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25 July 2015 @ 10:57 am
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part VIII: Wolves and ogres and Umar, oh my!  
I head off to the Umar Hills.

In the interests of full disclosure, I actually headed to the temple ruins first, but I quickly ran into an encounter that assumed events that hadn't happened yet, so one of my mods must have added in the "find the duergar" quest and let me go to the temple early. In order to keep the proper progression, I left and headed to the Umar Hills instead.

The Fugitive
The party arrives in the north, near a lonely cabin set on top of the cliff. After entering and not finding anything I head south, where I're immediately confronted by a bow-wielding man who demands to know if we're looking for Valygar at the behest of the Cowled Wizards. Chiyo replies noncommittally, and after the man leaves I head back to the cabin and check in the back room, since I've just been told that Valygar is around here somewhere. He's in the back room:
Valygar: "Ho there! More Cowled ones or their servants, no doubt. By the gods, I swear you'll not live to take me to that damnable sphere!"
Chiyo: "I am with the Wizards, but they said nothing of a sphere. What do you speak of?"
Valygar: "A planar sphere appeared in the slums of Athkatla weeks ago. My ancestor, the necromancer Lavok, built that sphere as some sort of planar travelling device. Lavok disappeared with the sphere over five centuries ago. It has not been seen again until now. I have no desire to meet my ancestor, and even less desire to help the Cowled Wizards, who seem certain that my body is the only key to the sphere... alive or no."
Aerie: "Oh...so this is why they want your body. To get inside that sphere and...and take its treasure. We...we can't support this, Chiyo!"
Minsc: "This changes everything! A fellow ranger plunged into peril by evil wizards! Even Boo cringes at what we have been sent to do! Chiyo, this cannot be!"
Valygar: "They tried to force my co-operation, and I was forced to defend myself and flee. I had hidden away here. Successfully, I thought, until you came."
Chiyo: "Why should you fear this Lavok? This ancestor of yours is certainly dead."
Valygar: "It has been a long time, but for all I know time may work differently when travelling the planes. As for his immortality...well, my ancestor has extended his life, before...but that is a different story. I am the last of the Corthala line. That may mean little to you, but it means plenty to Lavok. When Lavok left Athkatla in the sphere, he was already many centuries old. Lavok extended his life by stealing the bodies of blood relations. If he yet lives, you can imagine my concern. This is also why my blood may allow entrance to the sphere."
Chiyo: "The wizards have not been entirely truthful. How do you propose we solve this?"
Valygar: "My proposal is that we return to the city and enter the sphere. That way, I will know if Lavok lives. If he does, we can exterminate his ghoulish existence once and for all. You are more than welcome to whatever lies within the sphere, such as magical treasure and anything else of Lavok's. None of it interests me in the slightest."
Chiyo: "Why should I trust a murderer? You killed two of the Cowled Wizards, didn't you?"
Valygar: "Aye, I did, but 'tis not murder. They attacked me first. I refused to co-operate with their 'request', and fled as soon as I was able to withdraw."
Chiyo: "Most excellent! My family swore an oath long ago to kill Lavok should he ever reappear, and perhaps I shall be able to fulfill it. My heartfelt thanks at your offer of aid."
Chiyo: "I should probably tell you before you agree that I intend to rescue an old friend of mine, Imoen, who has been taken hostage by the Cowled Wizards. It could be dangerous."
Valygar: "There is strength in numbers with you. And if you wish to have my help in exacting a toll against the Cowled Wizards that stand in your way, you'll hear no complaint from me. Let us be moving, then. More than likely the Cowled Wizards will hear of my movements...and the fact that you accompany me...soon enough. We shall have to be ready."
Jaheira: "We will have to be careful with the Cowled Wizards now at our heels. But it is a righteous cause, and another companion to stand at our side is always welcome."
Minsc: "Be welcome, brother of the woods! Together, you and Boo and I shall stride forward to crush all evil in our wake! Woe betide evil!"
...and then I dump him out of the party, telling him that I'll be back to the cabin. This is a CRPG. It's not like the Cowled Wizards will actually find him while I clear up quests elsewhere.

In the southern part of the map I find a small town where the minister is holding a meeting.

That's the main tenor of the conversation, despite the mayor's attempts to bring some calm to the proceedings:
Minister Lloyd: "Errm...calm down, everyone, please. I assure you that everything that can be done is being done..."
Groos the Herder: "And what is that?!"
Nelleck: "Aye! You just hired a group o' those adventurers, didn't you? Where in the abyss are they?!"
Minister Lloyd: "Well...they haven't come back yet, no..."
Johanna: "Oh! We're doomed! Doomed! We must flee the village!"
Margie: "We must flee before more people go missing!"
Minister Lloyd: "Now, now, people...come, this is no time to panic..."
Mistress Eina: "Please...listen to my husband!"
Minister Lloyd: "Ahem. Yes...well...we are looking for another group of adventurers, here, to handle the situation..."
Dale the Herder: "T' kill them ogres and evil kin, y' mean!"
Johanna: "Yes! Ever since that band of monsters moved into the area, we have had nothing but trouble! They're eating people, that's what!"
Nelleck: "Ye're both daft! 'Tis the wolves that have been wandering the hills, sure enough! Hungry, they is!"
Groos the Herder: "It's not wolves, you fool! It's Umar herself, returned to haunt us and steal our children!"
Ander: "Umar? Don't be tellin' that folk tale now! Can't ye see that it's the ogres, plain as th' truth?!"
Minister Lloyd: "People, please! We must first find out what happened to our ranger, Merella...and then track down the source of these murders. More adventurers will come soon."
Nelleck: "Well, they can't come soon enough!"
Dale the Herder: "Ye best be doin' something, mayor...or we need t' be fleein' to the city for our safety!"

Hashtag #leadership.

After that, I chat with people in town. From various people, I learn that wolves have been attacking livestock but the bodies are vanishing, that some people think it has to be the ogres because you know how those people are, and that centuries ago a witch named Umar would kidnap children until she vanished. Every hundred years, more children would vanish, and then the disappearances would stop...until the next time! The innkeeper gives me the diary of some wizard apprentices sent to investigate the disappearances that he's had printed up and titled The Umar Witch Project. It's written about the way you'd expect.

On the way out of the inn, I chat with the town drunk, who tells me he's seen shadows moving outside at night.

Love Labors Listlessly
Just north of the minister's house is a guard named Daar, who is depressed when I talk to him because the love of his life is a wizard's daughter and her father refuses to let them be together. When Chiyo offers to intervene for him, because she's found true love and dammit, everyone else should have a chance  photo Emot-loveheart.gif, he says it's pointless because Jermien would never agree. When I enter the cabin I avoid the subject, but Jermien says he's working on a golem so that he can leave his house without that idiot Daar talking to his precious daughter and could use some mimic's blood to finish it. After he offers an old magical sword, Chiyo agrees, and then heads over to his daughter Collette, who sighs plaintively about how she'll never be a sorceress and she just wants to marry Daar. Mentioning this to Jermien earns a dismissive comment that if he had known I would ask he would have just blasted me when I walked in, and when I ask why as the local Cowled Wizard he hasn't done anything about the disappearances, he says it's not his problem. Not wanting to murder a man in cold blood in front of his daughter, I head out to the minister's house.
Minister Lloyd: "Errrm...hello? I don't recognize you...you must be new to Imnesvale. Is there something I can help you with?"
Chiyo: "I saw your speech outside of the village...you in need of an adventurer?"
Minister Lloyd: "Yes, we are! Blessed Lathander has delivered us! Oh, my lady, you have no idea of the dire straits my little village is in! You will help us, then?"
Chiyo: "I think I'd like to know more about what is going on, first."
Minister Lloyd: "We've had a run of...killings and disappearances here, as of late. People murdered in their beds...their bodies disappearing...bodies found with the skins inside out. Normally we would turn to our local ranger-protector to aid us in a time like this, but our ranger, Merella, has vanished. Several men went to her cabin southwest of the village...and they found no sign of her. It is not like her to be absent for so long. I... I fear the worst. Soon after, shepherds and farmers from the outlying holds began disappearing. People heard strange noises at night...and we have no ranger to turn to! Everyone's frightened...but they're scared to leave, as well, else they get caught out in the wilderness by whatever has been doing the killing. And, of course, everyone has ideas on what's behind all of this..."
Mistress Eina: "It's the ogres, my husband...you know it is."
Minister Lloyd: "Errrrm...my wife, Eina. And, yes...many people think it's that group of ogres who moved into the area just before the killings began. Likely is, too."
Mistress Eina: "They're in the hills...too close to the village, I say!"
Minister Lloyd: "And still others claim Umar, herself...the great witch of the hills...has returned. Legend has it she was responsible for deaths much like these ones."
Mistress Eina: "Pfaw! That is just old legends! Umar has been gone for over five hundred years, my husband!"
Minister Lloyd: "Yes...true. I suppose I should warn you...I've already hired the famous knight, Mazzy Fentan, and her troupe...but they haven't been back."
Minsc: "Wolves? Ogres? Witches? Oh my! It is too much for Minsc's poor head to comprehend! Which of these are evil? The edge of my sword shall find the truth!"
Minister Lloyd: "To be honest, I think you should check on the ogres and their fellows before chasing after legends and such. So...will you...will you help us?"
Chiyo: "I am saving coin to rescue a friend imprisoned by the Cowled Wizards, so I will need a reward."
Minister Lloyd: "Herrrm...well, my village is in dire need. I'll tell you what...if you end the murders, I will give you the armor that belonged to our first ranger protector. That was my ancestor, and I've kept it. I'm told it's wrapped up with strong protective magics. I'd be happy to offer it-- and some gold-- to save my village."
Chiyo: "Very well... I'll help you, if I can."
Minister Lloyd: "Oh, most excellent! Please, my lady...go to Merella's cabin and find where she has gone. My...men are too frightened to go that far from the village. Her cabin is west of the village, in the valley. It...it should not be hard to find. There are other, older cabins in the hills...abandoned for many years. Or go north from here to the river and find that Madulf and his beasts. I have little doubt that they are responsible for all of this, but we must be sure! I am relieved you have decided to help us. You have the run of the village, my lady. If you...need anything else...do not hesitate to come to me."
Xan: "Wonderful. Dying for the benefit of some forsaken village--isn't it what I have always dreamed of?"
Minsc: "Oh, most glorious day! One step closer we come to being true heroes, yes indeedy! Even little Boo's fur stands on end from his anticipation!"
On the way out, Chiyo trolls Xan by smiling at him:

 photo troll001.png

Merella's cabin is to the west of the village and by the in-game distance it's probably a bow-shot away, but I can accept collapsed distances for the purposes abstraction, in much the same way that the village has three buildings--the inn, the minister's house, and Jermien's house--but twenty or so people living there. Merella's house is mostly empty, but the bedroom shows signs of a struggle and bloodstains like something was dragged out. On a table in the main room I find a journal, and on the floor of her bedroom I find a note from one "Mazzy Fenten."

The journal mentions the wolves behaving weirdly, and that even though Merella had good relations with the local packs, lately they've been acting very bizarre. She's even seen some kind of shadow wolves, running alongside her when she's out on patrol in the forest. The last entry is how she thinks something is controlling the wolves and she plans to get to the bottom of it. The note from Mazzy is about how Merella is right about the wolves, and that the mastermind is headquartered at...the ruined temple. There we go. No more sequence-breaking.

I head north, intending to talk to the ogres, but I find a small cave in the mountains and enter. The cave is mostly empty except for a few corpses here and there, with a treasure chest in the far side:

I send Yoshimo forward, checking for traps, and don't find anything despite extensive searching, so eventually I have him try to open the chest and he's immediately frozen in place because it's actually a mimic.

Well played, Baldur's Gate II. Well played.

It also affects Xan even though he's probably fifteen yards away, but not anyone else, so I carve the mimic to ribbons in moments and take its blood. On the way back to deliver it I find another group of townspeople, who expound on their own theories about the disappearances and tell me not to listen to the shepherd's daughter Kaatje, since she's making up stories. I know how these things work, so I go talk to Kaatje and she tells me that she saw some horrible shadow monster leaving Merella's cabin covered in blood. Well. Probably not going to find her alive, then.

When I return the mimic blood to Jermien, he shoves it in the golem, who promptly goes berzerk and attacks. Jermien prudently casts stoneskin while Chiyo and Minsc chop the golem to ribbons, and when it dies, Jermien has an adrenaline- and shock-induced change of heart:
Colette: "F-father?! You're alive! Oh, thank the gods!"
Jermien: "Y-yes...I am alive, my daughter. Thanks to our kind stranger, here..."
Daar: "Colette?! Colette, what has happened?!"
Colette: "Oh, Daar! Oh, Daar, it was terrible!"
Jermien: "One of my own creations turned on me, boy. It...it seems I am not so wise and powerful as I had first thought. And...perhaps I have been foolish in some of my other decisions, as well. Daar...boy...if you promise to take care of my daughter, and protect her...if you still want her...I'll not stand in the way."
Colette: "Oh, father! Are you serious? Thank you!"
Daar: "Indeed. Thank you, Jermien. I shall take excellent care of Colette, you can be sure. Come, my love...let's not waste this chance."
They immediately run off before Jermien comes to his senses, and after giving Chiyo the sword, he also leaves in order to rethink his life. I take the opportunity to plunder his house--protagonists gonna protag--and then leave and head north.

Tactics Ogre
On the way to talk to Madulf and his merry band of monsters, I run into three boys on the road who tell me that they want to be mighty adventurers but their parents think it's too dangerous, so could I please buy them swords and booze? Frankly, judging by the number of times I've had to reload while replaying battles in this game their parents are right, so I compromise by just getting them booze, which they seem perfectly happy with and run off to drink it. I'm sure that this won't have any negative consequences whatsoever.

On the journey back from buying the booze, Jaheira and Minsc have a conversation about Minsc's demeanor.
Jaheira: "Minsc, could you please maintain a little grace while in nature's presence? Sometimes I simply do not know how you came by your title of ranger."
Minsc: "Do you wish me dour and sour like most others? No, I say not. The animals run and play without care, and I would too...if such a thing would not squish Boo flat. "
Jaheira: "But your duties are serious things, Minsc. Do you realize that?"
Minsc: "I am very serious! Boo would not let me shirk my duties! I would not want to shirk anything! No sir, no shirking!"
Jaheira: "Admirable Minsc, but you use that word like you don't know what it means."
Minsc: "Eh, well...no...but it sounds sharp and painful and I always reserve such things for freaks that might steal those squirrels' nuts!"
Jaheira: "Good job, Minsc. You keep it up."
I think points go to Minsc here. It's not Jaheira who Baldur's Gate fans endless quote whenever the game is brought up.

The "ogres" who live in the north turn out to be a motley group of humanoids, and when I approach Madulf and tell him that we're just there to talk, he mentions that they used to be part of an army in the south, but got tired of war and fled north:
Madulf: "Hold! You'se a elf, but you'se not of human village! Why you come? What you'se wanting?"
Chiyo: "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
Madulf: "Me Madulf...lead fellows from great army of Sythsill in the south. No want to kill races no more. Lead fellows in desertion. We just wants be left alone."
Chiyo: "What about what I have heard about your fellows being responsible for killing people in Imnesvale?"
Madulf: "We no kill no humans in village! We no want trouble with you'se!"
Chiyo: "How do I know you're telling the truth?"
Madulf: "Always Madulf and fellows be chased and hated 'cause me an ogre! We just wants to be left alone. We come here one moon ago, tries to settle for a while, yes? Soon after we come, fellows begin to vanish. One, two, they go. Some turn up killed...skin missing. Some bodies vanish, too. Madulf no know who killing us. Madulf worried...numbers get smaller. We like here, but something bad is here, too, killing us fellows. Very bad."
Chiyo: "Something's killing your people, too? What do you think it is?"
Madulf: "Madulf no knows. Maybe wolves. Maybe bad magics. Nobody see what kills fellows. Comes at night, though...maybe is the shadows."
Chiyo: "I see. So your band is no better off than the village. I'll be going, then."
Madulf: "Wait...you not attack us. We needs you bring word to human village...humans run when Madulf goes, so me needs you'se to do it for me. You'se bring word, yes?"
Chiyo: "What kind of word do you need brought to them?"
Madulf: "Madulf no want death...Madulf no want fight. Just want peace. You tell villagers, maybe, that Madulf and fellows will protect village...protect from orcs in mountains, yes? Humans let us stay, then, and no call knights. Maybe let us come, once in a moon, to trade for food and goods. Madulf make deal with village, if you'se tell them...we no want trouble."
Chiyo: "Alright, I'll tell the mayor what you've said. But I can't promise anything."
Madulf: "Madulf happy. Maybe fellows can live alone and eat good, be happy here. You do good thing...maybe humans agree. Madulf keep deal, you tell them."
It's the sheer improbability of an ogre coming up with a cunning plan that involves pretending to be a pacifist that convinces me. I head back to the village right away. The minister agrees to talk to the ogres and heads off to do so, while talking to his wife brings a tongue-lashing because I bought booze for her son. Whoops.

Don't trust adventurers, kids. They'll break up your tavern common rooms, seduce your eligible sons and daughters, plant wild notions in people's heads, and destroy your economy.

I do some searching around but don't find the children, so I head off to the temple ruins.

Secrets of the Ruined Temple
As soon as I enter, I'm cheerfully greeted:

On his body is a journal, which identifies him as Lellyn, an adventurer working with Mazzy Fenten. Turns out that adventuring isn't all glory, it's also a lot of attack rolls and grinding through random mobs on the way to the boss. The most important part for my party is probably this:
There were far too many to fight but Mazzy used the stained glass of the ruins to reflect what light we had, illuminating the entrance and sending the shades to their doom. While the stained glass caught the light, we were able to find a pocket of safety. Any shadows that came within were destroyed by the light.
The last line says he hopes he wouldn't run, but I guess his hope was in vain.

A little further in is a werewolf hunched over a man's body, who snarls at Chiyo that we will stop her vengeance and runs into a nearby cave. Following it in, the party is confronted by a woman who says that her pack is controlled by the "Shade Lord."
Anath: "My wolves? Hah! No longer, fool. The pack has fallen under the fell magicks of the Shade Lord. Your hunting has gone awry."
Chiyo: "Explain yourself. Who is this Shade Lord and what has he done to your pack?"
Anath: "This place was not always like this... floating in a false and unholy darkness. It began only a short time ago. The ruins to the east of the den have long been a place of foreboding to my pack and I. We had no desire to tread the ground of the fallen temple. The temple was once dedicated to Amaunator, a god of the sun, and a great prophetess is buried within. It was holy ground once, though now it is fouled. It is obvious that Amaunator's power has waned for if this was still his consecrated ground, my doom would never have arisen from the bowels of the temple."
Chiyo: "Go on."
Anath: "Some weeks ago, muted rumblings were heard beneath the temple. We paid little heed to them until the skies darkened and the shadows deepened. It was high noon when it happened and the pack gathered so that I might calm them. I thought it to be an eclipse. It was not. The Shade Lord came among us then. He dominated my wolves, my children, with a glance. I changed form and leapt at his darkness but he merely laughed. 'Anath,' he said, 'Bend to my will. You shall be the means of my revenge.' He walked amongst the terrified wolves and killed them all with a touch. Once they were all dead his darkness reached out to the corpses of my children and animated them as shade wolves. Numb with terror and sorrow, I ran. I've hidden these last few weeks from the shades that once were wolves and from the darkness that creeps out from the temple that once imprisoned the Shade Lord. I will hide no more. This man I killed only to gather strength to face the Shade Lord. He wants only to kill and those he kills, be they man-thing or wolf, arise as shades in his army. Will you allow me this revenge or do I have to fight you as well?"
Chiyo: "If you wish to attempt to kill the Shade Lord, I will not stop you."
Anath: "Meet me in the temple to the east of this den. Be wary of the shadows that lurk there. Make sure you are prepared before you enter it."
And she runs off to the east.

After resting in the cave, I scour the map, killing off shadows and shade wolves among the twisted trees and purple rock formations with the accompaniment of creepy music. As they approach the temple, Chiyo asks Xan why he decided to become an enchanter:
Xan: "Me? Actually, I would be interested as to why you have chosen the Art. But very well. Magic runs in my family. It is art and craft and song. It allows you to heal minds and ward off danger, as well as create true wonders. Simple fireballs and acid are not worth it. If only we had time, I would have shown you the advanced magic of runes, nimble fingerwork and subtle steams, but, alas, we have none. We shall have to make do with primitive enchantments for now... though, given your lineage, it is just as well."
With that attitude towards blaster wizards, he's obviously well-suited to make the jump to d20 and force all the fighters to lick his boots.

The front of the temple has a pit descending into unknown shadowy depths and a fountain choked with purple ichor. There are also hordes of shadows and shade wolves in front of the temple, and after I hack my way through some of them I see the werewolf, who yells at Chiyo that it's a trap and that we need to reflect the light before dying and thus relieving me of my plan to kill her after killing the Shade Lord. Moving the stained glass window--don't ask me how that works--reflects the light onto a crystal in the ruins, creating a circle of light that destroys the attacking creatures:

Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.

Sadly, I don't get any XP for that.

Descending the stairs reveals a nest of corridors. After Yoshimo doesn't find any traps, I walk into the first door on the right and nearly get slaughtered by a bunch of shadows protecting two giant skeletons. After pouring a bunch of healing into my party, I go into the next room, where a shadow actual speaks. It yells, "You shall not free the master's consort, mortal!" hurls itself at at the party, and dies because it's outnumbered six to one. Behind the door is Mazzy Fenten, the halfling adventurer and last survivor of her adventuring party.
Mazzy: "Ho, noble friends! I beg your assistance in this evil place."
Chiyo: "Well met! Who addresses me?"
Mazzy: "Your grace, I am Mazzy Fentan, a valiant servant of justice and righteousness. As you can see, I could use your assistance. "
Chiyo: "And you shall have it. How did you come to be here?"
Mazzy: "I am an adventurer. I led my party here to discover the source of the evil that has befallen the area, which became abundantly clear when it slaughtered my companions at the Shadow Altar. You have fought my jailors, the shadows. Those unfortunate souls are the remnants of live victims who have been perverted by the power of the dark fiend, the Shade Lord."
Chiyo: "Why is it here and what does it want?"
Mazzy: "It is here to dominate and to conquer. This Shade Lord seems to feed on the corruption of souls. If it is not stopped it will continue to build its army of shadows."
Chiyo: "We are here to get rid of the Shade Lord. Why don't you tell us of your attempt."
Mazzy: "My companions and I were hired by Minister Lloyd of Imnesvale to find the ranger, Merella, as well as look into the rash of killings that has plagued the area. We found Merella's journal which mentioned the unholy darkening of this land. The local legends tell of how the Shade Lord was struck down by Amaunator ages ago. We entered the temple ruins and found it infested with shadow-magic. The Shadow Wolves, here, are from the wolf packs that roamed these hills mere weeks ago. Through tomes and other clues, my party learned of a perverted altar of Amaunator which can only be reached through the bowels of this place. We had to find sun gems so the doors of darkness that the Shade Lord had placed along our path could be opened. They can be acquired if one passes Amaunator's tests. We searched for the three parts of the key to the door that leads to the horror that the Shade Lord commands. The Shade Lord commands a shadow dragon... a most deadly foe. We were struck down as he laughed, and I am unsure of how to defeat such a creature. Most horrible of all, the Shade Lord took the life force of my friends and turned them to members of his cursed army. My beloved Patrick has become a hideous shadow! I would gladly have sold my life with my friends but the Shade Lord would not let the dragon kill me. He wants me to be what he calls 'his consort'. He is not a creature of this plane and must possess a body, feeding on its life. He inhabits Merella, now...and planned to use my own body once Merella grows weak, I suspect."
Xan: "A creature from the Negative Energy Plane? How?"
Mazzy: "I have come to believe that this altar which the shadow dragon guards, is the secret of this place. A way must be found to pass this beast for he cannot be killed by such as us. The Shade Lord and his altar must be destroyed. I am uninjured and ready to fight with you if you will have me."
Chiyo: "Perhaps it is best if we face it alone. We will free you and wish you well, however."
Mazzy: "Thank you for your assistance. Should you ever need a brave companion, I reside in Trademeet with my family. Ask for me at the tavern. I am well known. Fare thee well."
Mazzy leaves through the cleared-out dungeon behind the party. Past the jail cell is a room with a stone head of Amaunator, who demands in a thunderous voice that Chiyo tell it what the proper rite is at dawn. She guess singing hymns and is blasted with flames for her ignorance, so I head elsewhere, looking for the answer. I find a sun gem and huddle near it as shadows swarm in to their doom, then take it from its pedestal and head north, where I find part of the daily Ritual of Amaunator...but it doesn't have the morning section, so I use the sun gem on the shadow door and head deeper into the ruins.

Most of the rest of the complex passes similarly, with a lot of killing shadows and shade wolves, Xan, Jaheira, Yoshimo, and Aerie yelling "My weapon has no effect!" because they still have mundane weaponry (well, Xan and Aerie have magical slings, but not magical sling bullets, and it's the latter that counts for hitting things), and a room that's inexplicably filled with lava. On the other side of the lava is another part of the ritual, which I use to pass the morning and noon tests from the head with a minimum of flame striking, and two ghosts who tell me of the fall of the temple to the Shade Lord and that they cannot rest until the bones of the Child of Light, Amauna, are buried with honor, since they were scattered when the temple fell and now lie in the layer of the shade wolves. I actually found these bones early and left them where they were, so I go retrieve them and bring them to the ghosts. They cry out with joy and fade from view...and Amauna appears to thank Chiyo for what she has done and give me a wardstone that will render me invisible to the shadow dragon, before she joins the other ghosts in Amaunator's realm.

At the end of a passage blocked by a shadow wolf, I find Gorje Hilldark the illithium procurer, seemingly unconcerned by setting up shop in a domain of supernatural evil, at least until I talk to him:
Gorje Hilldark: "By Abbathor's unwashed arse! Who in the name o' all the Hells are ye?"
Chiyo: "You must be the Gorje that Unger spoke of. I came here at the request of your brother."
Gorje Hilldark: "That dirt sniffin’ idiot! He sent ye to rescue me? Just like him, the pyrite-brained fool! Couldn’t pick up an axe and do the dirty work himself, had to leave it to surfacers."
Chiyo: "No. I'm looking for illithium."
Gorje Hilldark: "Illithium!!?? He told you?? That thrice blasted moron! That ale-guzzlin' worm farmer! That nancin' drow buggerin' fool! Where is he? I'll lop off his empty head and use it fer a chamber pot!! (Won't rescue me but he’ll tell a bunch o' dirt lovin' surfacers where to find the place...)"
Chiyo: "Your brother is at the Copper Coronet pining for his lost cavern of riches. How is it that you are still here with all of the monsters about?"
Gorje Hilldark: "Unless ye be as blind as a cave rat and as thick as granite, ye must have noticed that these ruins have been invaded by a group o' beasties. Somethin' enormous has made its home below us and taken control o' me mine. I’ve been here hopin to find a way out. Is the way clear behind ye? Is there a safe way out?"
Chiyo: "What is this enormous thing of which you speak?"
Gorje Hilldark: "It didn’t look like it was the conversational type. It burned its way through the very earth and now has made its home in a room below us. I'm happy to leave it be. Now tell me, is there a safe way out o' this prison?"
Chiyo: "The path is clear. You can escape."
Gorje Hilldark: "Ye be serious?! Bloody hellfires, me idiot brother did something right for a change?! In that case, I’m off to find the gritsucker. And I’d recommend ye leave this accursed place before that beastie below finds ye and makes ye into a snack. Who knows, that beastie may think yer crunchy and good fer snackin' on."
And he runs.

Further in, I encounter one of the classic silly dungeon puzzles:

Chiyo goes across and finds the third part of the Ritual and an imprisoned shadow who demands that she take it across in exchange for information. Chiyo demands the information, which it reluctantly provides--it stole part of the key to the depths and hid it in its cell--so Chiyo takes the key and hides it in her shadow. On the other side of the puzzle comes the sudden but inevitable betrayal, but since the rest of the party is on that side, the shadow dies messily. Then Chiyo heads all the way back to the stone head, solves the last riddle, gets the third piece of the holy symbol of Amaunator, and the party heads into the layer of the shadow dragon.

Deeper Darkness
I exit the stairway and I'm immediately glad that I have that wardstone:

I spend a bit trying to kill Thaxll'ssillvia and it goes...poorly. On the attempts where it doesn't immediately dispel all the protective magics I poured onto Chiyo and then kill her in three hits, it uses wing buffet to scatter the party and then picks them off at its leisure, taking advantage of the fact that it can drain four levels at a time. After half-a-dozen failed attempts, I figure I'll come back when I can summon demons to tank for me and head down to the next level.

The battle against the Shade Lord takes a few tries too. The corrupted altar of Amaunator keeps summoning shadows, the Shade Lord has been enhanced by Sword Coast Stratagems to the point of utter teeth-grinding insanity / properly fitting the lore of a monster that it took divine intervention to banish (choose as appropriate) and has a ton of magical abilities. In addition to Ye Standard SCS Magical Defenses--improved invisibility, protection from magical weapons, the whole nine yards--it has an aura that level-drains anyone in melee range, an aura that can just straight-up kill anyone in melee range, and a bunch of powerful wizard spells like black blade of disaster. He's a nightmare.

After normal tactics fail miserably, I resort to cheese. As soon as I enter the area with the altar, Jaheira casts insect plague, which distracts the Shade Lord enough for me to destroy the altar and the rest of the shadows. Then I leave, rest, reconfigure my spells specifically to destroy the Shade Lord, and march back in. This involves the same basic initial strategy but a few more attempts, and it basically comes down to: Does the Shade Lord use finger of death on one of my party members? If yes, reload. I cycle through that loop a few times until I corner it, Xan and Aerie strip all its magical defenses off it, and I just pound it with flame arrows, magic missiles, and Jaheira, Minsc, and Chiyo all hitting it until it finally dies. When it does, light returns to the glade, and Merella, free of its domination, whispers out a thank you before dying herself. She leaves behind a cloak of the stars, which I give to Xan, and the Shade Lord leaves the Darkmail, which goes to Jaheira. There's also a magical halberd which I give to Minsc and plan to sell, and 5000 gold which I scoop up like I was a squirrel and it was the last acorns before winter.

Back in town Chiyo informs the minister of the Shade Lord's demise:
Minister Lloyd: "Yes, my lady? Is there...is there something you need?"
Chiyo: "I wished to tell you a Shade Lord was responsible. It had possessed the body of Merella, your ranger... who died once the shade was destroyed."
Minister Lloyd: "Oh, this is most joyous news! It is sad that Merella is dead...but we are most grateful to you, my lady, for ridding us of this peril! As agreed, here is the armor of my ancestor ranger...it is leather, but I assure you it is most strongly bound with magic to make it as strong as plate mail! I am not sure if the armor will be of any use to you. Errrm...is...is this enough of a reward? I suppose I could offer you some amount of gold, as well..."
Chiyo: "No, no. The leather, itself, is more than enough."
Minister Lloyd: "You...you are very kind. It is good to know there are valiant and generous folk still in Faerun... My thanks to you again, my lady...it is a great relief to know that Imnesvale will now be safe. I will tell the townsfolk immediately!"
With all that surely perfectly safe gold from a cursed and unhallowed temple, I don't need another reward from this town.

I then head up to Madulf to talk to the humanoids about the agreement:
Madulf: "Madulf pleased to see you, elf. Human village send message, we speak soon and trade. Madulf and fellows protect village, they like. Madulf and fellows owe you much...we can stay and be left alone, here. Is good. Here...have shield to give you...is magic, from Sythsill army...we no use. Maybe you like."
After a stop at the town merchants to sell all my unwanted loot, I go looking for the children that I bought the ale for. I find them passed out and dreaming of adventure in the cave where the mimic was, and after checking to make sure that they're alright and informing their parents of where they are, I head back to Athkatla.

Game time elapsed: 21 days, 23 hours.
Imoen rescue fund: 15,628/?????????

Well, that was profitable. I knew I could recoup the cost of buying Chiyo that sword.

I really need to get Jaheira a weapon, though. I used enchanted weapon, modified by mods so that it can produce basically any weapon in the game, to create a +3 scimitar for her once I realized that she was basically useless for most of this dungeon. It didn't matter when I was just fighting the shadows, but anything more powerful than that and it really started to hurt. Fortunately, she showed her worth in the final battle. I didn't realize that insect plague was so powerful--chance for enemies it effects to run, 100% spell failure chance, and a damage over time effect? I can't wait until I have to figure out how to fight druids who are using it on me, and now I have another weapon against those wizard battles I'm always complaining about.

I have to wonder how often this kind of scenario happens in the Forgotten Realms. Tiny village sets up somewhere it thinks looks nice only to find that they're built on an ancient elven burial ground, or some demon-summoning empire's research complex, or the last temple of a forgotten god. No wonder there are so many adventurers running around everywhere--you need them to deal with the fallout of past unsafe supernatural events. And sometimes they screw up and create more work for adventurers down the line. I suppose that's the benefit of a setting designed to explain why there are all these ruins and dungeons everywhere.

Also, I really expected the Shade Lord to secretly be Umar.

Next: Part IX: Shouldn't the City Guard Be Handling This?
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
Current Music: Nox Arcana - Darkness Rising