Log in

No account? Create an account
25 June 2016 @ 07:47 pm
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XXII: Like Rats in a Maze  
Chiyo awakens in a glass tube in a laboratory, her companions missing, and Irenicus and Yoshimo standing outside. There are other tubes at the edge of the room, with other people standing in them.

As she awakens, Irenicus speaks:
Irenicus: "Well, it would seem that my visitor has awakened. It is as I predicted. It all has been. I fear I have had an advantage over you. I have planned your coming from the start. It could be no other way. Had you known of Yoshimo, things might have been different, but a spell component slipped into a soup will still get anyone in the end."
Chiyo: "I am sure you forced him into whatever deal you have with him."
Irenicus: "It was his suggestion, really. A fine way to retrieve you unharmed. Of course, your safety is no longer a concern at this point."
Yoshimo: "I did not spend so much time in Chiyo's company just to have her killed. That could have been done a dozen times over."
Chiyo: "Is that genuine concern, or are you worried you will not be paid if I am a corpse?"
Yoshimo: "Don't make this harder than it already is, Chiyo. I can't help you. There are circumstances you are not aware of."
Chiyo: "Then enlighten me. I know of nothing that would warrant such a betrayal."
Yoshimo: "Death! Death no matter where I would go or what I would do! That is what awaited me if I failed. Can you understand that? My service was promised long before I was called on to do this! I did not know what would come! I did not know what a filthy creature Irenicus truly was! I did not!"
Irenicus: "Quiet yourself, Yoshimo, and quit babbling about death. You are quite safe now, and my plans for Chiyo go far beyond simple murder. You will see soon enough. But don't worry...you won't have to think about any of this or that. Your life ends today."
Chiyo: "What are you doing, Irenicus! What is all of this?"
Irenicus: "That is not for you to know. Suffice to say that I regret what must occur. I know the rage you will feel once I am done. I seek the death of others for similar reasons. Don't worry, Imoen has already suffered what she must for my cause. She even survived, and this bodes well for you. You are stronger, more focused, and you are aware."
Chiyo: "You want me because I am a child of Bhaal. Let her go and then we'll talk."
Irenicus: "Imoen was more than bait, and has served just as you will. She is like you in many ways, and in one very special one."
Chiyo: "Are you suggesting that she is a child of Bhaal as well? That is just not possible."
Irenicus: "You must have suspected. Perhaps she felt no symptoms, but the taint was there. She is a similar age, and was apparently secluded as a child, just as you were. This Gorion of yours should have told you about yourselves early on. You might have learned not to fear what you are. Imoen is indeed a child of Bhaal. I suspect her innocent charm and humor suppressed the darkness. She showed no symptom because there was no place for shadow in her spirit. I had to show her some very dark shadows indeed. It is unfortunate that it had to be done, but it was necessary to get what I needed. Now I must focus on you."
And there's one of the biggest revelations in the game. Imoen, faithful Imoen, happy-go-lucky Imoen, HEY-YA-IT'S-ME-IMOEN, is Chiyo's half-sister through their divine father.

Irenicus says that now he will focus on Chiyo, using the deaths of the Shadow Thieves in the other glass cages to force her "divine soul" from her:
Irenicus: "Do you see the Shadow Thieves in the other chambers? They are the fruits of Bodhi's guild war, and their deaths shall force the divine soul from you. Don't be afraid, Chiyo. I suspect this will be mercifully quick."
Chiyo: "Yoshimo! It's not too late! Help me!"
Irenicus: "It is too late, Chiyo. He can't help you. I've ensured it, and you will soon be beyond it all anyway."
Irenicus casts a spell and draws the thieves' life essence out, and Chiyo loses consciousness. When she awakens, she is elsewhere:

The Dream

This is Candlekeep, where Chiyo and Imoen grew up together under Gorion's tutelage. As she appears, Chiyo hears Imoen's voice:
Imoen: "Do... not fight... to fight... is to lose... come to me... find me... "
Chiyo: "Imoen? Where are you?"
Imoen: "Within... find me within... You cannot fight alone... you cannot... Find me within..."
Then I get control back and the game gives me some basic equipment. Also, because of mod conflicts, I still have my Celestial Fury +5 even in the dream world. I suspect this won't be too bad.

To the west, I find an image of Bhaal, dead god of murder, who demands that Chiyo kneel to him:
Image of Bhaal: "Fall to your knees! You can do no other! I am within you! I am your essence!"
Chiyo: "What do you want here?"
Image of Bhaal: "What do I want? Your life, your soul, your body! I am the instinct that will fuel the father! I am the blood!"
Then he attacks. I duel him twice and lose both times, one time with him sitting at Near Death for half the duel. Obviously, this is what Imoen meant about not fighting, so next time I have Chiyo tell him that he'll have to catch her and run. I lead him all around Candlekeep and to the entrance, where there's a demon who challenges Chiyo, demanding that she sacrifice part of herself to proceed. I pick a point of Wisdom, because this is AD&D 2e and Wisdom is basically useless to anyone but clerics, and head inside.

Inside is the library of Candlekeep, and I head north pursued by Bhaal. On the other side of the staircase is Imoen, who runs over and tells me that Chiyo can't win the battle alone:
Imoen: "I... I can see you there... Wait... and we can win..."
Chiyo: "Imoen? Are you all right?"
Imoen: "Shhhh... before the shadows return to me... I have seen what is to come... One alone cannot fight... Together we must battle... your instinct... Alone you would fall... whether you win or lose... but here, in my sight... we can defeat it... Lead the creature here... lead it to me, and we shall fight it together. Together... he does not expect us together... but he has shown me how... Go, and lead the beast here... it is your only chance... and my last..."
I mean, he's right there, Imoen. This time, the battle is easily won, but near death Bhaal says something strange:
Image of Bhaal: "I sense... your soul... it has taken form to guide from within! You are strange among your kin! But it... it is weak and will not help again! You are empty inside! There is nothing within... but the instinct!"
Imoen cries out "Not again!" and screams, and Chiyo awakens.

When she does, I'm greeted with the message, "Loses all Bhaal powers." Great!
Irenicus: "Well, you are a strange one indeed! You resist beyond all reason! A pity you are dead on the inside."
Chiyo: "You cannot turn me against myself. I have strengths you cannot see."
Irenicus: "I don't know what you faced while mired in the spell, but here in the world of the living my plans have gone just as I wished. I have drained you, drained you of the very thing that made you special. It is the worst of curses, and I should know."
Chiyo: "What do you intend, Irenicus? What are you up to now?"
Irenicus: "No, you warrant no villain's exposition from me. You are barely sentient now. I have taken your very divinity and drained you of your soul. The curse that was wrought against Bodhi and I has now ceased and yours has begun. You will wither, you will wane, and you will die. Bodhi! Remove this nothing... and Imoen as well. We are restored at their expense and need them no longer. Our revenge to come is now all the sweeter."
Bodhi: "As you would have it, my brother."
Irenicus: "Of course. See to it quickly as possible. I will tell our friends in the dark of our coming. We will plan our assault from there. I bid you farewell, child of Bhaal. We shall not meet again."
I am going to murder Irenicus so hard when I get the chance.  photo emot-black101.gif And what's that he's talking about there? Revenge against whom? Hmm...

The Chase Is On
In the asylum, Bodhi taunts Chiyo:
Bodhi: "And so your life does come to an end. A pity. You have proven resilient beyond all expectation. It is... appealing to me."
Chiyo: "You waste my time. I am not here for your amusement."
Bodhi: "Oh, but you are. My amusement is all that is keeping you alive. Irenicus wishes you dead, and he is very rarely denied his wishes. Your abilities have piqued my interest, and since you are to die, I would have you do it in an entertaining fashion."
Xan: "You shall not play with her as if she is your toy, creature!"
Bodhi: "Who will stop me? You? I take what I want. Perhaps I will take you, too, when the time comes. Irenicus can be so dour when he wishes. He is set upon revenge for his banishment, and can think of nothing else. A failing of his mind remaining flesh, I suspect. Undeath has given me focus, and an interest in the abilities of powerful creatures. An interest in you. I will make your death glorious, as well as entertaining."
Chiyo: "I will not perform for you!"
Bodhi: "Oh, but you will. You have no choice. You will run my gauntlet, and you will do so on the slim chance that you will make a difference. Do you see this passage before you? It is the darkest part of the asylum and its history: a test of clarity for its prisoners, by a director that delighted in dissecting the mind. Now he is under my... influence, and this place is mine to control. It is a masterpiece of madness, one that you will come to know intimately. It has been some time since I have given chase to a worthy foe. Enter the maze of this place and seek an exit. I give you time to run, after which I will come to feed. But you are not running solely for my benefit. I give you reason as well, to make the hunt more desperate. You may yet foil Irenicus, though the chance is small."
And then she vanishes with these words:

As she disappears, Imoen walks over to Chiyo. She says that she knows what she is, now that Irenicus awakened her to it, but he took something from her:
Imoen: Are you all right? I was so scared...you came all this way to get me and we were almost... I'm sorry, Chiyo, I was just so worried..."
Chiyo: "Never mind that. Are you hurt? What did he do to you?"
Imoen: "I...I don't know, really. Same thing he did to you, I guess...since we're...the same? Chiyo, he showed me what you are and...what I am. And then he took it away. I don't know who I am now, Chiyo. You may not feel it yet, but the spell for me made me feel hollow. He took something vital... he says it was my divine soul? I find out I'm a child of a god and now I'm empty and dying. You are too..."
Chiyo: "We'll survive by helping each other, like you helped me in the dream during the spell. "
Imoen: "The dream? Chiyo, I had no dream during my ritual. Just blackness, and my will draining away. Has this affected you different than me? You have been dealing with the Bhaal essence longer... perhaps you are more focused... Or perhaps it is more focused upon you."
Chiyo: "I don't know. Regardless, we have to get back what Irenicus took from us. "
Imoen: "I agree. Divine soul or not, there is a deadly threat to our mortal lives. I do not look forward to what is coming. I have been getting weaker, Chiyo, and it has only been a few days since they performed the ritual on me. If we don't reverse what was done...if we don't restore our souls... we will probably both die."
Chiyo asks Imoen to travel with her, she joins the party, and now I finally have my end-game party complete.

Just afterward, Xan runs over to Chiyo:
Xan: "Seldarine, what has he done to you?"
Chiyo: "I saw a dream... I was back in Candlekeep, and I fought a demon with Imoen's help. I survived, and returned to the real world, but Irenicus said that he succeeded...drained me of the only thing that made me special...my divinity."
Xan: "Your spirit...your divinity..."
Chiyo: "Yes. Any suggestions?"
Xan: "I do not know what to say. I would suggest that you rest, but it would only hasten the inevitable. I would urge you to go forward, but Irenicus will inevitably kill us all. I would give you my own spirit, but that is impossible. I would..." Sighs. "Let us go on. There is no point in lingering here."
And I have control back after all those dialogue and cutscenes! Checking the party, I find that Xan has his two Item Upgrade items still, and Chiyo has her Celestial Fury, but we don't have anything else, thanks to the Sword Coast Stratagems mod again. Which makes sense--there's no way Irenicus would let us keep our powerful magical gear. Imoen is still dual-classed into mage and she's level 13 now, but she has just a smattering of spells and none of the really useful ones. Hopefully I can beat anything I find with my fists or find some kind of weapon soon.

There are four ways out and I head northwest. As Chiyo crosses the threshold of the door, she has a sudden dizzy spell. Imoen rushes over, concerned, and Chiyo asks her if she had any similar effects. She says she's getting weaker but not ill. Hmm. Just past the door is a crossbow under a rock, which is better than nothing so I give it to Minsc. There are three doors and the west one leads to a room filled with statues, each carved with riddle:

In the chest in the center are a number of items: a mirror, a jar of water, a sun medallion, worn-out boots, a grinning skull, a star medallion, a golden circlet, a sun medallion, a sundial, an hourglass, a sword medallion, and the "grinning man." This takes a bit of work, but is relatively simple--example: "I have two heads but one body. The more I stand still, the faster I run," answer "hourglass"--and when I'm done, the chest opens and reveals a sapphire stone and a dusky rose ioun stone, which for the moment I give to Minsc.

As I'm solving the riddle, Minsc speaks to Imoen:
Minsc: "It is good that we are all together again, Imoen! We were very worried when you were in the clutches of that evil wizard!"
Imoen: "Aww, thanks Minsc. I'm glad to see you and Boo again too. Wish I didn't still feel like I was in his clutches, though."
Minsc: "Boo says there is nothing to worry about! Irenicus and the fiendish Bodhi will never rest easy now that they have hurt Minsc's friends!"
Imoen: "I know, Minsc. It's better than it was, now that we're together again. You and me and Chiyo, like it should be. I'm glad you didn't let her get out of your sight. Thanks for looking out for her for me."
Minsc: "Of course! Chiyo and Imoen, Minsc and Boo, there is line to draw! All is best when they are together!"
Imoen: "It was different before, though, wasn't it? It was...better. Minsc, I didn't have a chance to tell you before, but...I wish there was something I could have done for Dynaheir, for Khalid...there wasn't, though. Nothing to look at but death. Again..."
Minsc: "We know, Imoen. Even Boo was helpless. But we must go on to avenge our fallen friends and give evil such a butt-kicking that it will never again stand in the way of allies of goodness! Boo says so, and Minsc says so, so Imoen should know that it is so!"
Imoen: "I hope so. Thanks, Minsc."
Good old Minsc.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

The room on the other side of the hall has a few goblins and crates and crates of ranged ammo, sling stones and throwing axes and darts and so on, so I pass that out. As I'm doing so, Xan asks Imoen if she's doing alright:
Xan: "You have been silent as of late. Are you thinking of your newfound heritage?"
Imoen: "Oh. Well... no. I just not..."
Xan: "Are you unperturbed by it, then? It is strange. I do not know whether I would survive with my mind intact, if I learned something as drastic as that."
Imoen: "I'll live. It just takes some time to sink in, you know."
Xan: "I do not, but I can imagine it. It must be a nightmare for you and your sister."
Imoen: "I don't know if it's right to call Chiyo my sister. I've felt like this for years, but - I wanted her to be my real sister, many times, - but not like this. Not with our dear father calling the tune. It's all wrong!"
Xan: "If you call her a sister in your heart, keep the word, but do not think of your sire. Though I see no point either way."
Imoen: "I might. Thanks... I guess."
I head out some other doors, but one has a bunch of mephits and the other a group of yuan-ti, so I head back south to see if I can find more weapons and armor. One path leads to more yuan-ti and the other leads to a clay golem which requires blunt weapons to kill and I have none. I try to sleep to retool my spells and Bodhi teleports in a bunch of grimwarders, so I console in a few enchanted weapon scrolls, summon up weapons for Minsc and Jaheira, and open the secret door again. My other choice would be to reload before all those cutscenes and retool my spells so Chiyo, Xan, and Aerie memorized a ton of castings of enchanted weapon, and I'd rather not do that.

With my new spells, I go look around again. In the north is a room with faces all over the walls:

Chiyo puts her hand in a face because I'm confident that this isn't the Tomb of Horrors, and she's teleported into the center where the statue says
"Face a face and answer you. Exit with the answer that frees. Pain is the price of failure."
Chiyo answers the riddle and is teleported outside, and repeats the process eleven more times and receives a ring of regeneration, which I immediately pass around the group while lounging against the walls until everyone is at full health again. Or I would except partway through, Bodhi teleports in more grimwarders, so instead I just console a bunch of extra healing potions in. I have no patience for Sword Coast Stratagems' attempts to make a game balanced for resting wherever you want require completing large sections of the game without resting under a Vancian casting model. You can say that it's ridiculous and immersion-breaking that escaping the asylum takes a week with plenty of breaks along the way, and you'd be right, but I can counter that on the ship the party would have had Aerie cast create food and water to provide their meals since trusting Saemon was obviously a stupid idea and thus wouldn't have fallen for Irenicus's trap, so I guess neither of us get what we want, Baldur's Gate II.

Also, one of those riddles was a ripoff from The Hobbit. "Alive as you but without breath, As cold in my life as in my death; Never a thirst though I always drink, Dressed in a mail but never a clink." Did you think I wouldn't notice, Bioware?  photo emot-colbert.gif

I head to the north door, where there's a room full of mephits and a rukh, so Aerie casts a fireball spell through the door and kills all the mephits before Chiyo, Jaheira, and Minsc rush the rukh. That takes a bit more planning--first it casts maze on Minsc and Chiyo, which ruins one attempt. The second time it shows up and Chiyo immediately hits it with the Celestial Fury, triggering the stun and causing it to stand there while Chiyo and Minsc murder it. In the room beyond is a portal, and putting the sapphire stone in that portal summons a djinn that gives Chiyo the doomplate. Finally, someone has armor.

Clicking the portal a second time with the ruby stone I picked up somewhere summons a demon, because of course it does. It actually dies pretty easily...the second try, after the first try is ruined by its fear aura, but Aerie's resist fear spell takes care of that. I don't have the third stone yet, so I head back south to where I was murdered by yuan-ti earlier. This time, I start by having Aerie cast cloudkill, but it's not enough and I get overwhelmed. On the second attempt, I get too close to the mages and they activate, so I run back north, go into the room with the riddle statues, and close and bar the door.

You can see a bit of the stinking cloud the yuan-ti mage cast leaking under the door there.

It's not really barring the door, of course, but it's the equivalent of that time-honored D&D tactic. I wait out the mage's spells and buffs and jump it, then head back and try my initial plan. Aerie casts cloudkill, Xan casts skull trap, and Imoen casts web. After a few tries ruined by the mages' Melf's Minute Meteors spells, which keep killing Xan or Aerie, I manage to get it right. As Chiyo charges forward and kills the final yuan-ti mage, Xan and Imoen hang back
Xan: "This adventure will be our last. So much blood...I am surely dying."
Imoen: "I'm not going end up dead in this place! I have to get out! We have to! Cmoe, Xan, just a little bit, and then I'll nag Chiyo for rest."
Xan: "I do not think she will listen. Perhaps I am imagining things, but she does not seem herself these days."
Imoen: "It is...sort of creepy. First she seems normal, and then she looks at me, all empty, and I feel myself backing away... It is different with me. I can feel it. Why?"
Xan: "Because your portion of the taint is smaller? I do not know, Imoen. I have doubts that either of you will become normal again, to be honest."
Imoen: "I guess we might live through it, you never know. But it's still creepy...
That's Xan, always there with a cheery word.

Past the yuan-ti is a gigantic stone head that says, "Focus of power can be restored, but only the hand of the builder may open the passage." I don't have anything like that, so I look around the room, loot a couple scrolls from a jar, and then head back to the room with the clay golem. Now that Minsc actually has weapons that can hurt it, I have Chiyo tank it while Minsc attacks. Chiyo almost dies but not quite--ten hp left--and in the room I find a bag of holding, quite possibly the most valuable magical item I've found in the entire game up to this point:

And what's more, it's filled with a bunch of ammo, weapons, and armor, and a note scrawled in blood that it would not do to make the game too easy. I equip Minsc, Jaheira, and Chiyo with everything they need--and give a shield to Aerie, who I didn't realize could use shields--and I take the stairs down.

Asylum, Level Two
The room has a book in the center that summons a kobold which I kill, and after it dies, Xan tells Chiyo he is worried that one day, she will leave him. Not because she wants to or because she will stop loving him, but simply because she is touched by the blood of a god and it will overwhelm her:
Xan: "More and more often I am forcibly reminded that you are no mortal woman."
Chiyo: "A slowly dying woman, more like."
Xan: "We shall do our best to reach Irenicus before it happens...but yes, this is true, as well. I do not wish to turn you to the black memories, however. What I am concerned about is your future, should you survive. You are an adventurer. You were forced to take this path in the beginning, but I do not see you continuing against your will. You want power, and eventually, your reckless desire to have it all will either get you killed or...or you will win. Your eyes will close one final time, and a new deity will enter the pantheon. What will happen to me, if, by any insignificant chance, I survive? Our souls are interlocked within the Weave; when divinity affects it, they will make a fine mesh indeed. What will I be? A mortal with a touch of divinity? A Chosen of my beloved goddess?"
Chiyo: "But we are one. Can't you ascend with me?"
Xan: "You will hate me for this, but I shall tell you the truth: I would not, even if I could. I do not wish to give up everything I am. I want to retain my memories, my conscience...my love. I do not want to transcend this for an empty promise of power. Self-delusion is sweet. But sooner or later, the bitter truth sinks in: you will leave me. I cannot pretend that I do not want to lock you up until the last but one of your siblings lies dead, and the last one - not you! - ascends. I do. But it is your choice. Your destiny.
Chiyo: "I would gladly be locked up, myself. A simple life is all I want, not divinity!"

We will see if Chiyo sticks to those words.

And right after that momentous conversation, I go through the secret room and die to a bunch of kobolds. This is getting frustrating.

The second time the battle goes a lot better, though still with more damage to my party than I'd want. Reminds me of my Baldur's Gate battles against sewer kobolds and their fire archer commandos. South of the book is a giant crystal that pulses with energy and several kobold shamans around it, who scream out that their summoning of an avatar of Kurtulmak has failed because there isn't enough time. With the aid of Imoen's arrows and a bunch of hobgoblins summoned by Xan, I kill the kobolds and take a piece of the altar, as well as a bunch of healing potions from their corpses. Back the way I came.

I activate the book again and it summons a sword spider, which goes down easily under Minsc and Chiyo's blows. The third monster is an umber hulk and the fourth is a mind flayer, both of which die without any trouble, but the fifth is a beholder. I expected this one to require a few tries, but I get it on the first try--Minsc and Chiyo and Jaheira all lay in and my three wizards all pour magic missiles into it and it dies before anything happens other than Imoen getting charmed, which I solve by running everyone else out of the room and waiting it out. Reading the book a last time gives me a scroll of simulacrum, a scroll of summon fiend--both of which I give to Aerie--and Edventar's Gift, which Chiyo immediately puts on.

There's another door out the room, so I take that. In a room with a mist horror are a bunch of jars that have a few scrolls, including a scroll of simulacrum that I give to Imoen, and a bunch of ranged ammo. South is a hallway, and following it around to the rest I find two rooms. Entering the first one and waiting a moment slams two gates down and spawns umber hulks around me, which takes me by surprise the first time but isn't actually that difficult with some preparation. The door past that leads to level one, so I rest, console-kill the vampires that show up, and head back through the door again.

Halfway down the previous hall is a door, so I take that and find a bunch of greater mummies and a lich. How exactly does SCS expect me to do all this on one set of spells?

I launch a barrage of spells down the corridor and run, flooding summons behind me. I end up baiting out a bunch of the lich's spells, killing the dark planetar it summons, and finally letting Imoen's summoned ogres beat it to death. The room beyond has skeleton warriors and greater mummies, which are annoying, but nowhere near as much. The door next to the mummies is a library stuffed full of scrolls, most of which I give to Imoen, and continue on to the last door. I open it and find a vampire:

This must be the owner of the "Hand of the builder" that I need. Jaheira casts false dawn and I tear him to shreds, and as Chiyo rams a stake through the vampire's heart in its coffin, its hand falls off. Dace's spirit appears then, thanks us, and vanishes into the light. Score one good deed!

Hand and crystal acquired, I head back to the head, give it the items, and pass through.

The Asylum, Level 3
As they reach the top of the stairs, Xan speaks:
Xan: "Stop. You changed countenance yet again. What is going on?"
Chiyo: "I feel strange. I nearly fainted downstairs, what will happen next?"
Xan: "I do not know, and I am scared for you. Your hands are steady, your performance in battle is supreme, but what of the real you within? Our bond is weakening; I hardly feel you. But perhaps...you are still alive, and the curse has no effect yet...perhaps Irenicus has taken only your taint? And now you are free, no longer a Bhaalspawn? And the effects are only...temporary?"
Chiyo: "I can hardly believe in Irenicus's benevolence."
Xan: "Neither do I, but he may have done so unknowingly. He was experimenting on you, as well as on your unfortunate sister. She was not herself for quite some time, but she recovered. As may you. But if there is no hope for you, I'd rather die here and now, as there will be no point in moving further."
Was that hope from Xan? Perhaps in the face of real despair, he managed to summon some up.

There are two doors and I take the west one, which reveals two secret doors. Imoen picks the lock on one, letting me throw a switch which opens the other, releasing some trolls that I carve through. The urn has a couple scrolls and two "mithril tokens," which are obviously going to be useful somewhere. Further on is a strangely-carven room with four minotaurs:

There's a few more mithril tokens here and there and a stone minotaur horn and an amateurish painting of a mind flayer next to a pool in the next room. This is turning out to be one of those puzzles the GM thinks is so clever but is just infuriating when the players run through it, I think.

There's another carven room and a single troll, and past them is Bodhi and her vampire minions. She taunts Chiyo and says that now the game is ended:
Bodhi: "Here, mousey mousey, the hunt draws to a close here and now."
Chiyo: "Come now, there must be something I can do to appease you."
Bodhi: "I know I'm early, but I just couldn't bear to see you leave. You were amusing, but the game is over. One last time, let our paths cross in blood!"
Bodhi laughs and walks forward. Darkness wells up from the bottom of Chiyo's soul, her mind breaks, and she...changes:

...into the Slayer.

The party, and Bodhi, all run in terror while Chiyo rampages around
Bodhi: "What is this?! A creature of pure death and darkest shadow! Child of Bhaal, what have you become?! Away! Irenicus must know of this! We will observe from a distance!"
...and when she transforms back, Xan babbles to himself in horror. Imoen tells her that the Slayer is one of the forms that Bhaal took during the Time of Troubles:
Imoen: "Chiyo, that was... that was the Slayer. It's one of the avatar forms of Bhaal! You... you became the Slayer?"
Chiyo: "I couldn't help it... it just happened. What could have caused that?"
Imoen: "I don't know, but I've read descriptions of the Slayer before. It appeared when the Time of Troubles forced the gods to walk the land... Chiyo, we've got to get our souls back from Bodhi and Irenicus. You've been left empty and it's affecting you different than me."
The room where Bodhi was waiting has a minotaur statue, but it's missing two horns and I only have one, so I head through the north door, kill a minotaur, and then flood the next room with fire when I realize there's a beholder in there. That turns out to be a dead end, and so does the door on the other side with more minotaurs, but I do find the other horn and a scroll of limited wish, which I immediately give to Chiyo. Then I head back to the beginning of the level and rest.

But Chiyo wakes up in the middle of the night, her blood pounding in her ears, and transforms again into the Slayer! She tries to warn Xan, but can't get the words out before the rage overwhelms her:
Xan: "What is it, melamin? You are shaking..."
Chiyo: "Something is very wrong... Xan, get away. I... cannot... control myself..."
Xan: "Your lips move, but I hear nothing. Are you well? Can I... No - NOT AGAIN!"
Fortunately, I manage to run everyone else away in time, and transform back with no injuries, but Xan is nearly despondent. Or, more despondent than usual.
Xan: "I am still alive, if you are interested. What for, though? To start getting ready for the next time, whenever it comes? A'maelamin [most beloved], why do we have to suffer so?"
I head through the other door and find more yuan-ti, but it's a lot easier now that everyone is armed and armored. The room where they were standing has four drawings on the walls:

As you'd expect, the mind flayer drawing opens the mind flayer door, revealing an ultharid! I send in a buffed Chiyo alone and pelt it with spells, and it drops the Flame of the North. And...I don't have any other paintings. Time to look around.

I eventually them in the same room I found the first one, held by statues fitted with good old Gygaxian death traps. I ignore them after Chiyo casts spell immunity: evocation, take the paintings, and head back to the doors. There's a djinn in one and a spirit troll in another, and then one with an umber hulk that leads further into the complex. I find a room with a stone golem, kill it, take the scroll of maze and give it to Aerie, and beyond that is a machine that wants mithril tokens in exchange for boots. I put in fifteen tokens and it spits out a pair of boots of speed, which I give to Chiyo.

There's one more room that has three clay golems and a chest that's obviously going to cause them to spring to life, so I summon up some ogres and pick the string. The ogres actually kill one of the golems on their own while a second attacks them and Minsc and Chiyo kill the third, and I win without anyone ever being in danger. Taking the Gesen bow string from the chest, I head back to the minotaur statue and up and out of the maze.

Game time elapsed: 95 days, 23 hours.

That was one of the most frustrating parts yet! I'm really getting the impression that Sword Coast Stratagems is designed for people who already know how the game works backward and forward and can treat every upcoming battle as a puzzle to be solved where they can see all the pieces. Those enchanted weapons are what got me through, and I could have easily memorized them before entering the dungeon, but even though Imoen started knowing the spell, she didn't start with it memorized and trying to sleep to memorize spells summons Bodhi and her vampires. Fortunately, using Ctrl-Y to instakill them doesn't give you any XP, so I don't feel bad about doing it.

That lich caught me by surprise. They're bad enough when I have access to all my normal equipment, since they can cast time stop multiple times--once from the spell itself, once from casting wish and wishing to stop time--summon planetars, comets, and everything. It turns out that a lot of their worst abilities they only use when the PCs are in line of sight, though, so I just hid while Aerie's summoned ogres murdered it. The one attempt I tried to help the lich stopped time and cast dragon's breath and comet right on top of each other. After that, I learned my lesson.

This whole thing took about six hours of playtime with all the reloads.  photo 3327b7f6b45a33781e80dce4e4461510-d4ipx9c.gif

Next: Part XXIII: The Affairs of Wizards.
Current Mood: infuriatedinfuriated
Current Music: Demoscene Time Machine - Horizon