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19 February 2016 @ 09:50 pm
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XVII: You Spoony Bards!  
Before I go barging into people's houses unannounced in the traditional murderhobo fashion, I head back to my stronghold to check on Chiyo's apprentices. Morul hands over the scroll and says that now it's time for the final task--making a real magic item. They can either make the Robe of the Apprenti, a Ring of Wizardry, or a Staff of Power. When Morul mentions the staff, both Larz and Nara are aghast at Morul's suggestions, exclaiming how horribly dangerous they are. When Morul asks Chiyo what to do, Chiyo says...to make none of them, saying that one of the most important lessons for a wizard is when to back away. The three apprentices thank Chiyo for the opportunity to study under her and then dimension door out. I would have thought that spell was too high for an apprentice to cast--if they can cast that, they're at least 7th level wizards, which is hardly apprentice level. Maybe they have scrolls Teos gave them?

Or maybe it's a gameplay conceit and I'm thinking about it too hard.

It's a bit anticlimactic--and looking it up, there's supposed to be a graduation ceremony that's not triggering for some reason--so I spawn Teos and the apprentices with the console and that advances the script successfully and initiates a conversation:
Teos: "Well, Chiyo, how did you find the experience of tutoring? I trust you gave your apprentices proper instructions?"
Chiyo: "I found it very rewarding. I feel I have contributed to the future of magery."
Teos: "Yes, well, I'm sure no one really cares one way or another. To be honest, I think they were merely dumped upon you to keep you busy."
Xan: "It is a near miracle anyone survived at all. The tasks you assigned to these children were nothing short of suicidal."
Teos: "Do you really care about their fate? Well, if you must... But, seeing as how they all survived, you are cordially invited to their graduation, which we will be holding right here. They are a small class, and renting a hall would be excessive. I hope you are dressed for it, you are the only guest. It starts in...oh, about 5 minutes. Oooh, I'm all nervous."
Teos is plumbing new depths of assholitude here. But true to his word, he starts the ceremony immediately:

William 'Bill' Williamson: "When I was asked to speak with the graduating class of 1369DR, I was of course flattered. To see the new generation spread their wings... is a wonderful thing. That all of the students lived is an even more remarkable thing. Why, in my very own class there were several fatalities, and I must reiterate that no one was really to blame. At least, that is what the wisdom of the courts decided. Anyway, it is with great honor that I welcome our graduates to the... er... stage. Morul, Larz, Nara, you are mages today."
Morul: "I just want to thank Chiyo for helping guide us. Without her we would have not had this opportunity."
Larz: "Duh. We'd be dead."
Nara: "Oh shush. Chiyo, we certainly appreciate this."

William 'Bill' Williamson: "But under the benevolent yoke of the Cowled Wizards you will be somewhat protected from arrest. Go forth into that brave new world, quietly and carefully. The Graduating class of 1369DR, we salute you."
Morul: "Thank you again, Chiyo. We wouldn't have had a chance without you."
Larz: "Yeah, thanks, I guess. I owe you one."
Nara: "Can I...use you for a reference? Sorry, sorry, just thinking ahead. Thanks, Chiyo."
William 'Bill' Williamson: "Hehe, oh those wacky kids. Celebrations all around!"
After it's finished, Chiyo asks Teos about Imoen:
Teos: "Well, wasn't that heartwarming? I'll leave you to reflect upon that while I go see to some business of my own."
Chiyo: "That's it? You've nothing else for me? What about my friend Imoen?"
Teos: "I am afraid I have no more to tell you than I did before, which is nothing. I am getting nowhere with official channels. I find it annoying too, but it is as though we are having trouble contacting all of our resources. I will ask what is going on. Until then, take care."
Then he teleports out.

Now I head back to the Windspear Hills, since I realize that I never talked to Garren or his son after I rescued the latter and killed Firkraag. On the way there I'm waylaid by some slavers and their orog allies, and after I dispatch them I divert to Trademeet to sell off their loot. After I rest at Vyatri's Pub and walk out in the morning, a Sergeant Natula walks up to Chiyo and says she has a message from the Cowled Wizards--"Return to your Planar Sphere at once. Teos awaits you there with urgent news. Make haste, or all is lost." So I do.

When I walk in, Teos teleports in and asks why Chiyo summoned him there:
Teos: "Hello, Chiyo. Well?"
Chiyo: "Well what?"
Teos: "What? I got a message that you needed to speak to me. That is why I am here. I sent you no message. What is going on here?"
In the confusion, Sergeant Natula and a group of warriors teleport in, she shouts, "There! Get them! All must die! for the glory of Argrim!" and attack while Teos teleports out. This fight is annoying because some spell keeps making me lose control of Chiyo, which means I lose control of everyone, but eventually I manage to resist it all and take everyone down. Teos teleports back and, after Chiyo berates him for abandoning the party, says that the Cowled Wizards have many enemies:
Teos: "Well, that was certainly unpleasant. Sorry I...sorry I wasn't much help, but I... uh... sprained a casting finger. Heh..."
Xan: "A finger? We could all die here!"
Teos: "Oh all right! So I'm a coward! So what! There are more important things to think of right now so stop looking at me like that."
Chiyo: "Just speak. What was this all about?"
Teos: "You are not the only one with enemies. The Cowled Wizards have many. Some are incredibly fanatical as well. We have relegated magic to something that only our guards are allowed to do in public. That is not enough for some people. One man in particular is a danger. Lord Ketlaar Argrim. He is an anti-magic fanatic, and wants us all confined or killed. Obviously he views this Planar Sphere as a big magical slap in the face, and he would probably prefer you removed from the city... in a box."
Chiyo: "Can he be reasoned with?"
Teos: "We have thought about this for some time, and we have devised a plan. I suppose it is time to unleash it and see what happens. He will not listen to reason, and if we kill him he will be a martyr for his cause. No, we must simply...make him disappear. I do not mean kill him, I mean disappear. Forever. With a specially attuned Rune of Imprisonment. If a mage could use it on him...well, he would be gone. Obviously the Cowled Wizards cannot be implicated. That is where you come in."
Chiyo: "I see. I will take care of your problem for you."
Teos: "It's your problem as well, now. More attacks will come. Besides, I'd hate to have to take the Sphere away from you now. You've made a home here."
Chiyo: "All right, I will help."
Teos: "Good and good. Here is the rune. Be careful; it will only work on Lord Argrim and it has a frightfully long casting time. You'll have to keep him occupied while you use it. Go to the city gates and find a place called the Crooked Crane. Upstairs you will find our enemy. Good luck."
Chiyo: "You had this ever-so-special rune on you? I smell a rat."
Teos: "Well, perhaps he was encouraged to find you, but that changes nothing. It's him or you. Good luck."
Being anti-magic in the Forgotten Realms strikes me as like refusing to touch or deal with money in a developed nation--this isn't Caster Supremacy edition, but a well-played wizard is still the most powerful character--but I guess it takes all kinds.

So, I'll get to that eventually. Now, I head to Windspear Hills. Garren thanks me, but has no great riches or anything to give me:
Garren Windspear: "My heart is free, and I have you to thank. With the creature gone, my lands are free, and the dead that fell to your swords are avenged. I thank you as they would. You have been a stranger's hero throughout all of this. I thank you with my blessings, and I offer safe lodgings if ever you return this way. Thank you."
Chiyo: "Before I go, I was wondering if I might ask a question of you?"
Garren Windspear: "Certainly. Any information I have I would be glad to provide."
Chiyo: "Do you know anything about a wizard named Irenicus?"
Garren Windspear: "The name does not sound familiar. Is this one of the Cowled Wizards? I'm sorry, but I cannot help you with this."
Chiyo: "I am searching for an old friend of mine who is being held hostage by the Cowled Wizards. Do you know of them?"
Garren Windspear: "I know only very little about the Cowled Wizards, as does anyone. They are a powerful and secretive group that operates with the approval of the Amnish Council. But that is probably not news to you. If you seek to recover your friend, I doubt they will hand her over gladly. You will need to operate against them. All I can suggest is that you go to one of the other powerful organizations in Amn. Exactly who that would be, I don't know. But my suggestion is all the information I can provide. I am sorry if it is nothing you do not already know."
Chiyo: "Then I shall be on my way, thank you."
Garren Windspear: "Then I wish you well. Safe journeys to you, my friend."
I was obviously supposed to do this quest earlier.

And now that the Windspear Hills are finished, it's off to the Umar Hills.

Shadow and Flame
Since I killed Firkraag, I figure I can probably kill Thaxll'ssillyia too. A couple attempts prove that I absolutely need negative plane protection, because otherwise being hit by her breath is an instant death sentence due to massive level drain, so I head back up and totally retool my spells. Jaheira and Aerie memorize as many of those as they can, Xan memorizes an extra lower resistance so I can strip Thaxll'ssillyia's magic resistance from her. Then I head down, buff up to the gills, have Aerie summon some ghasts (who as undead are immune to level drain), and send them in.

It's actually really easy, though I think it's because I got very lucky. I only had enough negative plane protection spells to cover five party members and I figured I would leave Yoshimo unprotected since he'd just be shooting arrows at Thaxll'ssillyia. Well, she breathed on him, and it severely injured him...but he got down to level 1, not the zero that would have killed him. I ran him off to the corner and summoned up some gnoll elites as Jaheira cast dolorous decay on the weakened and greater malisoned shadow dragon, which functioned as both a slow spell and a damage over time. Once that hit and I saw "decaying" in the combat log, it was all over. I never even had to heal or have anyone drink a potion. I'm not even sure Thaxll'ssillyia actually attacked anything that wasn't a summoned monster other than Yoshimo.

Got a kill shot this time!

It drops a bunch of gems and some gold, shadow dragon scales that I can make into shadow dragon scale armor, and a Crom Faeyr scroll, detailnig the means to make a warhammer of supreme power. If I give the scroll to Cromwell along wtih some money, the Hammer of Thunderbolts, a set of Gauntlets of Ogre Power, and a Girdle of Frost Giant Strength, he can make me arguably the best weapon in the game. I already have all of those except the girdle, and Minsc is already doing a ton of damage. Giving him Crom Faeyr would be amazing.

But I have to find the girdle first, and right now I want to get the new Celestial Fury for Chiyo. Nothing left to do in the temple, so I head back to the Athkatla city gates and walk into the Crooked Crane Inn. As soon as I enter, a man named Rilmi shouts at Chiyo that he warned her not to get involved:
Rilmi: "You! You are Chiyo aren't you! I warned you! I told you not to get involved!"
Chiyo: "Slow down, I'm sure we can work out whatever is wrong."
Rilmi: "You had to go sticking your nose in where it didn't belong, didn't you! They were splitting up! They were finally listening to their parents! But you had to encourage them! Aulava and Tiiro have dedicated everything they do to you! We tried to keep it quiet, but you encouraged them!"
Chiyo: "They knew what they wanted. I just gave an encouraging word or two."
Rilmi: "Your little matchmaking endeavor has got a dozen people robbed and beaten! At least one house has been set alight as well! They are a bad influence on each other, see? A bad seed in two parts. When they are together they just don't stop to think. We weren't keeping their relationship quiet, we were trying to stop people from reporting them to the guards for torching Maunu's barn! They didn't seem at all odd to you? A little too... driven? They didn't mention the trouble they get into? They aren't shy about it. They certainly aren't shy about saying who got them back together. Your name is mud around here."
Chiyo: "I didn't push them into anything! They knew what they wanted."
Rilmi: "They wanted to run wild for as long as they could, causing as much destruction as they could. They wanted to be outlaws like the stories of old. They're lost causes now. Wild as animals. If you ever see them again, do yourself a favor and kill them. A bad seed in two parts, I tell you!"
And Rilmi storms out. He's talking about Tiiro and Aulava, the two kids Chiyo convinced to stay together a while back. Checking online, this is from the Unfinished Business mod. Not surprised it's modded--most commercial releases wouldn't have the guts to have actions with good intentions lead to consequences like that.

After a night in the inn, I head upstairs and find Tiiro and Aulava. Chiyo approaches them and confronts them about their behavior, and their response is to attack, though not without some misgivings:
Tiiro: "Aulava! Look! It's Chiyo! Our benefactor!"
Aulava: "Wonderful! Tell us, Chiyo, what is the word on us now? We were famous before; are we infamous now?"
Tiiro: "We've been enjoying life, just like you suggested. Burning bright as we can!"
Chiyo: "Perhaps it would have been better if you broke up. Have you thought about that?"
Tiiro: "We haven't given a thought to that since we talked with you. We realized that we were the only ones that mattered."
Aulava: "The only ones! And if we love each other it doesn't matter what we do."
Tiiro: "And if we want to go out in a blaze of glory, that's our business!"
Chiyo: "But slandering my name is my business. I didn't think your would act like this!"
Tiiro: "What? Aulava, I don't think Chiyo appreciates how we feel. In spite of all she has done, I think we should deal with her."
Aulava: "Do you think we can? I mean, she looks awfully powerful."
Tiiro: "I don't know. What does it matter? Maybe we live, maybe we don't."
Aulava: "Oh, you make it sound so tragic, so epic! Let's go!"
Tiiro: "Yes, let's!"
Youths. I take back what I said before, this is really hamfisted. Chiyo kills each of them in a single blow and walks into the next room, where Lord Argrim awaits:

Chiyo asks if we can talk about this, and Argrim isn't having it:
Chiyo: "Can we not talk about this?"
Ketlaar Argrim: "Your vile tongue can spew what it likes, I am deaf to those such as you. Vile Abominations! Fall!"
And he attacks. And then Sword Coast Stratagems steps in and breaks my immersion as all the guards drink potions of clarity, which hardly fits with his anti-magic stance. Ah well. Even with the potions, they don't have any spellcasters or magical items and that means they're fodder for my party. Yoshimo comes close to death when he's channeling the Rune of Imprisonment on Lord Argrim, but it goes off and he vanishes into the ether, after which I mop up the guards and head back to the Planar Sphere. But not before noting the secret door again on the bottom floor of the Crooked Crane. I'll be back.

In the Planar Sphere, Chiyo hands the rune over to Teos, who takes it gladly:
Teos: "How have you been doing? Is the deed done? Is Argrim imprisoned?"
Chiyo: "I imprisoned him! Here is the rune!"
Teos: "That is good. His disappearance will appear more an act of cowardice than anything. Perhaps we will take the steam out of the extremists' plans now. Regardless, I have some news of your friend Imoen. I said I would tell you what I could, and since you have performed well, I think I owe you that much. She and the others involved in the disturbance were taken into custody, that much you know. They proved too unruly for simple incarceration. They are no longer in the city. I could get nothing further from my superiors, and I expect that asking for more would yield a harsh response. I can tell you no more, and likely will not deal with you again. I have but one word for you, and do not ask me its meaning. 'Spellhold.' I know you have other other means for finding your friend, and I suggest you exploit them. The Cowled Wizards are no longer in control of the situation."
And with that, he teleports out. As he leaves, Morul teleports back in and asks to learn from Chiyo once again. Chiyo accepts, and Morul promises he'll stay out of her way as much as he can and provide her with some potions every week to make up for his use of her laboratory. Excellent.

The Planar Sphere secure, I head off to the docks.

Bless and Keep the Xzar
I've noticed the man standing around in the docks in the brilliant red robes, but I haven't talked to him before now and I figured it was time. As soon as I walk up, I recognize him--it's Xzar, one of the first joinable NPCs you meet in Baldur's Gate! I turned him down then because he's Chaotic Evil, a necromancer, and a member of the Zhentarim, but it looks like he survived--much to Xan and Jaheira's surprise--and he needs Chiyo's help.

Though he has a funny way to go about it...

Xan: "Xzar? I thought you perished months ago."
Jaheira: "I was wondering when you would turn up, Zhent. I had suspected our parting would not be permanent when last we met, and it appears my suspicions were correct."
Xzar: "I am not here to address you, heartless Harper wench. I am here to appeal to your erstwhile companion, Chiyo."
Chiyo: "As I recall, Xzar, you're supposed to be dead."
Xzar: "I may have been. It happens when you are forced to deal with buffoons. If Monty were here, he would be able to tell for certain. Bah! It matters not! I saw you dealing with those Harpers ...but it is obvious you are not a Harper yourself. You would be willing, then, to render me a service regarding them."
Chiyo: "Ah, yes. Those Harpers... well, what do you want with them?"
Xzar: "As I said, I would have you perform a service for me, if you are remotely capable."
Jaheira: "Be wary, Chiyo, the Harpers will not brook interference lightly, and this Zhentarim likely holds only the worst of intentions in his heart."
Xzar: "Yes, yes, I am not asking you to walk in and slaughter them, now, am I? Tempting as that may be, I am not such a blundering fool as your friends might suppose."
Chiyo: "Exactly what is it you want me to do, then?"
Xzar: "My friend Montaron has been taken captive by those irksome Harpers. I would have you enter their building and find Monty for me."
Chiyo: "I see. And what is in it for me?"
Xzar: "A reward? It is not enough to save a fellow being in need? Bah! Very well...you shall have a reward in gold for your efforts and something else, as well... I know certain information...the mage who captured you, Irenicus; I know where he is. Do my task and I shall tell you... heh, heh."
Chiyo: "You know where Irenicus is?! I demand that you tell me now!"
Xzar: "Never! I will take the secret with me to the grave! Give me my Monty and you can have your irritating little thief back, 'friend'!"
Chiyo: "Very well... I will do as you wish."
Xzar: "Excellent. Go to their building and return once you have found him. Short...halfling...thief...even one of your intellectual capacity can't miss him."
Jaheira: "Well, if you wish to investigate what has happened to the spy, that is up to you, Chiyo. I suggest caution and perhaps some common sense. If the Harpers will even speak to us, which I doubt, they certainly will not reveal what they did with the halfling. Best not to ask about him directly."
Xzar is talking about how I dropped off Renfeld at the Harper base back in Part III when he mentions dealing with Harpers. Has he been standing out here for almost three months? Video games.  photo emot-awesomelon.gif

Chiyo walks over to Rylock, who's standing outside of Galvarey Estate, and says she has a friend inside and she wants to look for him. Rylock waves her off until Chiyo says that she thought Harpers were supposed to help people, whereon Rylock panics:
Chiyo: "I'm saying that this is the Harper's headquarters here in the city. That is what it is, isn't it?"
Rylock: "Keep your voice down! That's supposed to be a secret! Where did you hear this? Who told you?"
Jaheira: "But it is the truth, is it not? I am a Harper myself, and we simply wish to be treated as guests. Chiyo did bring you your poisoned friend, after all."
Rylock: "Alright! You returned Renfeld to us, but I can't let you inside based on that. Listen... if you do a small task for us, I'll let you take a look around. Deal?"
Chiyo: "What sort of 'small task' are you talking about?"
Rylock: "You look like the fighting sort...there is a house just north of here, near the center of the district."
Jaheira: "I am a Harper, friend, and I think I see where this is heading...is all this really necessary?"
Rylock: "I'm afraid it is, Jaheira, Harper or no. Your friends are strangers...they must prove their good faith if we are to trust them with our secret in this city. The owner of the house, a mage named Prebek, performs vile experiments...creating beasts which threaten the city. Destroy them, and we'll allow your wish."
Chiyo: "Very well. I will do as you ask."
Rylock: "Very well. Go to the house and kill the creatures there. We will watch you and know when you have completed the task. Return here once you are done."
Jaheira: Sighs. "If the Harpers have asked this task to judge your worthiness, then there is no way around it. Let us proceed and be done with these 'creatures'."
Yoshimo: "Why would the Harpers set us on such a simple task? Just to gain admittance? It doesn't sound right... I smell a rat, Chiyo. Proceed carefully, if you intend to."
They have a point. You'd think the city guard would handle this, but apparently it's a job for a multinational clandestine paramilitary organization.

Speaking of which, why is this even a question? Jaheira is traveling with Chiyo, the Harpers clearly know who she is, my party has a reputation of 19 (out of 20)...the game is letting me down here. I should be able to bypass this with a reputation check or something, though I suppose that runs into the problem all CRPGs have where dialogue checks to get into places end up being a roll to skip part of the game, the worth of which depends on how annoying you find those parts. Since I'm currently farming for gold and XP, killing a mad scientist sounds like a great use of my time.

After a brief diversion into the Shadow Thieves' headquarters through a side door, I find the mad scientist's house. I can tell it's his because as soon as I walk in, I'm attacked by a flesh golem and two ghasts, which is a bit disappointing--I was hoping for mongrelmen or something--as well as the mad scientist and his wife, who talk about the displeasure of their "Master" before buffing and beginning their assault. A single remove magic from Aerie takes care of most of their buffs and even though one of them gets off a fear spell, it's not enough. I loot their bodies, disarm the traps everywhere in their room, loot the containers, and head back to Rylock:
Rylock: "Excellent. I understand you have completed the task at the house. The Harpers are grateful. You may go inside...but I warn you to keep to the first floor. The second floor is far too dangerous...anyone but a Harper who goes there will be killed, and we couldn't help you. At any rate...go on in, if you wish."
Jaheira: "Hmm, I am surprised they are letting us in, even after all this. I warn you, Chiyo, be polite. Our reason for being here is questionable enough as it is."
The inside is...distinctive:

No wonder they won't let anyone inside.

Chiyo walks up to the woman with the crossbow and asks her to talk about the Harpers. She's happy to do so, and says that the Harpers are dedicated to balance and that both great good and great evil must be kept in check, which is the kind of philosophy that could only possibly exist within D&D's alignment structure and would be a detestable abomination in real life. Sorry, Dr. Jenner, we've stolen all copies of your vaccine and destroyed your research because we have to keep great good in check. It's for the Balance, you know. I immediately decide I'm going to loot everything that's not nailed down, and pursue a couple other lines of questioning about the Cowled Wizards and the Shadow Thieves, but it's nothing I don't already know.

D&D alignment has a lot of problems, but the idea that The Balance Must Be Maintained is one of the worst. It completely ignores the meaning of good and evil by implying that too much good can be a bad thing on a societal or cosmic level, reduces good and evil to cosmic sports teams, and generally twists itself into a pretzel to explain why too much good is somehow bad. The go-to example of this is Istar in the Dragonlance setting, where the king-priest decided to do all he could to enforce good on the populace...by randomly reading people's minds and arresting them for evil thoughts. Does that sound "good" to you? It doesn't to me, and yet this is brought up as an example of the danger of "unchecked good," unquote. And in Forgotten Realms, when Kelemvor decides to make the afterlife less of a shitshow and the writers wrote in a bunch of ridiculous consequences because of The Balance.  photo emot-argh.gif

This is why any alignments that aren't Law and Chaos are only good for making people angry. And with Law/Chaos the Balance makes sense, as a way to avoid the eternal stasis of pure Law and the unceasing madness of pure Chaos.

Anyway, there are two other Harpers in the room but they don't have much to say that I don't already know and I don't want to tip my hand by asking about Montaron, so while the rest of the party hangs out near the guards--I like to think that Chiyo is keeping them distracted with her witty conversational skills, courtesy of Intelligence 19 and Charisma 18--Yoshimo heads off to the side rooms and starts looting. In addition to some gold and a few potions, there's a helm of charm protection, which Yoshimo pockets, and a Harper amulet. No Montaron, though. There's a side door, but it just leads out on to the roof (I'm guessing a wizard did it). With nothing else to do, Chiyo puts on the amulet and heads upstairs. And it's a good thing she has the amulet:

Actually, I bet at my current level I could probably take them, but I'm not so bloodthirsty as to just murder everyone to get the combat XP. The ghosts are cryptic:
Spectre: "You bear the mark of one and the same. Here you are welcome and may rest in safety."
Spectre: "Ask as you will what you wish to know, and the guardians will answer as best as can be. We have seen much and know the old songs, though the first singing be forgotten.."
Chiyo: "What manner of creatures are you?"
Spectre: "We are the past that guards the present. We harp as specters that others would find rest here."
Chiyo: "What is there here that someone would want to steal?"
Spectre: "There is calm here to steal, in the mistaken view that wealth accompanies peace of mind. The powerful come and go, and in their wake will follow the scavengers."
Chiyo: "I will leave you alone now."
Spectre: "Solitary, but never alone. The songs of the past serve to shorten the years for the ears that dare listen, and bring memory back of the friends departed."
Spectre: "Those who Harp are never truly alone."
I like to imagine Chiyo slowly backing away at the end there. I had the option to ask about the thief, but I didn't want to tip my hand. I also notice that the sounds of chirping birds prominently fills the halls. The main room only has shelves full of books, but there's a single scroll of phantom blade that Chiyo takes and immediately reads. In a side room, she finds a gem and a note in a drawer:

Do not concern yourself with the thief. If he has accomplices, they will show themselves soon. As for the thief himself… the spectral harpists will release him from his curse once they feel he has learned his lesson. And if he doesn’t, well, we can always hope he acquires a taste for birdseed, eh?

I think I know what happened to Montaron. I loot a few more containers, getting some more gold, then head into the aviary and catch a small bird, which suspiciously flies directly to Chiyo's hand and sits there calmly.

When Chiyo comes back downstairs, Jaheira approaches her
Jaheira: "Chiyo, that weapon from Prebek's home...it is a weapon of evil, and many a Harper has fallen under its blade. How it came to be in Prebek's possession I do not know, but I cannot allow it to continue traveling unchecked, even in your hands. It must be destroyed. I ask that we hand it over to the Harpers as soon as possible so they may take the necessary action."
Chiyo: "Very well. Whom do you suggest we hand it over to?"
Jaheira: "Bernard in the Copper Coronet should be able to contact someone capable of dealing with the matter. I have faith in his abilities, and he may be trusted."
Fine by me, Jaheira. I was just going to dump it in the Planar Sphere anyway.

I return to Xzar, who is happy that I have returned Montaron to him but annoyed that someone broke into his laboratory, slaughtered all his creations, and killed his two apprentices.  photo emot-smug.gif
Xzar: "You're back, are you? Is it safe for me to assume that you have succeeded in your mission or am I merely subject to a grueling social call?"
Chiyo: "I have found out what happened to him, yes. He was turned into a bird...which I have with me, here."
Xzar: "Finally Montaron will be returned to my side! This is excellent news...especially since some fools broke into my laboratory and slaughtered all my creations! They killed both of my apprentices, too, it seems. Bah! It will put my work behind interminably! How excruciatingly annoying! Before I reward you, I'll polymorph Monty into his proper form...just to make sure you're not lying. Monty must have something interesting to say..."
...and the bird turns into a woman named Lucette, who promptly stabs Xzar and kills him! I guess he didn't memorize stoneskin this morning...

Lucette recites a poem
Lucette: "And death will come on wings of song,
a song of long and winding guile,
and in the end your end I wend,
and in the end, a harp will smile!"
Chiyo: "I knew it! The whole thing was a setup!"
Lucette: "And you were the pawn herein! You delivered the conjured poison to his very heart; that it was on my blade is but a point of semantics. I have no quarrel with you. We made the path difficult, but not unknowable, and in the end this fool did perish, as well he should. "
Chiyo: "Could you not have trusted me in this? I have a Harper in my party, for crying out loud!"
Lucette: "Only her presence kept you alive to question me. No doubt Jaheira would have tried the killing strike herself when you first met Xzar, but duty forbade it. We sought the optimum time to destroy him. We must take care when dealing with such as he. You did not know what he was. A necromancer in the service of the Zhentarim, creating abominations for sale to the highest bidder. Far from their normal range, but not an unexpected enemy. He could not lay low with such a flamboyant manner, and we knew of him quickly. You merely helped in the inevitable, and so you are free. You served well, if unknowingly, and your agreement to help him is forgotten. The amulet is worthless... the blessed bear only Harper pins. Begone, and hopefully your next dealings with the Harpers will be more pleasant."
Xan: "Pleasant? Soon, this 'benevolent' organization will descend to the level of the Zhentarim. Murderous, deceitful and manipulative - they are all doomed."
Jaheira: "My own Harpers have used us. I should have suspected...the gaudy necklaces, the invitation. Ah, well. If Xzar was doing as she said, he deserved his fate."
I loot Xzar's body--a few gems, a set of bracers of defense AC 6 and a staff-spear +2--and head off to the Copper Coronet to talk to Bernard. I hand over the sword, and Bernard and Jaheira talk cryptically about what it was doing in Athkatla and if this bespeaks a possible threat to the Harpers in the city, and then Bernard gives Chiyo 3000 gold and asks if she needs anything else. I demure, and head back to the docks to talk to Cromwell, where I have the Celestial Fury, a wand of a lightning, and a demon heart reforged into a mighty weapon--Celestial Fury +5, which lets its wielder cast blindness and lightning bolt in addition to Celestial Fury's normal abilities. Also, it has new fluff:[snipped]

To enchant a katana is no simple process. At least, that's what Chiyo thought before she first had it attempted on her behalf. In reality, the most difficult part of reforging the already-godlike katana known as Celestial Fury was gathering the myriad ingredients required. Celestial Fury has served well since it was taken from the kensai Koshi in the Temple District of Athkatla. Its provenance before that point is as follows:

Many years ago, fierce tempests and fires ignited by lightning ravished the province administered by daimyo Hoshi Katahiroi. The daimyo's advisers, all respected wizards, soon divined that Nature was not to blame, but a powerful dragon of an unknown order. Some of the wise men suggested that the creature was an abomination; others believed that it was born of Primal Chaos before Kara-Tur was formed. All the advisers agreed to name it Celestial Fury.

Yet Daimyo Hoshi did not want to categorize the scourge of his province; he wanted to destroy it. He commissioned the famed Chigatta (a reclusive artisan, master of mysic arts), to construct a weapon that might sunder the dragon's spirit as well as cleave its scaled body. Chigatta's labors resulted in the finest katana imaginable, dubbed Celestial Fury after the beast it was fashioned to destroy, and enchanted with the power of flight.

With this weapon, Hoshi sought his province's bane among the storm clouds. Shouts and roars resounded through the heavens for days, and forked fire lit up the nights. At long last, Hoshi destroyed the dragon's body and trapped its spirit within his sword, merging the two Celestial Furies and impressing order over chaos. To finalize his victory, Hoshi had Chigatta fashion a scabbard from the dragon's hide and embed its magic pearl in the hilt.

Yet the dragon had its revenge. Hoshi was skilled in battle but weak of will. Celestial Fury's spirit took control of Hoshi, forcing him to slay Chigatta and then slay himself. The katana subsequently disappeared (most likely, Hoshi's grieving family discarded the traitorous weapon) and has perhaps changed many hands in the years since.

Celestial Fury is a katana of excellent construction -- a flexible but unbreakable blade of razor sharpness, a hilt covered with comfortable leather, and a huge pearl fixed at its end. The magical characters for Celestial Fury are inscribed on the blade, which glows pale violet and crackles with electricity when drawn. The sword is sheathed in a scabbrard of dragon hide, the slate-grey scales of which constantly flash with streaks of silver, blue, and violet.

This is what makes magical items feel magic. Not their powers, though those help too. It's having a story behind them.

The Harpers' Call
When I walk outside, a woman approaches Jaheira and says that she is summoned and must obey:
Meronia: "A word I would have with you, Jaheira. Listen carefully whilst I say what I must, for this brings me no pleasure."
Jaheira: "Do I know of you? Have you reason to subject me to your rude manner? I have no coin, if that is your wish."
Meronia: "Charming, as I was told. No, Jaheira, you have nothing I require save your attention. You are bid to follow as I lead. Come, we must go."
Jaheira: "I do not follow by a stranger's command. Who are you?"
Meronia: "Oh, you know me, as well as you should know yourself. We are one and the same, and I bear the pin that tells our name. Let your eyes not deceive you as you look upon this 'trinket.' "
Jaheira: "I...Yes, I see. If you would give me a moment I will do what needs be done."
Meronia: "Make your farewells quick, you will not be gone long."
Chiyo: "What is going on, Jaheira? I need you here in the party."
Jaheira: "I have obligations elsewhere. Worry not, I will return shortly. You will survive without me for a time."
The two of them leave, and I head to a nearby inn and rest. When I wake up, Jaheira is there and bids Chiyo to come with her to see the Harpers as soon as possible. Chiyo asks her what the Harpers want with her, and Jaheira replies that she is unable to say, but hopes that Chiyo will come. I figure what's the harm, and I do.

Galvarey Estate is a block from the inn, but on the way I run into a trio of vampires who demand to know if Chiyo works for the Shadow Thieves. She lies and says she does not, but the vampires aren't idiots. They've been watching and know the truth, and then they attack. And I annihilate them. Jaheira casts false dawn, Xan and Aerie throw off multiple flame arrows, and Chiyo and Minsc lay in with enchanted weapons. The vampires only hit me once.

Inside the estate is the Spanish Inquisition:

Galvarey and Jaheira go back and forth a bit about whether this is acceptable Harper procedure or not before he reveals he's trying to become a Herald, and eventually Jaheira tells him to ask his questions. That leads to the following:
Galvarey: "Now then, Chiyo, do you know why you are here?"
Chiyo: "You are, of course, concerned about my background. You are specifically interested in my parentage."
Galvarey: "You are astute. What could possibly overshadow your heritage as a matter of concern? I will outline exactly what I wish to know. Let me ask you a few things straight away then, Chiyo. Nothing too intrusive, I assure you. What were your first memories? Were they happy ones?"
Chiyo: "I remember running, but I'm not sure from what, exactly. My stepfather Gorion led the way."
Galvarey: "Running, hmm? No doubt from your past. I remember Gorion...the idealist. I was with those who thought it was a mistake. Ahh...I will clarify later. As a child of Bhaal, have you...violent thoughts?"
Chiyo: "That is a loaded question. Violence is part of our world. It is unavoidable in some measure."
Galvarey: "Hmm...finds that violence is unavoidable. Certainly to be expected in a creature such as you."
Jaheira: "You are twisting her words, Galvarey. That is not what she meant."
Galvarey: "Deception is woven into her very being, Jaheira. Can you comprehend the thoughts of an illithid? Or a beholder? Your Chiyo is akin to these."
Jaheira: "Only in your mind. This is a farce!"
Galvarey: "The questions will continue nonetheless. I do hope there will be no further outbursts. Now then, Chiyo, what is your favorite color?"
Jaheira: "What has that to do with anything?"
Galvarey: "Jaheira! I question your loyalty to our cause. My method will become clear in the end. I ask again, Chiyo, what is your favorite color?"
Chiyo: "Green is my preference."
Galvarey: "Green! Jealousy, or the gangrenous limb!"
Jaheira: "And also of the grass, or the leaves on the trees! You are so intent on seeing what you wish the answer does not matter!"
Galvarey: "I suppose in part it does not matter. Obviously this person causes much disturbance where e'er she goes. My interview is just to clarify the matter."
Jaheira: "But you were to see Chiyo as she is, not as you expected her to be! I was to bring them here so-"
Galvarey: "You were to bring them here so that we might have them here, nothing more. The course of action was always clear."
Chiyo: "Excuse me, but I am still in the room. What is it that you intend?"
Jaheira: "Indeed, Galvarey, what is it that you intend? This is not as we had discussed."
Galvarey: "No, but you only needed to know enough to bring them here. Extraneous information would have endangered the mission. As Harpers we-"
Jaheira: "As Harpers we respect others!"
Galvarey: "We have a greater duty to maintain the balance! How can you, as a Harper, as a druid, sanction the freedom of this person? What will the do to the balance?"
Jaheira: "And what if they restore the balance? What if her intent is good?"
Galvarey: "It is simply not worth the risk. No, there is no choice in the matter. Chiyo, you are to be...confined."
Jaheira: "It is as good as death and you know it, Galvarey!"
Galvarey: "Nothing so barbaric. Imprisonment to contain the chaos she might sow, either intentionally or unwittingly. It is a humane solution."
Chiyo: "And you assume I will submit to this? That is not very likely."
Galvarey: "No, Chiyo, I mean the spell Imprisonment. You will find yourself in a small container a few leagues under the earth. Quite peaceful."
Chiyo: "You are welcome to try, but I doubt you shall succeed. I am in the right here!"
Galvarey: "You have no voice here and little choice in the matter. Certainly you can fight, but there are six Harpers to contend with. The odds are quite clearly..."
Jaheira: "Nay, Galvarey, there is but you and your four lackeys. I will have no part in this! Chiyo, I...I will stand by your side if you will have me. You are...you are better than this, I know. I..."
Chiyo: "I had hoped... I had hoped you would, but I do not wish you to harm your friends."
Jaheira: "These are no friends of mine! I do not recognize them!"
Galvarey: "You have made a mistake, Jaheira. With her imprisonment I could get sponsored as Herald! But now you fight the Harpers with this monster!"
Jaheira: "Harpers may interfere but it is for the greater good! Not this! I don't know you!"
And battle is joined, but Xan gets off a chaos, Aerie gets off an emotion: despair, and Jaheira gets off an insect swarm. The combination pretty much cripples Galvarey and his four lackeys, and I mop them up with no trouble at all. When the last of the Harpers is dead, Xan confronts Jaheira:
Xan: "You shielded us from your fallen brethren, but are you prepared to stand firm in your beliefs?"
Jaheira: "Undoubtedly. I would do as such again without hesitation."
Xan: "Jaheira, it was not an idle question. I respect you, but I do not believe these attacks will stop. My loyalty is to Chiyo, but to whom is yours?"
Jaheira: "To her. I promised Gorion, and I would have it no other way."
Xan: "I understand. I am sorry for doubting you...I should have known I was wrong."
Oh Xan.  photo emot-glomp.gif I don't blame him for being worried. There's still no real explanation for how Irenicus's agents managed to capture Chiyo, Jaheira, Khalid, Minsc, and Dynaheir between Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, though Beamdog is making a game about that, but at the moment, treachery is as good an explanation as any. I would expect it from Jaheira, but even though Xan and Chiyo have an elven lifebond, he doesn't know Jaheira well and he was gone between games for poorly defined reasons, presumably so I as the mod player can make them up.

I loot the bodies, scoring some vendor fodder like plate mail +1 and a katana +1 as well as a valuable ring of wizardry and a half-dozen potions of extra healing, all of which I take as Chiyo and her companions stride out of Galvarey Estate without a backward glance.

Game time elapsed: 74 days, 3 hours.
Shadow Thief Tasks Completed: 0/3

I really need to get to those Shadow Thief tasks at some point. But I didn't even get the chance to go searching for sidequests this update because they all came straight to me! I expect I haven't heard the last of the Harpers in Athkatla, either. Rylock at least was not among the ones who attacked me and he'll certainly report that something unexpected happened based on the corpses littered all around the ground floor of the estate. Of course, if anyone does come after me, I can absolutely take them based on the fight against Galvarey and his minions. Especially now that I have the upgraded Celestial Fury. +5 is powerful enough to bypass some--though not all--of the protective spells I've run into wizards casting before, like mantle.

I think the conversation between Galvarey, Jaheira, and Chiyo above show that even the writers have no idea what to make of the concept of "the balance." Like, Jaheira is True Neutral, which is basically clinical insanity. The AD&D Second Edition Players Handbook describes a druid as being someone who would fight against encroaching gnolls with the local peasants unless it looks like the gnolls were going to be wiped out, in which case they'd switch side to the gnolls. A group of people who literally everyone on the planet would have reasons to hate and try to kill, which admittedly does explain the Harpers. But why is Jaheira asking if Chiyo's intent is good. Isn't that against the balance? Shouldn't her intent be filled with neutrality?

Then again, thinking too hard about alignment leads only to madness.

Next: Part XVIII: Liches Get Stitches.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Current Music: Antti Martikainen - At the Gates of Babylon