entirely different, player-triggered conversation, but I'll take an opportunity for Xan and Chiyo to be cute. Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif

Watcher's Keep was added by Throne of Bhaal, and one mod option I had was to place is as an interquel between Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal. I decided not to do that because I wanted an experience closer to the original, where the keep is accessible from the moment of installing ToB even though the rest of ToB content isn't available until after killing Irenicus. I wanted to do the first two levels because I read something on line about doing that in SoA and then the final two in ToB, which is what I plan to do. With how easy those two levels are I might even be able to finish the entire keep now, but then I suspect I'd be too powerful going into ToB. I mean, I already killed Bodhi without her even being able to hit me. What am I going to do to Irenicus?

Probably die a lot, considering all the mods I've installed.

While I was going through here, I remembered one last hidden side-quest that I haven't done yet. I think I'm eligible for it, and if I am, that will be the next post. Otherwise, it'll be more preparation and then going to Suldanessellar and fighting Irenicus!

Next: Part XXXII: Storming Suldanessellar.
 
 
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Current Music: Atrium Carceri - Entrance