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17 September 2016 @ 04:48 pm
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XXVII: Come to me, dark warriors, battle awaits us!  
So Phaere wants me to meet her immediately after arguing with Solaufein, and in the Female Fighter's Society where he won't be able to enter. I think I know where this is going, but since she only gave me an hour, I don't have any choice but to go to meet her immediately. When I do, she confirms my suspicions--after offhandedly saying she was thinking of having Chiyo tortured, she says flat-out that she and Solaufein are not on the best of terms and that she's tired of his insolence and allowing it to continue would be risking her position in the priesthood, but she can't kill him herself without risking war between their Houses. So she has come to a solution!

Have Chiyo do it.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Phaere: "But I also cannot take action that would be traced back to myself or my House without risking war. So you shall take action for me. You will kill Solaufein."
Chiyo: "How do you propose I do this?"
Phaere: "Solaufein has been given time off from his regular duties...you will find him in his quarters in the Male Fighter's Society, sulking as is his wont. He will not be expecting you... but nor will he suspect your true intentions, I imagine. He will greet you, and then you will kill him. Those of my House would be the first questioned for his death...but you, without allies of any House, can get away with his murder. Once you are done, take his... hmmm...take his piwafwi cloak and bring it back to me here. It shall make an excellent trophy. That is all. Do you understand what I ask of you, Veldrin? Telling anyone will bring death down upon yourself. I shall keep your secret if you keep mine."
Chiyo: "I suppose I have little choice in the matter."
Phaere: "That is true. Ohhhh, it is not all bad, Veldrin. In Ched Nasad did you have the favor of a House's eldest daughter and the promise of riches? I think not. Go, then. You have three days to hunt down the fool and return with his cloak. Do not fail me, Veldrin."
As I walk away, Jaheira and Xan voice their opinion:
Jaheira: "Despite what she says, Chiyo, we may be able to use this situation to our advantage. Perhaps there is no need to kill Solaufein. Consider this, at least."
Xan: "Yes, but whose life do you value more? His or yours?"
Jaheira: "We may be able to save both. There is no need to rush headfirst into battle, that is all I am saying."
Xan: "If we display mercy, we will be discovered--and killed. Slowly. Are you willing to take this risk for Solaufein?"
Jaheira: "There will be no risk involved, if he is willing to cooperate. If he is not...we shall see. Come, enough dallying here. Phaere might get suspicious."
Xan responds with:

I go straight to to the Male Fighter's Society and find Solaufein waiting in the main room. He is surprised to see Chiyo and mentions not expecting another task so soon, but Chiyo explains the situation:
Solaufein: "Veldrin?! What are you doing here? The Matron Mothers have not given me another task so soon, have they? I was given leave to rest!"
Chiyo: "Phaere sent me to kill you, Solaufein, but I'm not going to do it."
Solaufein: "I see. It was only a matter of time before she acted, I suppose. No alliance of mine to any House could prevent the unseen dagger from plunging into my back. Phaere and I were...lovers once. Mother Ardulace felt Phaere cared for me in a most un-drow-like fashion and had her taken by the Handmaidens. They tortured her with tentacle rods... tortures I can only shudder at the thought of. When they were done all that remained of Phaere was her ambition. And I...I remained only as a constant reminder of her weakness." He sighs. "I have been expecting this for a long time. So, then. If you are not going to kill me, what do you propose that we do?"
Chiyo: "You can join with us, Solaufein... and leave this place."
Solaufein: "Join with you? Leave? To where, Ched Nasad? No... I can see that you do not mean that place. In fact...in fact, you are not from that place, are you? You are not drow. I should have known sooner, I think... Who are you, then? Why have you masqueraded yourself as drow?"
Chiyo: "My name is Chiyo, and I'm a surface elf. I have been sent here to retrieve the stolen eggs of the silver dragon."
Solaufein: "I know a little of this. The Matron Mothers claim the great silver dragon guarding the entrances to the surface elves' temple would no longer be a hindrance. In fact, it was Mother Ardulace that made that announcement. I believe she would hold the eggs you seek...but I do not know where such things would be kept. A... surface elf? It explains much, including the mercy you show me now. No drow would do such, I suspect, and I shall not betray you, Chiyo. I cannot return to Ust Natha without endangering you...and myself. Since you are from the surface, I will tell you something I would tell no other..."

Solaufein: "I will remain in the shadows and seek out others like me. there must be more...I am sure of it. Perhaps my people can be saved from themselves. Thank you Chiyo...for your mercy. Perhaps one day I will stand on the surface and see the moon of my Eilistraee... Until then, farewell."
Eilistraee is Lolth's daughter, who went into exile as well for the hope of the drow's redemption. This actually kind of makes me wish I had installed one of the mods that allows Solaufein as a party member.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif I hope he shows up again.

He hands over his piwafwi and walks out to meet his destiny, and I take it back to Phaere. Much to my sadness, because its BG2 stats are fantastic. Phaere sees it and immediately assumes that Solaufein is dead:
Phaere: "Ah, I see you carrying his piwawfi, my darling Veldrin. He...Solaufein is dead, yes? Yes...of course, he...he is dead. Here...give it to me. 'All love is foolish.' You have done well, Veldrin...you have earned a place of honor in this House by serving me well. This shall not stop, naturally. It is time to introduce you to the Matron Mother of House Despana, Veldrin. Mother Ardulace is anxious to see the female who has done so much for Ust Natha. You will go to the temple and meet myself and Mother Ardulace there. Do not delay, Veldrin...Mother Ardulace wishes to speak with you immediately."
On the way down I see an elven woman fleeing and then meet a drow who demands to know which way she went. I point him in the opposite direction and keep moving when he chases after her.

In the temple of Lolth are Phaere and Matron Ardulace, and as Chiyo approaches, Phaere introduces her. The Matron notices that something is amiss:

Phaere: "I am positive, matron, that she could prove of great use to you."
Matron Ardulace: "Ehhh... perhaps. Let her prove it, then, if she is to become so favored in the eyes of Despana. You, girl! You there...Veldrin, is it? Pay attention. The eye tyrant you killed coming from their so-called city. It was not the right type. I told the girl, here, which type I required and that was not the one."
Phaere: "But, matron, I --"
Matron Ardulace: "Silence, girl! I'll not swallow your lies! Speak again and I'll send you into the pits of Lolth...would you like to deal with the drider again so soon, girl? Now, Veldrin...you have proven yourself as competent. This is good. House Despana needs competence, a rare commodity when one is surrounded by fools. House Despana is about to embark on the path to greatness, Veldrin. You can tie yourself tightly to us. Mother Lolth approves of the successful. But I require something rather rare to begin this path. You might acquire it for me. So I shall give you the task and see if you can earn Despana's favor. I need the blood of one of the neighbour races, Veldrin. The noble races only, and blood from one of their most powerful members. A dangerous task. Your first option is to acquire the blood of an Elder Orb, most powerful of the eye tyrants. Its blood or its eye. I bade the fool girl do this, but she failed."
Phaere: "The Spelljammer tyrant was supposed to be an elder, matron! I swear that is what the spies had reported! They must have exaggerated!"
Matron Ardulace: "SILENCE!! You should have checked on it yourself, girl! Do you rely solely on this female to be your strength and your wits?!"
Phaere: "No, matron, I do not."
Matron Ardulace: "Enough! Should you go after the Elder Orb, you will no doubt find one in their tunnels in the southeastern portion of the main caverns. Your other options are to gather blood from the Elder Brain of the Illithid or from a Prince of the Kuo-Toa. Either would be as difficult as the Elder Orb. The Elder Brain is guarded in the Illithid city, through the southeast caverns. An old ruin of the Kuo-Toa lies in the western caverns, ruled by a mad Prince. Go, then, Veldrin. Bring me the blood of one of these creatures. House Despana awaits your return...but do not tarry. This is my command."
Chiyo: "Very well, I will do my best."
Matron Ardulace: "Of course you will. Go, now, and begin your task."
So dismissed, I leave the temple.

Of those choices the kuo-toa are probably the easiest, but I'm going to go after the Elder Brain because there are a bunch of recipes I remember that require illithid mind control circlets or Elder Brain fluid and this is obviously my chance to get them.

On the way out of the city, though, I'm interrupted.

Basic Lich
A merchant named Visaj stops Chiyo and asks if she wants to buy a magical rope once owned by Jarlaxle:
Visaj: "Hold, friends. I have heard of your prowess, as of late... perhaps you will have interest in a business proposal of mine."
Chiyo: "What is is that you want?"
Visaj: "I am Visaj, a merchant of some note within this city...although you will not have heard of me, no doubt, since you are newcomers. No matter. I notice you are well equipped with magic, among other things, so I have assumed you may be interested in purchasing an item I currently have in my possession. See this golden rope I have here? 'Tis a relic of no small power, yours for the buying...if this is of any interest to you, of course."
Chiyo: "That depends. What does this rope do?"
Visaj: "Well now, what this gilded rope can do and what it can be used for are separate things. A bit of explanation is necessary in order for you to understand."
Chiyo: "Go on, then."
Visaj: "First, to add credibility to its value, you must know that the rope belonged to the infamous Jarlaxle, until I stole it, that is. You do know of whom I speak, yes?"
Chiyo: "Jarlaxle? No, I don't think I've heard of him."
Visaj: "No? That is rather odd. I thought all Drow knew of the mercenary Jarlaxle. No matter, all that you need know is that he has many potent magics in his possession. Or at least he did. This gilded rope once belonged to him, and from what I hear he sorely missed it during his stay in Ust Natha. Sad, really, but it's not my fault."
Chiyo: "Sad? What is sad about it?"
Visaj: "As the story went, Jarlaxle came on a mission for House Jae'llat, helping in a war against House Gillish. 'Twas done in an orgy of blood to please even Lolth. In the sacrifices that followed, though, the Matron of Jae'llat refused to pay Jarlaxle, saying that the service rendered to the Spider Queen should be payment enough. According to the tales, Jarlaxle simply bowed and left even as the gathered House mocked him and spread the story of his foolishness."
Chiyo: "What does this have to do with the rope?"
Visaj: "Jarlaxle enacted a plan of revenge...he planned on acquiring the wardstone that would allow him entrance into House Jae'llat so he could return their favor. But the wardstone was held by the ancient founder of Ust Natha, Deirex, a powerful lich residing in the mage tower. The rope was to protect Jarlaxle from Deirex's magic. I, ah, swapped the real rope with a fake, however. Jarlaxle's men were imprisoned by the lich and the rogue was laughed out of the city for the failure. This is the real rope, however...with it, you would be immune to Deirex's power and could loot the mage tower as you pleased! Consider the possibilities!"
Chiyo: "How do I know you aren't just trying to sell me some other fake rope?"
Visaj: "I assure you it is real. The dweomer is obvious; see how it glows! And to be honest, if the rogue ever attempts to regain it, I'd rather not have it on me."
Chiyo: "Interesting. How much are you asking for it?"
Visaj: "Not much at all. A mere thousand gold and it's yours, my lady."
Chiyo: "Actually, how about you hand over that rope and I won't kill you...and we'll call it even."
Visaj: "Wh-what? You... you wouldn't dare!"
Chiyo: "What are you going to do? Tell Jarlaxle? Hand it over."
Visaj: "V-violence isn't... isn't necessary! If you want the rope so badly then...then here! Take it! Just leave me be! May Lolth have your hide, cretin!"
This is out of character for Chiyo, but she's trying to maintain her cover. It also strikes me that in a tabletop game, a GM could make a lot out of how the party would only have coins that had been minted on the surface, making buying anything pretty difficult. But this is not that game.

We know how I feel about liches. I'm going to do this quest immediately. Nothing can possible go wro-

 photo emot-doh.gif

Deirex approaches and begins to cast a spell, but before he can complete it a teleport signature appears around the party and they're yanked elsewhere--to Jarlaxle's lavish apartments:
Jarlaxle: "Ah! It worked. I wasn't sure it would... these things have a way of never working out exactly as you plan. Thinking on the fly is an occupational hazard."
Jaheira: "I see. You must be the rogue, Jarlaxle, that was mentioned to us, yes?"
Jarlaxle: "The one and the same. Charmed, I'm sure, pretty lady."
Chiyo: "Jarlaxle? Then Visaj lied! The rope didn't work!"
Jarlaxle: "Lied? Now that is rather harsh language. Visaj... Visaj, are you about?"

Visaj enters the room.

Visaj: "I am here, commander, at your service."
Jarlaxle: "Yes, I see that. Allow me to introduce my lieutenant, Visaj. Visaj, I am sure you are already familiar with Veldrin, yes? Tell me...did you lie to her?"
Visaj: "I did not, commander."
Jarlaxle: "I didn't think so. Visaj said the rope would protect you from Deirex's imprisonment spell, and it did. You are here, not in some miniscule hellish sub-plane. This is a pocket plane, headquarters of the Bregan D'aerthe, my mercenary band. I hoped the rope would bring you here, and I see that it has. Welcome, Veldrin."
Chiyo: "Why go through all the subterfuge just to bring me here?"
Jarlaxle: "I wanted to see if you would actually attempt to face the lich. Call it a test of your courage, if you will. With most of my men imprisoned by the lich, I've hardly anyone left to do what I require done...and I can't go asking just anybody, now, can I?"
Chiyo: "And just what do you require done?"
Jarlaxle: "Well, you were about to deal with the lich, anyway, before he cast you into the planes. I simply need you to acquire something that he has in his possession. No, no. Even I know when to give up on a plan. My men come first. The lich has numerous gems that contain the souls of my men, and I want them back. Whether you kill the lich or not is up to you. Killing him would allow you to loot the tower, I suppose, but however you get those gems is of no concern to me. Once you gather up the gems, I will use the rope to pull you back into the headquarters, here. Easy enough, yes? You are ready to go, then?"
Chiyo: "Wait a minute...what do I get out of all this?"
Jarlaxle: "Oh, right. We're at the 'gesticulating helplessly' part, aren't we? Visaj, I thought I told you to remind me when we arrived at this point."
Visaj: "My apologies, commander. An oversight on my part."
Jarlaxle: "You're forgiven. As for you, dear friends, I think you will want to do this. You wouldn't want your true identity revealed, would you.... Chiyo?"
Xan: "Oh. Chiyo, much as I regret this, we have to kill him, and now."
Jarlaxle: "Ahhhh, there's no need for such a glare, Chiyo. I am confident you will acquire the gems, and such action will be unnecessary. And if you kill Deirex you have access to his tower. You could even take the Jae'llat wardstone and pillage House Jae'llat, if you wish. It's all good. I just want to make sure that you find those gems in a timely manner. Hmmm...how long would you say would be fair, Visaj? An hour?"
Visaj: "Perhaps a day, commander. We are in no rush."
Jarlaxle: "Right. Chiyo won't need it, but just to be sure. You have one day, Chiyo, to get my gems. Make sure you hold onto the rope...you'll need it. See you then. And, oh...give my warmest regards to the lich."
And then he teleports the party back to the foot of the tower.

Well, I was going to do this anyway. I load up on buffs and charge in. The main problem turns out to be the Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting that goes off when the lich is struck. I get lucky and Aerie gets off a blast with the Ring of the Ram, which blasts Deirex across the room and means the spell doesn't have any targets, which is good because previously it was one-shotting at least one of my casters. I know how to fight liches after that, other than the time the cornugon shows up and I hadn't cast resist fear.

When Deirex dies, I loot the tower. The House Jae'llat Wardstone, a bunch of scrolls including one of limited wish(!), the Armor of the Viper, and a handful of gems. As soon as Imoen picks those up, a teleport signature appears around her and the party is pulled back to Jarlaxle's room, where Jarlaxle and Visaj discuss how they've gotten their payment now and Matron Jae'llat has lost. It turns out that he didn't send his men after the lich after all, he just wanted his money after his employer stiffed him.

Jarlaxle: "Ahhh, precious, aren't they? To think the Jae'llat have squirreled away such beauty for a millennium. What do you figure they'll get on the market, Visaj?"
Visaj: "A considerable amount, commander. There are more than a few nobles who would pay dearly for the opportunity to vex the Jae'llat, regardless of their worth."
Xan: "Pay - for the souls of your men? What is going on here?"
Jarlaxle: "True enough. I wish I could be there to see the Matron Mother's face when she finds out we got our payment, anyway."
Imoen: "But... but I thought you said the lich trapped the souls of your men in those gems?"
Jarlaxle: "Would I risk my men against the lich? I just wanted the payment I was due, as well as collecting the price of the Matron Mother's insult to the Bregan D'aerthe. I have not only collected the soul gems of the Matron who founded the Jae'llat, but you killed their ally Deirex, a member of their own House. I think matters between the Bregan D'aerthe and House Jae'llat are pretty much even, now, wouldn't you agree, Chiyo?"
Chiyo: "Fine. You've gotten what you wanted. Now send us back."
Jarlaxle: "Ah, you are a good sport, Chiyo, for a surface elf. I do not know what you are doing in Ust Natha, but I'll allow you your secret. Do as you wish, I care not. I would like my rope back, now, so I shall relieve you of it. A bit of gold, my friend, for your trouble. As for what you choose to make of your encounter with me, that is up to you. You may choose to be bitter, or you can take advantage of your situation. Deirex is dead. Loot his tower before the mages of Sorcere close it up with magic. You can use the Jae'llat wardstone to enter and loot their House, as well. If you do, I will ensure that the Jae'llat cannot alert the rest of the city. And if you kill the Matron and ruin her House forever... it would serve her right."
Chiyo: "I'll take that into consideration."
Jarlaxle: "Time for you to return to Ust Natha, then. You've been quite a sport, Chiyo. Perhaps we shall meet again."
And he teleports the party back. You know, in Drow of the Underdark, it mentions that the Underdark radiations make teleportation unreliable over large distances. You wouldn't know that from this game.

I still haven't looked upstairs, so I go back in. The top floor is all unworked stone with a pool that has some gold, gems, more scrolls, and vendor-ready magical weapons (no special abilities, just pluses). So I head over to the vendors to sell all of that, but I get interrupted again.

Tentacle Monsters
On the way to the merchants a drow handmaiden of Lolth named Taso Kala yells at Chiyo
Taso: "You there! Worthless female! Lolth demands a service of you!"
that the priesthood of Lolth has broken the power of a cult of Ghaunadaur but need assistance annihilating the remnants and the party should report to the southeast immediately. When Chiyo replies that she will do so, Taso snaps that she will not speak unless ordered to and to go and perform the will of Lolth, and then disappears into the Female Fighter's Society.

That seems easy enough, or it does until I get closer:

Ghaunadaur is the god of slimes, oozes, and other creepy-slimy things. If this is the cult after their power is broken, I'm glad I don't have to fight them beforehand. An early Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting/insect swarm combo, and everything seems to be going well until one of the priests whose shields I can't seem to dispel casts his own Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting. The biggest disadvantage of Sword Coast Stratagems is the requirement to watch the combat log like a hawk or memorize all the spell animations so you can properly play spell->counterspell.

The second attempt, I add in a chaos after the horrid wilting, then a web and an ice storm, and everything is going well until I catch an NPC in one of the spells and Ust Natha goes hostile. Sigh. Third attempt goes fine other than a death knight killing Jaheira with a symbol of death, so I have Aerie raise her from the dead and head back to Taso. She reacts predictably:
Taso: "You have performed the will of Lolth and are worthy of another day of life. You are blessed in your continued existence."
Chiyo: "It was an honor to serve. Thank you."
Taso: "Do not presume to speak to me. Lolth calls upon you regardless of your honor! Go, you are of no more use for now."
Then she teleports away, because walking is for pathetic males who should have been strangled in the cradle.

I go to the merchant who never questions where I'm getting these huge hauls of drow-forged weapons and armor, sell off the excess gear from the cultists and the gems and worthless magical weapons from the lich, and after a night at the inn, I leave Ust Natha.

If Only I Had an Elder Brain
I enter the eastern tunnels and find myself among unsettling alien architecture, the same that I found in the mind flayer stronghold in the Athkatla sewers. I was all set to write a bit about how strange it was that I walked in unharmed, since a community with a functioning Elder Brain should have a functioning psionic alarm system over their entire territory, but I spoke too soon. Chiyo hasn't taken more than a few steps when several illithids teleport in and render the entire party unconscious with a massive psionic assault:

Oops.  photo emot-psyboom.gif

The party wakes up in a small windowless room, with two doors leading out, and everyone still has their weapons and armor. Imoen tries to pick both of them and both of them give the "does not have a conventional lock and may be warded against simple spells" message, so the party paces the walls of their cage until an ogre enters and explains the situation:
Ogre: "Ahh, you wakey wakey now, I sees? Goods! Now it time to fight!"
Chiyo: "What am I doing here?"
Ogre: "Questions, questions. Always da new fighters got the same questions. You listen then, and I tell you what you need to know. First thing, I not the one that capture. You trespass on the home of the flayers and you got caught. Now, you pay for your stay, understand?"
Xan: "Illithids. We are captured by tentacled monsters, whose favorite entertainment is devouring brains!" He groans. "I lost consciousness before I could notice our captors, but I wish I was still in the dark."
Ogre: "Next thing, you better fight well in the arena, because if you don't fight well, you die. If you don't fight at all, you die. Maybe you live long enough to get servant position. Better than fighting. Oh, last rule. Never attack the flayers. They kill you with their thoughts."
The conversation continues briefly after that, but it's more in that vein, and then the party is thrown into combat against three umber hulks which I easily slaughter. Then the illithids knock me out again and the ogre throws me back in the cell. But this time the other door is open, and inside is another bunch of prisoners--a group of githyanki.

What's more, it's the same githyanki that attacked Saemon's ship when we were fleeing from Spellhold. They've been captured by the illithids and made gladiatorial slaves.

Simyaz: "We are all destined for the same fate, as playthings in the arena. A foul way to end a being's life, I think."
Chiyo: "What manner of creatures are you? I have not seen your kind before."
Simyaz: "We are Githyanki, and we do not come here without purpose. Someone had taken a sword of ours... a silver sword. We were to reclaim it. But our ship was capsized and now we are in custody of the most hated of enemies, the illithid mind flayers. This is an abomination I will not allow. We harbor a special hatred for the illithid, and we will see them dead before we are done. Or we die ourselves."
Imoen: "No, enough death. I have seen too much. There will be another way. There must."
Simyaz: "I can speak no more. My charges must meditate for the coming battle. It will take great strength of mind to escape this place. Great strength."
Quick lore note--the githyanki are the descendants of the ancient slaves of the mind flayers, who broke free in a rebellion that shattered the interplanar mind flayer empire into tiny isolated communities. The other descendants are the githzerai, made famous by Dak'kon in Planescape: Torment, whose katana Chiyo is currently wielding.

After that brief conversation, the githyanki disappear, summoned to battle by the illithids. When they reappear, the leader has an offer:
Simyaz: "You there, we have fought in our battle and I believe we are scheduled to face each other when next the jailer comes."
Xan: "Then any further conversation is pointless. If we are to kill you, so we shall."
Aerie: "They cannot make us do this, can they? To house us together so we might speak...then force us to fight...it is monstrous. Or do you taunt us?"
Simyaz: "We could each boast about who will live, but I believe a far better plan is before us. It is a slim chance, but it is the only one that is available."
Chiyo: "I am listening."
Simyaz: "As your jailer has told you, the illithids are strong here in their house. They have power here to slay as they wish, and escape is impossible. But we of the Githyanki have power of our own, and I believe we may be able to disrupt the illithids and allow another to make an escape."
Jaheira: "It would appear that neither of us have much of a choice in the matter. We must trust one another."
Simyaz: "When we are called to battle, we of the Githyanki will meditate within the ring, pushing back the minds of the illithids. You may then open the arena doors that we may all escape. You must find a way out of the illithid city. We will distract the illthids until you succeed in forcing your way from this twisted city. Once our meditations are done there will be no more instant death in the arena, but through the door is the only path that is possible."
Chiyo: "Then that is what I will do. We will work together."
Simyaz: "Then ready yourself, for the time of battle is at hand. The jailer will come for us soon."
The jailer does come and throw me into battle with the githyanki and some kuo-toa. Simyaz yells to focus on the kuo-toa, and he and his warriors turn and begin a psionic battle with the illithids. The kuo-toa die without much trouble, and then I look the bolts on the floor, equip then and a crossbow on Minsc so he doesn't get murdered by mind flayer Intelligence drain, and open the eastern door and run through. The jailer ogre is waiting for me, but he's no match for Jaheira and Chiyo together, and after he dies I search the table next to him and take the hilt of the Equalizer.

North and then east is the door out, but when I try to use it I get the message, "Only a powerful mind or godly strength will force this door open," which is the clear sign that I need to finish the quest and kill the Elder Brain. The room to the south has two mind flayers, which Chiyo leads back to the main party and then lays into while Minsc shoots with his crossbow. They never land a single tentacle on her. The door out from that room leads to a room full of slaves lying on beds, apparently sleep. They aren't dead, but they don't respond to anything Chiyo does. The machines near them have slots to place some liquid but nothing I have works, and eventually I give up and try another door:

To the east is a single mind flayer and a room filled with vats of bizarre bubbling red liquid. Taking a vial of that gives me "illithid serum," and pouring that into the machines awakens the sleeping slaves, who thank Chiyo for pulling them from an endless nightmare. The leader introduces himself as Camaris Highcastle of Myratma and says they came to the Underdark seeking adventure. The mind flayers were using their mental energy to create control circlets that let them utterly dominate others' minds, and there might still be enough energy for a few. He then asks what Chiyo's plan is, and she says she is going to escape, somehow. Camaris asks her to tell him when the route is open, since they have a cache of equipment secreted away, but wouldn't last long against the mind flayers in their current state. I tell them I will, make four control circlets with the machine, and leave the room.

I check the other prison cells off the prison room, but they just have some kuo-toa and sahuagin that attack immediately and provide more bolts for Minsc's crossbow. The doors to the north won't open without a powerful mind or godly power...hmm. A powerful mind and mind control circlets? I think I know what I have to do.

Somehow there's a mind flayer again in the room where the illithid serum was, so I lead him back to the doors to the north and then take over his mind. As soon as the doors open, Simyaz and his githyanki teleport in and say that they're leaving:
Simyaz: "You have done well, and the githyanki are now free of the illithid web of minds. Our own power is free once more, and we may leave this place on wings of will."
Xan: "You are now free, but we are doomed to suffer here. Or do you intend to free us, as well?"
Aerie: "Chiyo? I... I don't think they are taking us with them. They are leaving us here!"
Simyaz: "You will remain here, I fear, for we cannot carry you and still remain free ourselves. In future we will return and kill all the filth that their tentacles have touched."
Chiyo: "Cowardice. You face these creatures only when convenient?"
Simyaz: "We face them when the fight will be glorious, but there is a limit. Losing lives to the illithid without hope of victory is not a course we welcome. If you can conquer this place, if you can kill the elder brain, all the doors shall swing wide and you may walk free. If not, we will return at a later time with a greater force. This den of filth will be wiped from existence."
He ends with a dubious blessing:

And then they are gone.

The next room has a few ultharids, and that takes a few attempts before I can get it right. I eventually do it by summoning undead, who are immune to psionics, to clog up the passage and prevent them from approaching the party more than one at a time while Chiyo stands in front and everyone else pelts them with ranged weapons. Then there's more mind flayers after that, and more mind flayers after that, which I kill through a mix of summoned undead, Mordenkainen's Swords--turns out weird magical swords can't have their brains devoured either--and ranged attacks. In a room to the north are a bunch of birthing pools that each give a brine potion, but otherwise it's mind flayers all the time.

In a room to the far southwest are three pods that don't have mind flayers in them. One has an umber hulk and one has a kuo-toa, but one has an "Insane Dwarf Warrior" who attacks as soon as he's freed. I try casting charm on him, remembering Glaicus in De'Arnise Keep, but I just get a message about not being able to speak to charmed creatures, so I have to kill him. He drops his gear and a ring of fire control which I stick on Jaheira. In an experimental room to the north is a staff of command that goes right back into my bag. That's the last other room, and the only door remaining is one that's barred again. All the mind flayers are dead so I can't take control of them, but there is that other line about godly strength...

So Chiyo transforms into the Slayer and tears the door off its hinges.  photo emot-black101.gif Beyond is the Elder Brain:

There's a couple mind flayers in the room, and the first attempt fails because Chiyo gets overwhelmed and her brain eaten. The second time I send in Minsc and Jaheira to fight the brain while a buffed, Slayer-ed Chiyo fights all the minions, and that works much better...at least until Chiyo goes from full health to instantly dead for no reason when I try to run her around behind the corpse of the elder brain. Checking the wiki it looks like it's because I forgot to tell her to change back manually and being in the Slayer form too long is dangerous, so attempt number three! This attempt goes fine, and as the brain dies, it opens all the doors in the complex and Chiyo gets the blood of the Elder Brain. On the way out, the slaves thank Chiyo for freeing them.

I sell off a bunch of stuff at the duergar merchants, who cringe obsequiously because they see a heavily-armed war party of drow talking to them, and then find Simyaz and his githyanki hanging around. The conversation starts off hostile:
Simyaz: "You live! The illithids let you go? Astounding, unless you are in league with them. I warn you, if you serve them you will share their fate."
Chiyo: "No, actually I destroyed the whole damn bunch without you!!"
Simyaz: "I sense hostility. I would advise that you redirect your anger. It is admirable that you survived, but that does not imply you would survive against us. We shall have to test your worth, though your death is the only result we seek. It is a pity that you freed yourself. I had hoped you would fall, and the stolen silver sword you carry would be dropped in the illithid city. We would return with great force and exact terrible justice."
Chiyo: "Why is this blade so important?"
Simyaz: "The blade is a Silver Sword, a weapon entrusted to the greatest of our leaders by our queen herself. It cannot be given or sold. To do so means death. Your words may dance as they will, but we know Saemon Havarian had it and we know it was given to you. It will be returned!"
Chiyo: "No it will not. It is now my property, although I fail to see the appeal of it."
Simyaz: "You insult that which is most precious to us! It is a degrading crime of words! Enough! We shall kill you and determine if your corpse carries the blade!"
And then I cut them down like dogs. If they had broken me out of the illithid city I probably would have given them the blade, but since they didn't...

Back in Ust Natha, there's one more thing I want to do before I turn over the blood.

You Jae'llat?
After a brief tour of the upper levels of Ust Natha, where I see a drow priestess murdering a group of duergar slaves for not getting out of her way and the captain of a spelljamming ship that he hijacked in Krynnspace:
Spelljammer Drow: "Greetings to you, female, you like the look of my ship? A fine astral vessel. Been working the flows since I hijacked this rig in Krynnspace twenty years ago. Just came back from raiding a gnomish sloop, myself. Fair booty, although the ship took more damage than expected. Ah, after some repairs she'll be fine. You the adventuring sort, female? If you're still in Ust Natha in a month or so, maybe you'll join up? Because of those infernal gnomes I could use the extra crew. Think about it, anyway. Next trip is out to Colia, and it's quite a sight."
Unfortunately, this is not that kind of game, so I go back down and over to Jae'llat compound.

As soon as I enter, the guards attack:

Something tells me the drow aren't much of one for social calls.

This battle is hard.

It takes more than a few attempts just because there are so many guards and priestesses and because Sword Coast Stratagems means that the group in the next room over doesn't sit calmly and wait until I show up while the clash of swords and ZZZZZZZZZZAP of spells is going off right next door. One attempt seems to be going well until the death knight I summon turns and murders Xan and Aerie, another attempt ends when more people show up and strip all the buffs off my party. I end up retooling my spells for more widescale combat, with spells like Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting and sphere of chaos to deal with all the guards, and in the end after several more attempts, that's what wins it for me. I cast the sphere of chaos along with web and two ice storms, summon a fire elemental, Xan casts chaos, and I basically do everything possible to keep as many of them occupied for as long as I can. Eventaully, after maybe a dozen attempts, it works and I loot the treasures of House Jae'llat. A lot of weapons and armor, a bunch of gems includnig 45 pearls, some gold, and Water's Edge.  photo latest.gif

Then I sell most of it, sleep at the inn, and go to the Temple of Lolth.

Game time elapsed: 105 days, 17 hours.

That mind flayer area took a lot longer than I thought. I originally was going to run this through the end of the Underdark, but it's already 4200 words long. I expected the mind flayers to be much harder than they were when I fought them in the Athkatla sewers, but I have a lot more tools now than I did then. Spells like summon undead and Mordenkainen's Sword really trivialize the thread of mind flayers, since enchanted mobile swords and undead don't have brains for the mind flayers to eat. The ghasts that summon undead calls up have a nauseate effect that worked on the illithids too, which I'm sure helped them live long enough for Chiyo's swords and everyone else's ranged attacks to kill them.

I thought the moment with Solaufein revealing that he was a worshipper of Eilistraee was really touching, even if it shows that Solaufein is a transparent ripoff of Drizzt Do'Urden's father, whose name is Zaknafein. That moment really interested softlykarou too, who hadn't realized that there were any drow deities other than Lolth. And it's true that basically there aren't, since most of the others are just gods of different aspects of the dickery that is the essence of the drow. Like that bit where the slaves wouldn't move and the priestess killed them and the two males who were guiding them. I don't understand how drow society survives, to be honest.

The hardest part of this section was the battle at House Jae'llat, which even though it was a single room, took me a ton of attempts and almost as long as the entire illithid section to complete. There were a dozen drow guards, half-a-dozen priests and mages, and four or five named house members, and in the end I think it was mostly just me getting lucky and not having them all immediately swarm toward the entrance when I cast a few spells. That and layering spell effects over each other--even though drow have magic resistance, probability meant that when they had to roll to resist five separate spells every single round, eventually they were going to fail a few times. Also I got lucky and no one cast symbol of death or summoned a death knight, both of which proved huge problems in other attempts.

The next post might be a bit shorter since it just covers the escape from the Underdark, but that's fine. I'm more than halfway done with the game at this point!

Next: Part XXVIII: Escape from Ust Natha.
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