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07 February 2016 @ 09:46 pm
Dorchadas plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XV: Never Deal with a Dragon  
Yoshimo back in the party, I head back to the Planar Sphere. Once inside, the leader of the Solamnic Knights greets me and asks that, as a wizard of great power, I return her and her companions to their home:
Reyna: "It seems you are now master here, oh wizard of great power. I ask you to turn your will towards getting my fellow knights and I back to where we belong."
Chiyo: "And just how do you expect me to do that?"
Reyna: "I don't know. I am not knowledgeable in magic, but there must be some way. If you do not know, at least make some inquiries. I beg of you, this is not our home."
Chiyo: "I will see what can be done. Now leave me."
Reyna: "That is all we can ask. We have little choice."
The dialogue responses here are kind of disappointing for Chiyo's disposition--that response is something that Chiyo as I envision her would never say, but that's a limit of CRPGs. That's the answer I give because it's the most positive one, and as the leader nods and leaves, the tell-tale circle of a teleportation spell appears and a Cowled Wizard materializes in the Planar Sphere. As is traditional for Cowled Wizards, he starts off by being a dick:

Is this a joke about Forgotten Realms elves' height?

Chiyo: "I beg your pardon? Have we met?"
Teos: "I am here as a contact and a master, and I will thank you for keeping your tone civil. I am Teos, and I have been assigned to offer you a...special deal. You just recently took this sphere, and by all rights we should have it, but my superiors said to offer an alternative. It would seem we have need of you."
Chiyo: "I have just killed some of your number. Why would a Cowled Wizard offer me anything?"
Teos: "I readily agree there is little reason to trust, but I have been ordered to speak with you regardless. It would seem that events as of late are to be reevaluated."
Xan: "Ah, so the Cowled Wizards possess flexible morality. But what of Tolgerias? Is he to be simply discarded?"
Teos: "I am told that member Tolgerias is no longer to be spoken of. Either he was working for himself, or something of greater importance requires it to be so. In any case, as distasteful to me as it is, I am to inform you of the details of the partnership to which you are now a member."
Chiyo: "You assume a great deal. I was not aware I was joined with you."
Teos: "You have no real choice in the matter. It's a simple bit of business, one that is not without benefit. Listen to what I say and you will see what I mean. You are in possession of a notable artifact, this sphere. That you neutralized it was of great service, and apparently enough for my superiors to overlook the past. That said, they would like to offer an exchange. You may operate in this awkwardly placed sphere if you agree to certain duties for the Cowled Wizards."
Chiyo: "I'm listening."
Teos: "It is simple; you may have this place and act freely as a mage. In exchange, you do the odd task for us, acting when we can't because of political or other reasons. There may be more conditions on the offer, but I don't know them. Take my word for whatever you think it's worth, and realize that this is best for all involved."
Chiyo: "You speak of trust when you are the ones that took Imoen from me? Return her, then we will talk."
Teos: "Imoen? I don't know the name. This is a large city, and the Cowled Wizards have many subdivisions and such. Taken because of unauthorized magic use? I will inquire to my superiors about her if you wish. Until then, I would advise that you act in accordance with this agreement. This is all to be discreet, you understand, so much so that I am forbidden from telling my fellow Cowled Wizards. They will treat you as they always have. If you display magic in the streets you will be censured accordingly. The lives of a few brethren are apparently an acceptable price for your assistance. I cannot say that I agree with this, but it is not my place to say."
Chiyo: "Prove your intent. Help me return the Solamnic Knights to their proper plane of existence."
Teos: "They are no doubt some unfortunate travelers that got caught in this sphere? No one here will miss them. I say kill them and save the headache. But if you must help them, I suggest speaking with Ribald at the Adventurers' Mart. He seems to have all sorts of things for unique situations such as this. Beyond that, the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart deals with knights, I do not. Just one of the problems you are sure to encounter in this place."
He then teleports out, and I head off the to Adventurer's Mart.

Ribald says he knows of just the thing, a wizard who once banished a creature back from whence it came, but her services will be expensive--9000 gold. That's a third of what I have, but for murderhobos it's easy come, easy go, so I agree to his terms. Ribald says that the wizard will be at the Planar Sphere tomorrow, and when Chiyo asks how he knew where she needed to go, he answers that it's his business to know things and anywhere, where else would someone be needed for planar banishment other than the weirdest place in the city, which is fair enough. I sell a few things, head off to Cromwell to see if there are any recipes I can make. He can combine some of my rings and boots into combined versions, but the recipe I'm really interested in is enhancing Xan's Robe of the Archmagi using a cloak of protection +1 and scrolls of Spirit Armor and Contingency. I'll have to keep an eye out for those scrolls, and so I wave off Cromwell's other options and head back to the Adventurer's Mart. Ribald doesn't have them, but Galoomp the Bookkeeper has a scroll of Spirit Armor and it turns out that I already have a scroll of Contingency. I just need 20,000 gold...

...and hey, wasn't there a Lord Firkraag who said he'd pay me 10K to deal with problems out on his land?  photo emot-v.gif

After a while of sleeping in the Planar Sphere, the party wakes up to the tell-tale glow of a teleport signature:

...it's not Ribald's friend, it's Teos with my first task:
Teos: Well, Chiyo, I return with your first duty under the yoke of the Cowled Wizards. I trust you have made yourself at home in this place?"
Chiyo: "As well as can be expected. What is it that you want?"
Teos: "Enough chatter. You are to forgo your own concerns and do the task I set, though I do not understand why you have been chosen. It hardly seems worth the trouble. I bring three young mages. They have shown potential, and have been removed from their homes that they might be cultivated into productive Cowled Wizards. These apprentices shall serve and observe while you direct their schooling. This will not require much, and they may even supply you with things you need."
Chiyo: "Introduce them then. I will see what I can do."
Teos: "The first is Morul, and he speaks for the others. He is the son of a wealthy merchant, and his father would be most upset if something happened to his gifted child."
Morul: "H-hello, Chiyo. It will be an honor to study in your shadow."
Teos: "I'm sure. Next is Larz. He found some old magic texts and studied without his parent's knowledge. They feared the stigma he would bring and cast him out."
Larz: "Cowards. I have found others that appreciate me now."
Teos: "Speak when spoken to, child. Next is Nara, from the area of Trademeet. She was given to a temple as a foundling, and has since developed a taste for magic."
Lara: "I will serve as best I can, Chiyo."
Teos: "Nothing less is expected. Chiyo, they will receive their instruction from the Cowled Wizards directly, but you will determine the basics of their study."
Chiyo: "That is all? I doubt I was allowed to keep the Sphere because I would make a good teacher."
Teos: "I am not responsible for granting it. This stinks of make-work, but it is not for me to decide. I will return in future tendays with additional duties."
And he teleports out. As time goes on, I feel less and less bad for making Irenicus go on a rampage in the market.

After a fade to black, Morul asks Chiyo what tasks she will set for them. They suggest a Wand of the Apprenti, a ring of protection +1, or a personalized weaopn called the Dagger of Chiyo. That last one sounds pretty good--plus they say that it's the simplest--so I start them with that. Morul says that it'll take a few days, so I leave them to their work.

Meanwhile, Khollynnus Paac, Ribald's wizard friend, has teleported into my stronghold--I really need to get this place secured against teleportation--and asks if the Solamnic Knights are ready to go home:
Khollynnus Paac: "Hello, Chiyo, Ribald has told me you wish some people sent to their proper plane? Knights of some sort? Are we ready to do this?"
Chiyo: Let us ask the Knights themselves if they are ready to go."
Reyna: "We are ready, of course. Our home beckons from beyond the walls of dimensions."
Khollynnus Paac: "Yes, well, be that as it may, this might sting a bit. Farewell, then. And farewell to you, Chiyo. A pleasure doing business with you."
Xan: "And, of course, no reward. Typical. Oh, but what am I talking about? I have started to think just like you do: rewards and riches! Seldarine, what is happening to me?"
Reyna: "Wait! One last second. Chiyo, we know this was not an inexpensive gift that you give to us. That is why we have something for you in return. Take this. It is a small token of our gratitude. Well met and safe travels."
Khollynnus Paac: "And with that, we are gone."
After the leader gives Chiyo a Golden Girdle, they all teleport out.

Now, on to Lord Firkraag's quest.

Flamebait and Switch
When I arrive in the Windspear Hills, I'm accosted by...some humanoids and a wyvern?

Chiyo: "You are awfully eloquent for a beast of your size. We should talk a moment."
Ogre: "No more words! Your lies will taint this land no longer; your crimes will trouble the people not a second more!"
That is not something I would ever expect an ogre to say. Call me speciesist, but ogres have Intelligence 8 and are described as "big, ugly, greedy humanoids that live by ambushes, raids, and theft." Righteous avenger isn't in that list anywhere. Full of suspicion, Jaheira immediately casts true seeing, which...does nothing, because this is a CRPG and thus doesn't have a human DM to mediate interactions like that. Sigh. With no other choice, I slaughter the humanoids, and after they die they transform back into human knights. Surprise, surprise.

A man who had been hiding in the bushes approaches and wonders what was going on, and Chiyo replies that she's been tricked into killing the knights:
Garren Windspear: "What goes on here? I've seen many a strange thing in my time, but the events of the past few moments tops them all. Who are you that can change shape so readily, and why have you slain these beasts that become men?"
Chiyo: "It appears that we have been tricked into killing these knights!"
Garren Windspear: "That is the conclusion I've come to, though the priests of Helm will not believe what has happened. They will seek justice, and only your heads will suffice."
Chiyo: "That is dire news indeed. What do you suggest that we do?"
Garren Windspear: "I suggest that you take sanctuary with me until you can discover how this unfortunate event came to pass."
Chiyo: "I shall be honored to accept your hospitality."
Garren Windspear: "Follow behind me. My cabin is but a short distance south of here. I will meet you there."
In his cabin, he introduces himself as Garren Windspear, former lord of the Windspear Hills, whose lands were stolen from him by Jierdan Firkraag:
Garren Windspear: "Ahh, you have arrived. I thought you might. Best that you learn all you can of your situation before you go off getting killed. You have been cruelly tricked."
Chiyo: "Your kindness is welcome. How did you come to happen by when you did?"
Garren Windspear: "You are not the first to suffer because of falsehoods and trickery. I have undergone the same, though my trial was less bloody. I was once lord of this land, and had many holds across the heart of Amn. Taken from me, it was. It was almost overnight, and I still bear the scars in my dreams."
Xan: "Ah, I see where it is going. This man will blackmail you, so you will help him regain his lands, and he will clear your name in return. Truly, there is no charity in this world."
Garren Windspear: "I am content now, having found solace in the quiet of the wood, but I will forevermore curse the name of Lord Jierdan Firkraag."
Chiyo: "I know this name. It was he that bid me rid his land of its ogre menace."
Garren Windspear: "It is true to his style, organizing an elaborate plot to discredit a rival. I do not understand why he would target you, however. My case was obvious. He sought my lands, so he discredited me. There were missing people only he could find, banditry only he could stop. Solutions to problems I am sure he caused."
Yoshimo: "Aye, that makes sense. I have heard of his name mentioned in some less-than-reputable circles in the past. This Jierdan seems to be a special case."
Garren Windspear: "In the end my properties were razed in a single night. The people lost faith in me, and my influence crumbled. Now, it would seem, he has targeted you."
Chiyo: "So he undermined your barony, but why would he come after me?"
Garren Windspear: "I do not know. Perhaps you slighted him in some way, without even knowing. He seems quite singleminded in his purposes. What I do know is that he is not the worst of your worries. The Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart will seek your death if something is not done quickly. I have friends among the Order. I will speak with them as quickly as possible. Perhaps I can persuade them to look on you with mercy. I can but try."
Chiyo: "Your efforts are appreciated, but I cannot pay you for this service."
Garren Windspear: "I would not ask for payment. Any enemy of Lord Jierdan's is a friend of mine. I will return as soon as possible. Make my home yours, I won't be long."
After he leaves, his son Taar asks Chiyo to hurt Lord Firkraag as his father was hurt, and not feeling particularly charitable, Chiyo agrees.

The party sleeps, and in the morning, a servant runs in and says that he's seen bandits coming for the stronghold and we need to flee! Chiyo says that she'll see what the trouble is and Taar agrees...and then bandits just spawn in the cabin and teleport Taar out.

All aboard the railroad. This quest is starting to seriously annoy me. First the knights whose illusions are immune to true seeing, which says:
The spell penetrates normal and magical darkness. Secret doors become plain. The exact location of displaced things is obvious. Invisible things become visible. Illusions and apparitions are seen through. Polymorphed, changed, or enchanted objects are apparent. (The real form appears translucently superimposed on the apparent form. A gold dragon polymorphed to human form would appear human with a ghostly dragon looming over the human form.)
...which is pretty unambiguous. Then magical spawning bandits. What's next, demon-summoning 20th level wizards?

After taunting me for a while, the bandits attack, and I handily murder them after the single complication of the leader's blade barrier is dealt with. Once they all die, Garren comes back and seems ready to unleash on Chiyo until he realizes that it's Lord Firkraag again:
Garren Windspear: "My daughter is gone! I left this place in your care! I... I...no, no, I know it was not you... I know who my enemies are. Damn that Jierdan Firkraag! What is his grief with me?! This must end! I cannot live under his shadow; under his heel!"
Chiyo: "I would see it end as well. I will rescue your child, no matter the risk."
Garren Windspear: "I thank you, though I don't know where you will find him. His hooligans prevent searching. I don't know... Perhaps the ruins in the northeast? I don't know..."
Chiyo: "I will take vengeance for you as well, no matter where he hides!"
Garren Windspear: "I just want my child. Oh, you will travel without interference from the Radiant Heart. They demand justice for the slain, and you are to carry it out."
Minsc: "Chiyo, we must find this fiend who steals children and disguises knights as monsters and apply a butt-kicking for goodness! All must be avenged!"
Aerie: "We have to find Garren's child! He... he's cleared our name with the paladins, it's the very least we could do! We have to try!"
The northeast ruins? That's where I head.

After a brief stop off to loot the plate mail from the bodies of those knights--hey, murderhobos gonna murderhobo--I head toward the northeast. On the way I find a group of fighters attacking gnolls, and after I run in and assist, they fall to arguing among themselves. Their argument is strange, though, making reference to their forms changing and how hungry they are. Xan blurts out that we should run right as the fighters transform into werewolves and attack...and die horribly, because werewolves aren't a threat anymore.

In the southern part of the map, I find a faerie grove, and upon approach a dryad appears:

Chiyo: "I apologize for bothering you. I have brought some acorns from your dryad sisters. They have been trapped by an evil mage for many years."
Vaelasa: "I've been waiting for you. Ulene, Cania and Elyme must have their trees replanted so that they might be free. Give the acorns to me sister."

The three dryads appear.

Vaelasa: "Sisters! We've longed to see you again, loves!"
Ulene: "My Queen! Chiyo has saved us. Can our trees be saved? Has Irenicus doomed us?"
Vaelasa: "Nay, little sister. You are not doomed. Come Llyna! Plant our sister's seeds that they may again taste the wind. Ulene, Cania, and Elyme. Follow Llyna and she shall bring you back to the safety of the forest. Go well and know that I shall protect you forever more."
Ulene: "Thank you, my Queen."
The dryad plants the acorns, which frees the imprisoned dryads and restores them to the grove, prompting an incredulous reaction from Xan:

You mean not everything is doom?

After fighting some gibberlings, goblins, and a single ankheg--which drops a shell, which I take for later processing into ankheg plate mail--I find the entrance to the ruins, flanked by twin serpents, and enter.

Entering the Lair
Just inside I'm greeted by a group of hobgoblins who say that I came earlier than Firkraag expected and then attack:
Hobgoblin: "Garh! You early! Troop need kick in arse to get ready! Firkraag be warned, though I think he not care!"
And get annihilated, because hobgoblins aren't a threat to me anymore. The group past them suffers a similar fate, and the orc archers beyond them are only a threat because as I charge toward them a group of vampiric mists charges out from a side passage and someone called the Rukh Transmuter sends two kobolds at me that turn out to be living bombs. Fortunately, I survive all of that, rest, and continue on past the bridge where the Rukh Transmuter was standing.

I'm going to talk about dungeon design a bit here, so if you don't care, feel free to skip down to the next screenshot where the normal Let's Play will resume.

There's always a tension between making a dungeon a place that's likely to actually exist and have people (or monsters) live in it, and a place designed entirely to have a fun time pretending to be elves. The first ever dungeon, Castle Greyhawk, was entirely on the latter of those two poles. There was a trap door slide to China, a McDonald's on the sixth level (in response to players asking "What do all these monsters eat?"), a portal to Wonderland, and all kinds of other silliness. And from everything I've heard, the players had a fantastic time. I tend to prefer my dungeons more on the realism spectrum, or at least I tell myself that, but am I fooling myself? Doom's levels were much more interesting than Doom III's attempt even though Doom III was modeled much more closely on a space where people live and work and Doom was a mess of acid pits, monsters closets, color-coded keycards. Similarly, Baldur's Gate II's dungeons are great even though most of them are of the "mad wizard" kind.

Take the one I'm in now. I enter, and there's a short hallway that leads straight into an unworked cavern winding off to the left. After wandering through the stalactite-strewn ground, a pool of water where the mists came from, and a giant hole in the ground. There's another hallway on the other side, but it's offset from the first hallway. What's the point of having a natural cave section right when you come in? Who built these ruins?

Or take Irenicus's research dungeon. Why was there a room of color-coded wand traps? Because it's a dungeon, that's why! And honestly, it's better for it. Fighting my way through series of square rooms filled with labeled spell components and displays wouldn't have been nearly as fun as the dryad chamber, the otyugh in the garbage dump, the bubbling tanks with half-alive servants, and the portal to the Elemental Plane of Air.


On the far side of the room is a pit. Examining it tells me that it looks like something burned and tunneled its way down into the ground below, and when I click on it...

I pulled a Pippin. Never pull a Pippin.

In the worked section on the other side of the cave is the Rukh Transmuter, who apparently didn't bother joining the fight with the orcs or the vampiric mist or the fact that I set up camp roughly 10 meters away from him and slept to restore spells. He sends in two more exploding kobolds and attacks, and I have Minsc soak the damage while Aerie and Xan set to stripping away his magical protections in the now-traditional ritual. Even though he has two separate contingencies to cast stoneskin and lays down a stinking cloud, he is one against six, and he goes down without any of my party ever being in real danger. He drops a Ring of Fire Resistance, which I give to Aerie since Xan already has fire resistance from his moonblade.

Just past the next worked area is a murder-hole with orc archers firing at me from behind iron bars. The first time takes me by surprise, and the second time I go in and let my casters start blasting away. Unfortunately, it turns out that fireballs can't go through arrow slits, but having all those elves in my party works out for me and I find the secret door some idiot built to let me get into the orcs' firing locations. After I clean them out, I walk through the two rooms overlooked by the murder holes and find a hallway fill with golems, which I kill by luring them one-by-one through the doorway and then piling out into the hallway to kill the iron golem who can't fit through the doorways.

There are three doors and I go left. In a small room across a bridge are two orcs. One of them immediately begs for his life as soon as I enter, claiming that he was just following orders. Chiyo is having none of that and kills him, whereupon the second orc says that he has information for me:
Flaylan the Orc: "No kill! No kill!"
Chiyo: "And why, pitiful creature, should I let you live?"
Flaylan: "I tell you secrets! Things about this place you not know! You get good secret here, I tell you!"
Chiyo: "Then cease your whining and speak!"
Flaylan: "Firkraag run the place! He hidey-hide in special place with Garren child. He wait in dere for yous to comes."
Chiyo: "More! I would know more of this place! Tell me what defenses Lord Jierdan has!"
Flaylan: "Defenses? Lord Firkraag no need defenses. You silly to think so. We hunt the feed an guard the home, but he not need us protect him."
Chiyo: "Then I shall be especially careful when I face him. He sounds sure of himself."
Flaylan: "He sure you gonna die. Me sure too. Me sure I should run other way so I not killed too by accident. He get mad, bad things happen."
Then he runs and I let him go. I expect you've figured out what's going on by now, if the post title didn't give it away.

Through the right door is a surprisingly well-spoken troll cook:
Troll: "Hello there foodthing. You are just in time. Please jump onto the grill over there."
Chiyo: "Pardon me?"
Troll: "The grill. That big metal thing. Jump on. Be careful, it's hot!"
Chiyo: "You speak very well for a troll."
Troll: "My mother tried hard to give me good learning. She sent me to live with these hobgoblins here. They smart. Trained me how to cook real good."
It seems very surprised that she's not turning up to be cooked, and when Chiyo firmly refuses its generous offer, it calls in hobgoblins from the next room and attacks. Trolls, even eloquent ones, are nothing to me now, and I wipe the entire group out and loot the troll's cookbook from the table. In addition to being disgusting, it seems to point out the dangers up ahead. Genies? Wolfmen? Air monsters? We'll be ready.

There's an otyugh in the room off the troll's kitchen and no other doors, so I head down the central door into the hall beyond, turn right, and find...a bunch of elder vampires?!

That wasn't in the cookbook.

I manage to kill them by fighting them one or two at a time thanks to Jaheira layering entangle spells in the corridor leading to them and Aerie casting negative plane protection on Chiyo so she doesn't get level drained to death. In the room past the one where the vampires stood is a wraith, and under a plank of wood in that room is a key to a chapel. Yoshimo probably could have picked the lock, but I take it with me anyway.

In the corridor opposite the one leading to the vampires is a woman named Samia, who challenges Chiyo before she realizes that we're not a group of orcs:
Samia: "Hold! I warn you, I have killed many of your brethren to get this... oh, forgive my manner. I feared you were another grouping of orcs come to harass me."
Chiyo: "I have been beset by those foul creatures as well. We are in the same situation."
Samia: "It would seem so. I am Samia. Are you here searching for the tomb as well? I was not aware of another expedition."
Chiyo: "Expedition? No, I know nothing of this. I am here seeking a villain named Firkraag."
Samia: "Hmm... I was approached by a Lord Jierdan Firkraag. He seemed to suggest that I would need his approval if I was to make it through here. I haven't had much trouble though. There were a few orcs, but they seemed to be afraid of this area."
Chiyo: "All the better for us then. What are you looking for?"
Samia: "I seek the tomb of King Strohm III of Tethyr. He lost his life to treachery, a sad end for a noble man. I hope to find texts in his tomb that will detail his life. But I cannot pass beyond this area. I have the key, but something prevents my entry. Perhaps the magic was attuned to stop those of a certain heritage."
Xan: "Forgive my intrusion, but if you cannot pass through a certain door, neither can Chiyo."
Samia: "Oh, I am sure there is one device or another you will find. I, however, failed, and will not risk it again. Probably a hold-over from at time of war. They did not want enemies defiling the tomb. You can guess what I am going to ask, can't you?"
Chiyo: "You wish me to enter and retrieve what I can? I will be glad to help."
Samia: "I thank you. Here is a key which opens the first door. Inside you should find the tomb, though I doubt it will be unguarded. According to legend the tomb contains seven guardians. The last guards the burial chamber and is invisible even to the strongest magics. If the legends are true, I'm not sure how you would get by such a creature. There may be clues beyond this door to guide you towards such an end. The texts I seek should be in his burial chamber. Once you get them, return to me and I shall compensate you. Good luck... you'll likely need it."
I'm pretty suspicious of what sounds like an obvious trap, but I've handled everything else Firkraag has unleashed on me. I'm not happy about the seven guardians, though. A puzzle boss. Hopefully this goes better than the encounter with the knights did.

Revolving Door of the Afterlife
Past a tunnel filled with wolfweres, I find an ancient well. Yoshimo checks it for traps and, finding none, winches up the bucket and pulls out an ancient helmet...which also summons the air elemental spoken of in the cookbook. Right as it appears, a group of golems rush in from a side passage. Reload.  photo emot-ohdear.png

The second time, I'm saved once again by iron golems' enormous character models. The iron golems blocks off everything else, letting me pick off most of the golems with Jaheira's fire seeds, have Xan summon some cannon fodder to distract the survivors, then charge in and clean up what remains. After a quick rest, I haul up the helmet--a dragon helm--and kill the air elemental, then go north. To the right is a room with a locked door, and down those stairs and past another door is the headquarters of Chieftan DigDag...and Tazok!

Tazok was one of Sarevok's chief lieutenants in Baldur's Gate I, and I distinctly remember killing him in the game of Baldur's Gate I finished up in 2014, so I'm glad asking him about that is a dialogue option:
Tazok: "Ahh, you did come! He said you would, but I thought you too much a coward. My swaddling kin will have your flesh after all!"
Chiyo: "Tazok? Weren't you at my battle with Sarevok beneath Baldur's Gate? Aren't you dead?"
Tazok: "Sarevok took too much for his plate, left us in a bad position. You'll find my new master much smarter, and me much harder to kill! Seems Firkraag has a special treat in store, brought me here just for you. Got a special bug in his craw about seeing you perform."
Xan: "We should be thankful he did not resurrect Sarevok, Davaeorn, and Rieltar to create a full impression. One ogre we can manage...if no one is to resurrect him again, of course."
Tazok: "I am all for that! Revenge Firkraag wants, and revenge I will have! Who am I to disagree if it means I get to put my foot to you once more! Fight! And know that behind Tazok is a power greater than you have ever seen!"
Then he dies because I'm really overleveled for this dungeon. He does huge damage and Jaheira gets down to 5 hit points, but with everyone pouring damage into him it's not really a contest. I loot the two-handed sword +2 and the Delver's Plate, as well as a sewer key. I wonder if that opens the door we found in the sewers three in-game weeks ago?

In a cell on the other wall is Taar, but the cell door is locked and warded. Taar says that the mage that brought him here has the key:
Taar: "Thank the gods! Free me and we shall away! I fear the locks are magical; the mage that brought me had some sort of key. I don't know how you might obtain it. I have seen Firkraag, do not risk yourself for my sake. Find a way to get the key from the mage and we shall flee this place."
I assemble my party members and prepare to head in, and as I do, I hear a roar in the distance. Great.

The cavern is lined with the bones of countless humanoids, and I imagine the party's footsteps crunching through them as I walk down its length. At the end of the cavern is the master of the ruins, Lord Firkraag:

You knew this was coming.

Firkraag: "Welcome. You have come as I wanted. It has been an interesting game, but to tell the truth, I tire of it."
Chiyo: "So here I am. Why have you done this. Why have you forced this confrontation?"
Firkraag: "For my amusement, for my curiosity, and for my memory of transgressions long since past. All of this spurred me on, but I grow bored with you."
Chiyo: "This tells me nothing. You meander around the truth like a cat taunting a mouse."
Firkraag: "Very well, an indepth response. Your fathers are my interest. Your lineage crosses the mortal and spiritual, and both concern me somewhat. Gorion raised you. I know this from my spies and followers. They are subtle when I wish it. Gorion was as much your father as anyone. He was also an adventurer in his day, and crossed my path long ago. Him and his Harper friends. I bear the scars of that meeting."
Jaheira: "Ah, Gorion once said that he and some Harpers dealt a humiliating blow to a dragon in the Stormhorn Mountains. I was not aware this was the same one."
Firkraag: "He is beyond my revenge, being dead as he is, so I settled for the next best thing. I can torment his spirit by destroying you. Wherever he is, he is seething."
Chiyo: "That cannot be the whole of it. Such an old debt must seem hollow."
Firkraag: "I had toyed with forgetting the transgression, though it has not been that long in dragon terms. It was your other father that made me curious however. You are a child of Bhaal. What an interesting subject to study, or so I thought. Really, you are not so different, despite your little personal struggles."
Xan: "An interesting subject to study. I see. Chiyo, unless you wish to find yourself in a cage yet again, I suggest that we back off. Slowly."
Firkraag: "What will be interesting is your conflict with Jon Irenicus. That is something I would very much like to see. So I leave you your life. Do with it what you will."
Chiyo: "What do you know of Irenicus!"
Firkraag: "I will have no dealings with that creature. I am merely interested in your confrontation with him. Yes, that will be something to see. For now, you bore me. I will taunt you no more. This has been such sport that I bear you no ill will. You may go."
Chiyo: "I cannot leave without Garren's child. You know this."
Firkraag: "Do I know this? Do I really? Oh, very well. The brat was but a byproduct of my scrutiny of you anyway. The child has proven no more interesting than its father. I had finished taunting him some years ago really. It was only your arrival that brought him into this."
Chiyo: "His suffering has never ended. You took his lands."
Firkraag: "I think he is actually happier now that the burden of leadership has been lifted. Such resilience took all the fun out of his downfall. All that is left for me to do is kill him and take the deed to the land. Here, rescue the child from my servant and feel fulfilled. Do not think it will be easy. I test my subjects thusly all the time, and they know that failure is death. Conster! Go to the child! If Chiyo fails to take it from you, kill it."
Chiyo: "I will save the child and return for you in the future, Firkraag. I swear it."
Firkraag: "Do as you must, it does not interest me until the 'future' becomes 'now.' If you wish to make a confrontation inevitable you know where I lie in wait. Now walk away, and see to your little rescue efforts. Take your time. Enjoy life. You have much to face."
Minsc: "I... would strike for goodness, Chiyo... but this dragon is so... so... It would not be cowardice to come back another day with bigger swords!"
Oh, we will, Minsc. We will. But first, to save Garren's son.

Conster the wizard is loaded down with buff spells--and this is definitely one of the situations where Sword Coast Stratagem's pre-fight buffing makes sense--so I retool my spell selection to make sure that I'll be able to fight him and take off Chiyo's armor, since it'll be better for her to help with the debuffing early on. The first two attempts go very poorly. One ends with Conster summons a cornugon who kills Aerie--I guess what's next is demon-summoning wizards--and the second when he casts feeblemind on half the party.

This takes a few attempts, because I still haven't figured out how buff-stripping works and how some buffs seem to remain even in the case of spells that claim they don't allow a saving throw. Once I see a combat log note that he's casting mantle, though, my strategy becomes clear. I strip just enough buffs off him so that Chiyo won't murder herself on his fire shield and is able to see through his invisibility, and then a hasted Chiyo lays into him. It's a bit close and Chiyo has to drink a potion of extra healing, but mages don't have that many hit points and he dies, dropping the key to Taar's cell. I open the door and Taar promises to meet me back at his father's cabin, then leaves.

But that's not where I go. I head out to Trademeet to sell a lot of the extra loot I'm carrying around since my inventory is almost entirely full, buy a scroll to teach Xan improved haste, and I was going to buy a cloak of displacement but the merchant seems to have disappeared. The internet suggests that he's only there during the day, so I stay the night at the local inn and come back in the morning. That works, and I buy the cloak, which goes to Xan, and the belt of inertial barrier, which goes to Aerie. Then it's back to Firkraag's lair.

Dungeon and Dragon
I remembered that Lord Firkraag was a dragon as soon as he showed up, and part of the reason I waited so long before doing his quest is that I wanted to get to a high enough level that I'd have a reasonable chance of actually beating him. I start out by buffing up to the gills, setting up fire resistance from Aerie and Jaheira on as many people as it will go on, having Yoshimo set up a giant field of traps, and then running out to lure the dragon to me.

The traps bring him down to about 60% health, and that's where things get dicey. A dozen attempts end in failure as the dragon's fiery breath wipes out much of the party, or its wing buffets launch the party in all directions before it pounces and takes down a member, or it just does enough damage with its ~30-40 damage hits that someone dies before I can heal them. This happens over and over.

Right before another death.

The successful attempt has several things go right. Aerie casts lower resistance twice to reduce Firkraag's magic resistance down to minimal levels, and then Xan uses greater malison to reduce his saving throws. As Firkraag fills the cavern with roaring flames and Yoshimo burns alive, Jaheira casts dolorous decay and it sticks. Firkraag's haste immediately turns to a slow, and the hasted Minsc is now many times faster than he. I run Minsc away from Firkraag, who turns to deal with him and then back to Chiyo, taking up precious time. As he turns back, Minsc runs to his unprotected rear and attacks, rolling a natural 20, critting Firkraag for 31 damage, and sending the dragon's lifeless carcass crashing to the floor.

As it dies, Xan runs over to Chiyo
Xan swiftly crosses the distance between them and cradles Chiyo's face in his palms, whispering hotly between kisses.

Xan: "Foolish...reckless...rash...don't you ever do this to me again... Never, do you understand me? If we encounter a red dragon ever again, I will drag you out of his lair kicking and screaming if I have to. ...no. No, I won't. But please, do not battle dragons if you can help it, will you?"
Aerie calls on the power of Baervan Wildwanderer to restore Yoshimo to life, and as she does so, Chiyo checks out the dragon's hoard. Since this is a computer game it's not as big as it should be, but it's still handy. A cloak of the shield, 1500 gold, the dragon's scales, which I assume Cromwell will want to look at...and Carsomyr, one of the best weapons in the game, but sadly only usable by paladins. I'm really tempted to kick Minsc out and pick up Keldorn, but no. He's stuck with me this far, and I won't abandon him now.

Yoshimo picks up his gear as Aerie and Jaheira heal him, and then the party walks triumphantly back up the stairs and out of Firkraag's lair.

Game time elapsed: 54 days, 23 hours.
Shadow Thief Tasks Completed: 0/3

18 days! I think killing Firkraag was the longest single quest I've done in the game. And strictly speaking, I still haven't finished everything. I still have to find the tomb for Samia and tell Lord Windspear that Firkraag is dead as well as confer with him now that his son has been rescued. But this post is already 4500 words long, so there's no point in making it even longer. I'll handle that in the next post, along with exploring that door in in the sewers and maybe poking into some of the houses that Kangaxx's body is supposedly hidden in. Now that I've gotten better at killing wizards, I can probably take out the entombed lich I found when I was dealing with the Cult of the Unseeing Eye. And I guess I can find a foster family for that orphan girl I talked to in the graveyard. I think I'm almost done with sidequest hell, everyone!

This is actually the first time I've ever killed a dragon in a game of D&D. I'm not usually player in tabletop, true, but on my previous attempts at Baldur's Gate II Firkraag murdered me without breaking up a sweat. Of course, I wasn't as good at the system aspect of D&D at that point too. I wouldn't have thought of lower resistance + dolorous decay. Even if Yoshimo died, I wasn't going to reload my save and try to keep everyone alive. Raise dead is a fifth level spell, which means that Aerie can cast it without trouble, and unlike in the tabletop there's no downsides like Constitution drain to worry about. Yoshimo is back no worse for wear and I'm one set of red dragon scales richer, which means I'm going to get that forged into dragonscale armor.

Of course, now I don't have enough gold to make that improved robe of the archmagi that was the whole reason I came out here in the first place. If only Firkraag had a real hoard.

Next: Part XVI: Mind = Flayed.
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