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27 September 2016 @ 08:12 pm
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XXVIII: Escape from Ust Natha  
I go to the Temple of Lolth, where Matron Ardulace is ecstatic that I managed to find the proper blood and that everything will be ready:
Matron Ardulace: "Ahhh...the Spider Queen smiles upon us. Our gamble does not go unwasted, daughter. Your champion has brought us the blood that we need!!"
Phaere: "Praise Lolth! The ritual may finally be begun! Despana will rule Ust Natha without question as the pre-eminent House!"
Matron Ardulace: "Indeed. But we must be cautious, daughter, ever cautious. The ritual may be disturbed before it is completed. The silver one may get desperate."
Phaere: "You are going to seal the city, matron?"
Matron Ardulace: "Yes. We cannot be disturbed from the outside. I shall go, now, and begin the proper preparations. This shall be a glorious day, indeed! Veldrin. You have done House Despana the greatest of services. You will be a female without equal...riches and slaves shall be yours. I shall see to it as soon as the ritual has been completed. Now is the time for you to rest, strong one...there is nothing more for you to prove to me."
Phaere: "Well, I am not done with her just yet. Veldrin...come to my personal apartments. I expect you to meet me there within the hour...this is not a request."
Well, that doesn't leave me with much of a choice, then.

In the Female Fighter's Society, Phaere gets straight to the point:

The Triple Cross

Phaere: "My plan includes you, Veldrin...without your timely arrival here none of this would have been possible. Do as I say and your rewards will be unimaginable. Refuse and...well, why would you refuse? You have everything to gain, Veldrin. Everything. In order for this plan to be successful, however, you must betray the Matron Mother. Are you willing to do this? Think carefully on your answer."
Chiyo: "I would prefer to know, first, exactly what I'll be doing."
Phaere: "No. There are too many things that cannot be said without your agreement, first. I will hear it from your lips, Veldrin."
Chiyo: "Very well. I will betray the Matron Mother, as you ask."
Phaere: "Good. Then you may aid me in my plan and be rewarded accordingly once I am the new Matron Mother. You heard matron speak of the ritual? Matron will summon a demon of terrible power, Veldrin...one to aid the drow in our attack upon the surface elves."
Xan: "No...by all that is holy, no! If we do not stop it, my people are doomed! Why, why would the madman want to unleash such horror?"
Jaheira: "So...a war? Open war between the drow and the surface has not occurred in...eons. With a greater demon to back them...I truly wonder why Irenicus would do this?"
Phaere: "The blood is a component in this ritual, used to draw the demon's attention and bring him before us. But, most gloriously, House Despana has acquired the eggs of a silver dragon. The one guarding the route to the surface that we drow descended from so long ago. Holding these eggs hostage keeps the silver dragon from interfering. Even better, Matron plans to use them as an offering to the demon to enlist its aid. Indeed, what demon could refuse? House Despana will have opened the way for the war and summoned its most powerful warrior. We shall become pre-eminent. But there is no rule that states Ardulace must still be Matron Mother of such a powerful House. Go to the treasury, Veldrin...steal the dragon's eggs and replace them with the convincing fakes that I have had made. You will then bring the real eggs to me. Matron will offer the fake eggs to the demon and be killed. Then I shall offer him the real eggs. The ritual will be completed and I shall be Matron Mother. Here... here is the key to the treasury room and the fake eggs. Take them. Return with the real eggs before the ritual is ready to begin. I give you one warning...the guards will try and stop you in the treasury, if they see you. Kill them only if you must. Use stealth, Veldrin...now go."
And I do. But as I am about to enter the Temple of Lolth, Solaufein teleports in with his own suggestion:
Solaufein: "Surfacer! I have found you! I have been hiding in the shadows of the city for some time, now, and I believe I may be able to repay you for your mercy. You mentioned your mission to me... and I believe I may be able to help you. I recently followed Phaere as she went to have copies of the dragon's eggs made. I have surmised her plan...and, no doubt, it involves using you as well. I believe I have a way that you can fool her, if that is what you wish. I had an additional copy of the eggs made. Phaere marked hers so she could recognize them...these are not. She will be fooled, if you give them to her."
Xan: "What for? To betray us, just as you turned your back on the woman who was tortured because of you?"
Solaufein: "Phaere caused more pain than you know. Do not speak of what you do not understand. I care nothing for the drow war on the surface elves, and I spit on Phaere and her House. I can give this extra copy of the eggs to you to foil her plans."
Chiyo: "Yes, give them to me. This should work perfectly."
Solaufein: "Excellent. I wish I could be there to see the look on her face...and tell her that it was I who fooled her. But it is well enough that I am not. Fare you well, surfacer. I shall praise your name when I hear of Despana's wretched fall."
And then he vanishes.

I enter the Temple of Lolth and try to perform the task by stealth, but it doesn't work very well. Xan under improved invisibility can open the door, get in, and swap the eggs, but then the multitude of clay golems inside see him somehow and then it's all over. This happens multiple times with no obvious reason, so I change tactics, cast improved invisibility on Chiyo, and have her murder the guards. She gets about halfway through one before they shout and alert everyone else. New plan.  photo emot-nyoron.gif

This time, I send over Minsc, Jaheira, and Chiyo and have them all just surprise attack the guards, which kills them off before they can yell. Then I open the door and fight the golems, replace the eggs, and walk out past the uncaring guards stationed further down the hallway. Phaere accepts Solaufein's fake eggs with a cursory glance and then orders Veldrin to go to the ceremony immediately, after which she teleports out, and someone else teleports in.

Imp: "Watching you, I have been. Most interesting a time, watching you. Tricky, tricky, tricky! Deceit upon deceit, the silver one's eggs safe from immediate harm, they be. But get them out of the city you must! Closed magically, sealed, the city is. Dead, the Matron Mother Ardulace first must be, if leave you wish to. Once dead the Matron Mother be, fleeing with the eggs you should. Much anger from priestesses will come...minutes you have, maybe, before revealed your disguise is. Quickly leaving you must be. Failing the silver one if you do...coming to you, she will. Liking that, you will not. Saving eggs you must."
Xan: "Caught between an angry Silver and an all-powerful Matron Mother. Chiyo, how is it that we always end up in a hopeless situation?"
Imp: "To the Matron Mother's daughter, go you must...waiting in the temple for you she is. Of the essence, time is very! Wishing you luck am I, manling."
Then it vanishes after imparting valuable information. I have a plan to escape the city when the ritual is over. Hopefully it works.

When I enter the Temple of Lolth, Phaere quickly escorts the party into the ritual chamber, and after a speech from Matron Ardulace where she snarls at those present not to interrupt the ritual under penalty of eternal torment, she begins the casting:
Matron Ardulace: "Very well. All preparations have been made...it is time for the ritual to begin. In moments the drow will stand supreme with House Despana first among them. Ensure nothing disturbs my casting. When the demon appears, do not interfere. Mistakes from any of you will earn you a quick death and eternal torment. Now... I shall begin."
When the demon appears, Matron Ardulace asks it for help in the assault against the surface world, and when it demands payment she offers the eggs:
Matron Ardulace: "I have good reason, lord of the nether pits! I beseech you to aid the drow cause in the war against our hated surface cousins, to carve their pale flesh!"
Matron Ardulace: "I offer you these, lord of fiends...eggs of a silver dragon, a self-righteous creature of light. Yours to do with as you please, in return for your aid."
Matron Ardulace: "Wh-what do you mean, o dark lord? These...these are --"
Matron Ardulace: "NO! NO!! LOLTH PROTECT YOUR FAITHF --"
And before she has time to utter a prayer to Lolth, it incinerates her.  photo onfire.gif

Phaere steps forward in triumph with her offering, and the demon laughs at her:
Phaere: "Hold, demon! I am the daughter of the one who has summoned you...and I have the eggs that you seek. I offer them to you as the tithe!"
Phaere: "What?! No, it's... Veldrin? VELDRIN?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!!"
Imoen: "Hah! You'll do nothing but die...and hopefully you'll know that it was Chiyo that beat you, too."
Xan: "Such bloodlust, Imoen. You are truly a Child of Bhaal."
Imoen: "What do you want me to do? Cry? She nearly killed us!
Xan: "Not to be so happy about it? Ah, but it is hopeless."
Imoen: "Glad you think so. Sheesh. Some people..."
As Phaere screams curses and Imoen laughs at her, the demon incinerates her too.

The demon muses that there are no actual eggs to be had an it will return to its home, and when Chiyo remains silent, it mutters that mortals are fools and departs. I loot the Gorgon Plate the Matron Mother was wearing, Xan casts hastes on the whole party, and I run. I manage to escape the city just as all the drow realize what's going on and turn hostile, and run out the gates, into the Underdark, and into Adalon's lair. Adalon is overjoyed to see her eggs:
Adalon: "You return! You have returned victorious! I sense my beautiful eggs on your person. I shall take them and give you the reward I promised. May it serve you well in the time ahead. Ahh, but I also promised a safe escape, did I not? One that will lead you nearer Bodhi and Irenicus? I shall transport us there, and see you safely away. Truth be known you might have gone there yourself, but it would have been all the bloodier."
Chiyo: "I am simply glad the ordeal is over and now I can return to the surface."
Adalon: "I am relieved that this is over as well, though I will not be returning to my previous duties. I have seen too much of this evil to continue guarding a peace that does not exist. My last act here will be a few selective deaths perhaps, a lesson for those responsible for my strife at least. They will know not to cross my path again. But that is for later. I will help you as I promised and then see to my own concerns. Before I take you to the way to the surface, I must transform myself into a more suitable form."
And by "more suitable," she apparently means "elf babe in a bikini."

After transforming, she teleports herself and the party away.

Flight from the Underdark
We appear near a gate guarded by a bunch of drow, some demons, and a pair of stone golems. Adalon casts imprisonment on the demons, kills half the drow with magic, and then teleports out, saying that she's confident the party can handle the rest of the drow. When I kill them, I notice that Xan, Chiyo, and Aerie have gained levels and are high enough for high-level abilities. I get Xan Summon Planetar and Aerie Implosion, get Chiyo Power Attack and Critical Strike, loot the bodies, and then don't go through the door out. I might as well explore the caves first, since the drow don't know where I am and I know the way out.

First, Chiyo talks to Xan:
Chiyo: "Xan, may I talk to you?"
Xan: "But of course. What is it?"
Chiyo: "Back in Baldur's Gate I had a dream of your death. In a crypt, surrounded by vampires."
Xan: "I think you told me about this before. Was that the only time you had the nightmare?"
Chiyo: "I think so. It was more like a vision, really. The crypt, vampires, your body lying there..."
Xan: "Strange. I had a gift for visions in my early youth, but it vanished within years - or months, rather. But this is something else: you are the child of a god, after all. And I was indeed sent here to investigate vampires... I do not have consoling words for you, Chiyo. I don't even have them for myself, truth be told. If that old dream of yours is true, I am doomed. More than that...oh, Corellon... If my fate is indeed to be doomed with the undead, it may mean more than death. It may mean undeath, becoming the same as them - and I would rather my moonblade killed me. It is...a horrible prospect. Both of these choices are. But between being trapped in my blade and becoming a hated, dead thing, I choose the former without hesitation."
Chiyo: "You do? What about me? We are bonded, Xan, remember?"
Xan: "I am not giving up, melamin. I will fight to my last breath, and we Defenders of Elvendom are not as easily beaten, strange as it sounds to my own ears. But should the inevitable--or so it seems--occur, I will be ready. And I want you to be ready too."
Chiyo: "Do not do this, Xan. Please."
Xan: "I will not take the final step, until I must. This much I can promise you. And perhaps...perhaps the worst will pass us by. Who knows?" Xan kisses Chiyo. "I plan to remain alive. For the next sixty seconds. Then another. Then, perhaps--if I am lucky--another. If these seconds stretch into eternity with you, I won't complain. But I'll be happy with the next few hundreds of years."
That dream sounds vaguely familiar, but my game of Baldur's Gate was four years ago at this point so I don't remember the specifics. I know it relates to Bodhi and what happens when you go to fight her, but we'll get to that. There's a way out of even this fate.  photo emot-kamina.gif

I head east and then north and find out who inhabits this section of caves--kuo-toa:

I know how to deal with this, other than a reload because of potion of invisibility-chugging kuo-toa assassins. Or at least I think I do until a kuo-toa prince shows up, and that requires buffing. I buff up, cast stoneskin on my casters, blur on Chiyo, and cast web, ice storm, and sphere of chaos into the room where the kuo-toa are waiting. That wipes out everyone except the prince, and alone he's easy to kill. I loot the vast number of gems on his body and the bracers of the blinding strike he was wearing and move into the room. To the left is an altar to the Sea Mother and to the right are spawning pools, but there's no treasure in either and I can't smash the altar or do anything to the spawn, so I leave and head south. This forces a reload because it triggers a bunch of kuo-toa to spawn and they appear right on top of Xan and murder him before I realize what's happening, so I send the casters south so they're behind the warriors and that works just fine.

To the west is a smaller chamber with a few kuo-toa and a chamber to the north with tainted tadpoles, which Chiyo runs back up to the healthy pool to weaken the kuo-toa's future strength. Hey, it says Neutral Evil on their character sheet, so my actions are justified. To the northwest is a chamber containing beholders, including an elder orb which is too big to fit through the tunnel to its room, so Xan summons a planetar and I send it to deal with them. It slaughters them and then proceeds to more than earn its keep, casting healing spells on injured party members, taking the flamestrike that hits it when I cross the bridge to the east, and going off ahead into the room behind the door that I open. That room is empty, but contains a giant statue of Demogorgon and a note to place an animal sacrifice in front of the statue and awaken his "children."

So Xan summons a hobgoblin, I run it onto the altar, and five demon knights appear.

Most of them hidden by the fog of war because I'm not an idiot.

The first few attempts go very poorly because the demon knights can teleport around, cast fireball, and their attacks drain levels, so I jump on one and murder him quickly but then get overwhelmed. After retooling my spells and sleeping, I try a few more times before I finally hit on a winning solution.

I send the planetar, protected by a blade barrier, north to distract the two demon knights that spawn up there. The casters stand outside the room's door, with Xan using project image to remain safe and still be able to help. Two Mordenkainen's Swords distract the demon knight to the south and a fire elemental distracts the one to the east, and then I summon them. Minsc dies after the second demon knight is down and Jaheira loses several levels to level drain, but otherwise I win without much trouble. The planetar doesn't even die, and by the time Chiyo and Xan are able to deal with the demon knights on the northern part of the room, one is as Injured and the other is at Badly Injured. I check the loot--a few -two-handed swords +1, the Armor of the Hart which I put on Jaheira; a girdle of frost giant strength, which I put on Chiyo, and the Soul Reaver, which no one in the party can use--and then exit the kuo-toa's caverns through the exit that Adalon teleported me next to.

I really should just get used to party members dying and raise them from the dead instead of reloading. This is high-level D&D. These things happen.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Past the door are more drow and spiders in a makeshift camp, and other than Chiyo getting confused and the rest of the party hiding inside a tent from her until it wears off, this passes without incident and I continue onward through the caves. Through the door at the far end are...elves from the surface?

Then the elves attack the drow, and so do I. There are more in the next room, despite the drow putting almost everyone to sleep somehow--I don't know what spell they're casting that bypasses the elven immunity to sleep spells, but I'm getting pretty annoyed with it--and in the room after that. All the elves tell Chiyo to get out of a combat zone and go speak to Elhan, and after a few more rooms, I find a door that leads out. Chiyo smiles at Xan, and though he attempts to keep his face a serious mask, he eventually falls before her cheerfulness and breaks out into a crooked grin. And then, the party goes through the door and steps out onto the surface.

Game time elapsed: 105 days, 21 hours

A shorter post this time. I just wanted to finish up the game through the end of the Underdark section. The next part will be Chapter Six out of seven and almost all the sidequests are on the surface are done. I'm on the home stretch!

I had completely forgotten that dream with Xan until the game brought it up. It relates to something that happens later with Bodhi when you go to fight her that I know but I'm not going to spoil yet, or at least, not more than the dream already spoils it. I'll just say that earlier editions of the Xan mod always had a tragic ending to the romance, but there's a way to happiness if I can find it.

A lot of games spend a bunch of time completely clearing out Ust Natha for the experience and loot, but that wasn't really an option for me. One of the parts of Sword Coast Stratagems I installed spawns more and more drow the longer you stay in Ust Natha, until it's spawning multiple 20th level priests and wizards, their warrior entourages, and their bound demon servants, all the service of destroying the invaders. I mean, I would be trying to take on an entire city by myself, so that's why I installed that to prevent the temptation. I'll just have to come back later and do it when I'm higher level. Maybe when more of the party has high-level abilities, I can do it.

Speaking of which, that planetar is amazing. It doesn't go away when I rest, and in fact it gets its full compliment of spells back, which include multiple castings of heal and raise dead. And it could take on two demon knights at once and didn't die before I get to it. It seems overpowered, and in a sense it is because HLAs were part of Throne of Bhaal and were never really meant to be used in Shadows of Amn, but since I've spent the whole game with enemy wizards summoning dark planetars and dropping dragon's breath spells or comets on me, I don't care. I'm going to have angels following me around and it's going to be amazing.

Next: Part XXIX: Dungeons & Dialogue.
Current Mood: determined
Current Music: SuperSquare - No Sense Running (Lost City)