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23 November 2016 @ 11:16 am
Dorchadas Plays Baldur's Gate II, Part XXXIV: Paradise Regained  
This is it. The final battle and the end of the game. After more than a year of playing--my first post shows that I started this back in June of last year--I finally finished one of the greatest WRPGs ever created.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. This isn't my final thoughts, this is the story of how I stabbed Irenicus and everyone working for him right in the face. So let's get to that. Meanwhile, in hell...

The door just behind Chiyo is locked and guarded by five unsleeping eyes, and there are five other exits to go through. I start with the door in the upper-left, but have only take a few steps before Xan speaks.

Chiyo: "Our day, you mean."
Xan: "I'm not sure what I mean anymore, these days. Some times my mouth just opens, and..." He sighs. "Unfortunately, my dizziness passes, but our surroundings do not change. Not a dream, then. We are doomed."
Chiyo: "We are getting out of here. Just keep an eye out for the big bad."
Xan: "Much as I appreciate your good humor...wait, actually, I do appreciate it. How strange. This place suddenly becomes a little less dismal. We should repeat it sometime. Since we are in the Abyss, does that mean you are evil, I wonder? That we all are? No, it makes no sense. We are here because of Irenicus, of course. But evil is in the air. You'll be tempted, most likely."
Chiyo: "Why do you think that?"
Xan: "As a mage, sometimes I watched demon summoning ceremonies in Evereska. It was tightly controlled, of course, and happened only because of the highest need, though my heart still thought them unnecessary. Some demons were talkative. They offered power, insight, invulnerability to weapons...I could become a High Mage simply by turning my back on all that was good and right, it seemed." There is a long silence. "One even offered to free me from my moonblade."
Chiyo: "But you obviously did not take the deal."
Xan: "I almost said 'no,' then I strongly felt like saying 'yes.' Then...well, while I hesitated, the demon disappeared. Fortunately, without harming anyone. I cannot say I never regretted it. Do what you will, my love. I will not think of you less. Just...be alive. I need you. We all do, in this dreary place."
And to think, they were just talking about being dead.

The Trials
I walk down the stairs, into the room and past the eyes at the corners, and come face to face with:

Sarevok, the chief opponent in Baldur's Gate I. Sarevok, the fellow Child of Bhaal. Sarevok, who I distracted with summons and shot full of arrows while his pathfinding failed. No wonder he's angry.
Chiyo: "Sarevok?!"
Sarevok: "It is I. Or an echo, perhaps. My essence joined that of our dead father after you murdered me, after all... but in the end, all the Children of Bhaal end up here. You have finally joined us, to claim your heritage as I had attempted. A pity that you arrived in pieces, weak and pathetic. My death was far more final than yours."
Chiyo: "I am not dead! Irenicus is dead and somehow I have followed him here!"
Sarevok: "And therefore your essense has not joined with our dead father, fool. You are still partly alive...and as this is Bhaal's realm, your blood holds sway here."
Chiyo: "Holds sway? What are you speaking of?"
Sarevok: "Your soul is tainted by the touch of our father, fool, and it is that part which rules over this realm. But you share your soul with another, don't you? The mage, he stole most of your soul, but not all. You are tethered like a helpless calf, dragged into hell after him. Neither of you is truly alive, or truly dead."
Chiyo: "Irenicus? Do you know where he is?"
Sarevok: "Bah! Have you heard nothing? You have power here. Already you search, and already the mage obstructs you. The Tears of Bhaal are your only choice."
Chiyo: "Tears of Bhaal?"
Sarevok: "A tear fell from every murdered soul, every torment paid by our father, and he kept each one. They can show you the path to the wizard...if you can gather them all, that is. I have one of the Tears of Bhaal you will need. I will not hand it over to you, however. You do not deserve it."
Chiyo: "You are in no position to place judgement on me, Sarevok."
Sarevok: " But I am. I am in an excellent position. Rule of this realm was rightfully mine, and had I spitted you on my blade as easily as that pathetic wizard Gorion, our positions would be reversed now!"
Chiyo: "But they aren't, are they? I killed you then and I can do so now!"
Sarevok: "Ahhhh, yes. Stoke that infernal wrath of yours. I can feel the anger within you, boiling like a pit of sulphur in the crevices of your heart. You feel it, do you not? The taint that surrounds your soul like a serpent, squeezing it, spreading its venom. That taint, that wrath, exists in all the Children of Bhaal... but few know how to use it. You have become the Slayer, have you not? The avatar of our dead father. The blackest expression of murder... I see it behind your eyes. Summon your wrath for me... if you can."
Chiyo: "No! I will not give in to the taint!"
Sarevok: "You are the one who brought me here. Your power over this place has summoned forth my essence once again. And why do you think you have done that? I can teach you how to use your wrath. You can control the taint, direct it, summon it at will! You can become the Slayer at will and become the weapon of murder that you were meant to be! So think of me! Think of how I destroyed your precious Gorion! How I plundered the lives of your Candlekeep! Summon your rage, stir the depths of your black heart! Summon wrath! Summon wrath and become it! Because if you cannot, then you are not worth your destiny! It should have been I! It should have been I! ATTACK ME, WORM, IF YOU DARE!!"
Chiyo: "I don't feel the wrath you claim, Sarevok. I pity you and what you have become, but that is all."
Sarevok attacks, but while he does a lot of damage and is immune to some of my attacks, with Chiyo, Minsc, and Jaheira all hitting him, he was never in any danger of winning. When he dies, I pick up the Tear of Bhaal, return to the main room, and place it in the door. Chiyo feels more fortified against the temptations of hell, and I continue on to the next trial.

Mechanically, it gives +1 to Wisdom and Charisma, two stats that are useless for Chiyo. Oh well.

After resting in hell...  photo emot-gonk.gif ...I continue on to the next set of stairs and go down.

Greed: "But all thingss, even the most powerful, can be overcome, yess? You have defeated many whossse claims of power were ssso hollow. You tore them down from their thronesss..."
Chiyo: "What does that have to do with the Tear?"
Greed: "Ahhh, alwaysss you have used the right toolsss to defeat your foesss, yesss? And I am giving you, now, the right tool to defeat thisss one. Here it iss... gaze upon the sssword that iss named 'Blackrazor'. Mosst powerful, it iss. And it iss the tool you need to defeat the one who holdss the Tear. It isss for you to decide, Child of Bhaal, how to usssse the tool you have. I leave you to your choice, then, young Lady of thisss place...
Blackrazor was originally on Greyhawk in White Plume Mountain and is an obvious reference to Stormbringer.

I walk forward over the lava--obviously convection doesn't exist in hell--and find an imprisoned djinn holding the Tear, who cannot say exactly how Chiyo can get it, only offering a riddle:
"Ye who hold the razor's blade
Forged of darkest iron
Quenched by blood and fear,
Know that ye hold the key
To the one who guards
Bhaal's sacred murdered tear."
Key can mean many things, and when Chiyo asks if giving up the sword would count as the key, the djinn says that it would. So Chiyo hands over the sword, takes the tear, and places it in the door, gaining +2 to her saving throws.

Down the stairs is another demon:
Selfishness: "Know you, Child, that there is a Tear of Bhaal in this place before us...yet there are two paths that lead to it. Two doors, two paths, yet both lead to your goal, yes? You have made many choices on the journey that was your life. Many paths have you taken, and always they have had an effect on those around you... even when that was not your intention. Such is the fate of those born with Destiny...the consequences of the actions they take ripple about them throughout all that is reality. Perhaps the fate of others concerns you little. Perhaps it consumes your soul. That, too, is a choice...an action taken...a ripple set into the pond of reality."
Chiyo: "What does all this have to do with the Tear, then?"
Selfishness: "The path that you take to the Tear will affect another this day. Another who is innocent of the action you take, and yet affected by it just the same. One of those who travels with you, who orbits your destiny and yet is innocent of your taint...will do nicely. Remember, Child of Bhaal...a choice must be made, and you must live with the consequences of that choice. Go to my left and sacrifice for the innocent. Go to my right and save yourself."
Chiyo: "No! I won't sacrifice anything, but neither will I allow you to bring harm to anyone else! Prepare to die, fiend!!"
Selfishness: "Don't be foolish, child. You cannot hope to prevail against me. You cannot destroy me, a creation of your own conscience. I exist for as long as you do. To fight me is to fight in vain, and you would perish along with everyone you seek to protect."
Chiyo: "If I created you, then I can destroy you. Talk all you wish. You cannot escape this fight."
Selfishness: "Very well. If that is your wish, I will not object. You are the master here, Child of Bhaal. Without your co-operation, I cannot force you to make a true sacrifice. Both you and the other will suffer!"
The battle seems hopeless. I can get the demon down to Nearly Dead, but no further, and he keeps paralyzing my party. Right as I ask Xan to summon a planetar to hold it at bay while I heal, the demon admits defeat:

Selfishness: "Enough. You have proven your willingness to face even the most hopeless fight in order to preserve the destiny of others. The innocent shall be returned to you. The Tear of Bhaal is yours, child."
It vanishes an the paralyzation on Minsc, that even freedom wouldn't lift, is gone. I take the Tear and put it in the gate and gain +30% resistance to slashing weapons. This isn't in the base game--it's a mod that adds a neutral path to each of the hell tests--but it's definitely something Chiyo would have done. There's always a better way, and really, how is meekly submitting to what a demon claims the rules of the game are a "good" act?

Another stair, another tempting demon:

Fear: "You have encountered many times in your existence where you have been forced to swallow your fear, no? You have fought off terror that would overwhelm a lesser being and shown courage, instead. Pass through either of these rooms and your vaunted courage shall be challenged, Child of Bhaal. I have something I will offer, however, which will make it so much easier for you, Child. You know, like so many with power, that items of magic can do much that the ordinary man cannot...such as this cloak, for instance. Stitched together from the flayed skins of lovely nymphs. Wear it and be soothed by its powerful magic...panic will never overcome you again. With this cloak you could easily gather the Tear of Bhaal and worry not of your courage. I bow to the power of your divine soul, Child, and offer this cloak up to you... if you wish it."
Chiyo: "Tell me, demon. Are the nymphs of whose skin the cloak is made dead already? Or would they be killed only when I agree to take it?"
Fear: "Why do you ask such a strange question? It matters not. You will be free, Child of Bhaal. Free from fear."
Chiyo: "If the nymphs are to be killed because of me, I would not want the cloak. But if they are dead already, I might as well just take it. It would not change anything."
Fear: "An unusual view. Yes, they were slain long ago, by the wrath of your father, no less. The cloak is yours, and nothing is changed. Then your courage shall stem from the power of the magic you wear. It shall be as you say, Child of Bhaal. Here it be...the tear lies beyond."
The demon hands over the cloak of bravery and vanishes, and I have Aerie cast resist fear on the party because there's an easy solution to this problem. It turns out that the problem is beholders, so the solution becomes summoned elementals and a room filled with shards of ice and roaring flames. When the beholders are dead, I grab the tear and loot all the potions in the chest nearby, take it back to the door, and gain +2 Dexterity.

The next test is the test of pride:

Chiyo: "I suppose you're going to tell me that Irenicus has been waiting behind that strange door this entire time?"
Pride: "Of course not. He moves fast, yet you close on him quickly. The tests you make are clever, oh young Lady of Murder. Your power here is strong?"
Chiyo: "What do you mean?"
Pride: "How do you find your soul, Child of Bhaal? Do you find it on a stroll? No, you must know yourself, the depths of your passion and the heights of your depravity. You must come to know yourself, what you are capable of, and that shall open the way to your soul. It is yourself, your essence, that you seek...whether you know it or not. And because this is what you seek, your power fights against the mage and brings you closer to your goal. Soon you shall open the eyes with the Tears of Bhaal."
Chiyo: "And what then? The door will be open and Irenicus will be there?"
Pride: "The way to your soul will be revealed, but you only perceive it as a door. A pity that mortal minds can encompass more power than their faculties can comprehend. I hope you have been careful, Child of Bhaal. The Nine Hells are a place of retribution. The Tears can sting as easily as they sooth."
Chiyo: "Why are you speaking so cryptically? What does it mean?"
Pride: "I obscure the truth because it is my nature to do so, oh Lady of Murder. But I bow to your mastery, here, and answer your questions nevertheless. It is a good thing you have come to me, Child of Bhaal. Only you hold the power to vanquish the terrible creature that holds one of your dead father's Tears here. I have heard of your prowess, Child...most impressive, for a mortal life. Creatures of great power thrown aside as if they were nothing! Beings any other mortal would quake before you have fought against valiantly! You are a wonder of destruction, Child of Bhaal! Go, then, and defeat the creature that lies in the cavern! Crush it beneath your heel and claim another victory!"
Chiyo: "What manner of creature do you speak of?"
Pride: "It is a powerful creature, Child of Bhaal. One that only you can destroy! I am confident in your ability to deal death to such a creature as this and take the Tear that is yours!"
Chiyo: "It's powerful... but what manner of creature is it?"
Pride: "It is a creature that deserves death, Child of Bhaal. You are such a wondrous fighter, I simply thought that you could defeat it where others failed."
Chiyo: "Why does it deserve death?"
Pride: "Because...because it exists. It stands in your way."
Chiyo: "Are you saying that it will not give me the Tear?"
Pride: "Well... no. It might give it to you if you ask it nicely enough, I suppose. I see that despite your great deeds you have no pride in you, Child of Bhaal. So be it. Humility serves well those who wield it well."
The demon vanishes, allowing passage beyond, which reveals...a gold dragon, who grants Chiyo the Tear of Bhaal and then vanishes in a burst of flame.

Pro tip to any demons out there--leave out any mention that you're a being of pure lies if you're trying to tempt someone.

The last tear in hand, I go back to the main door, rest, and slot it in, gaining +20% resistance to fire, cold, and electricity.

Fire roars, light flashes, a powerful force blows the party away from the door as it opens...and Irenicus appears.

The Exile's Fall

Irenicus: "So, we are to battle one last time. No more hiding for either of us. I will enjoy destroying you, Chiyo. To die in this place is to cease to exist!"
Chiyo: "I am ready to face you. I have seen the depths of my soul and I am not afraid."
Irenicus: "Yes, perhaps you are focused within yourself, despite the loss of your soul. But I know as much of myself as well, and I, too, have no fear! As horrific as this place is, it merely mirrors the soul we now share. Shrink from it if you will, but I have grown to appreciate what it can offer! Now defend yourself! One of us is not truly dead, and may be restored if the other is left here to rot! I will be free with what I have taken!"
Chiyo: "There is only one possible end. You will fall here, Irenicus. That, I promise."
Irenicus: "We shall see, Chiyo. We shall see!"
Xan: "For the third and final time: you will return what you have stolen! Death would be a mercy to one such as you!"
Aerie: "I came to Hell to help my friend! Who helps you, Irenicus? Demons? You are going to die alone in Hell and you know it!"
Jaheira: "No more platitudes, Irenicus! You have taken much from all of us! Now you die your final death!"
Minsc: "I grow tired of shouting battle cries when fighting this mage. Boo will finish his eyeballs once and for all, so he does not rise again! Evil, meet my sword! SWORD, MEET EVIL!!"
Imoen: "This is the last stand, here in hell. We fall or we win."
Irenicus casts a spell, and forms appear:

Irenicus: "Witness the true breadth of my power, Chiyo. Did you think I sat alone behind these doors, unmoving and unthinking while you struggled through your pathetic self-created tests for the Tears of Bhaal? Don't be naive. While you were jumping through those little hoops in your mind, I was using your soul...soon to be my soul...to find some Tears of my own. It is time I lived up to my chosen name: The Shattered One. I have rent my own spirit asunder to take better advantage of the power in this place. This section of the Nine Hells is devoted to the Vices of Fear, Greed, Wrath, Pride and Selfishness. Rather than trying to incorporate them all (or their opposites) into one being, as you have done, I have split myself into fragments, each one the very essence of evil, the very essence of malice, the very essence of vice. Their forms should be familiar to you from the tests you just underwent. Their powers are the antitheses of the rewards you should have formed for yourself."

"The Orb of Fear, with it's fortitude-sapping gaze."

"The Dragon of Pride, with the power to sap your experience."

"The Wraith of Wrath, with its strength-draining blows..."

"The Sword of Greed, Blackrazor meets Mordenkainen."

Irenicus: "And, as you may have ascertained, I kept Selfishness for this form. It seemed only fitting. With bodies and minds better suited to this environment I am free from the petty limitations that bind you. I can channel magical energy with but a thought: no delays or limits. Wrath can only be bested by brawn, Greed can only be bested by brain. You get the idea...or perhaps you don't. Really, Chiyo, you disappoint me. You squandered your chance here in Hell. Stronger muscles? A slightly faster brain? Worthless in the end. I have seized the true power of the tests while you wasted your time on petty moralizing. And now it is time to die. Oh, don't be surprised if you find some of your equipment missing. While you were asleep I took the liberty of appropriating some of your choicer belongings. For some reason I was unable to kill you while you were unconscious...and believe me, I tried. You'll have to kill us if you want it back. Of course, you were going to try that anyway. But if this is the way it must be, then I am ready. Face me, Chiyo. Fight for your soul!
Oof, this fight.

First attempt, dragon breath kills Chiyo instantly despite all her resistances. Then I have to sit through the entire cutscene again before I can try a second time. Chiyo keeps getting instantly killed, which means I can't check the combat log to figure out what's killing her, until I check online and find out that the dragon's breath drains levels and slap a negative plane protection on her. Then I have trouble with Xan's project image clone running from dragonfear even though he has resist fear on because buffs don't transfer over until I put the cloak of bravery on him. That lets him get off a time stop.

And that's what it comes down to. Time stops. If the time stops go well for me, and I get the right spells off, I do well. If they don't, I don't. After probably two hours of attempts, I finally manage to kill all of Irenicus's shards, and then...

Wait, what?

Are you kidding me?  photo emot-doh.gif Can't save between phases, obviously.
Chiyo: "Just shut up and die already."
Irenicus: "As you can see, I shattered myself into a few more fragments than the five I told you about earlier. At any rate, it is time for me to put my last shard forward. No more tricks, Chiyo, this is truly my final incarnation in Hell. I lack even the power over your soul to keep your companions out of the fight. One way or another, this will be our last little chat. Goodbye, Chiyo."
Cue One-Winged Angel. Irenicus summons a bunch of demons, transforms into the Slayer, and attacks.

I admit--when I die here, I console-kill everyone in the first battle to get back to the second battle, which makes it easier than it otherwise would be. I'm not sorry, though. Irenicus summons everyone and spawns them right next to four demons, two of which explode when they die. Still, the demons make the fight hard. Fortunately, I can summon angels to help, and elementals, and shambling mounds, and invisible stalkers, and by throwing scores of summons at the demons and angels at Irenicus, casting time stop and stripping off his buffs, and blasting him at range. I finally--finally--wear him down. He frantically hurls spells at Chiyo, with no effect, and then dies:

Hell fades to black, and Chiyo and her companions awaken in Suldanessellar:

Ellesime: "We resurrected who we could, but it seemed nothing would draw your spirit back. We were about to give up when you began to stir this morning."
Chiyo: "H-how... how long was I...?"
Ellesime: "Dead? A couple of days, no more. However you managed to find your way back, it is good that you have done so. You have done a great service for Suldanessellar. You saved the Tree of Life and myself, ending Irenicus' threat. To lose you would have been tragic. I have planned a ceremony to reward you and to show our gratitude for your actions. You are a hero to the elves...perhaps even a legend in the making. But enough of that, for the moment. You will need to rest and regain your strength. I will send a priestess to awaken you when it is time."

Ellesime: "Those of you who have survived the return of the Exile to Suldanessellar know me, your Queen...but only some of you know the hero beside me who was most instrumental in saving our city and the Tree of Life. Such selfless acts almost resulted in the loss of your life, and perhaps much more than that. These deeds were not performed alone...Suldanessellar also extends its gratitude to those who have traveled with you and fought by your side to help save our city. There is no reward adequate enough for one who has done so much. Let us offer, then, the eternal thanks of our people...and an Amulet of the Seldarine to remind you forever that you are welcome here amongst us. As for the man whom we once knew as Joneleth, I can only say...that he died, long ago. He lives in my memory still. To the man he became...the Exile, Irenicus...he who performed atrocities on you, the Tree and his former people...to him I can only send my prayer that he finds the peace in death he never found in life. I feel I must...apologize...on his behalf. For what he put you and your friends through. For his madness, we stripped Joneleth of his elven immortality and exiled him...only to create Irenicus, instead. I cannot help but feel we are partly responsible. It is something I shall have to ponder on. As for you, I imagine you are eager to resume your travels once again. We wish you well...know we look forward to your return in the future, should you desire to."
Meanwhile, in hell, Irenicus awakens to an eternal unpleasantness, and some shadowy figures plot the future of the Child of Bhaal.

The ending movie.

And that is the end of of Baldur's Gate II, Shadows of Amn!

Game time elapsed: 140 days, 7 hours.

Wow. That final battle was...certainly something.

Either I was underleveled or I had trouble with strategy, because that first phase was nearly impossible. And coming right after a cutscene didn't help either. I admit, I got pretty angry near the end, and that's part of why I just used the console to skip it and get to the second phase once I had finished it once. The second phase was as in the original game, and it was hard, but possible.

Also, I have to mention something about D&D metaphysics. Everyone, even writers, always forgets that D&D doesn't have a single deity who dispenses punishments to the wicked and rewards to the just. Everyone gets rewards to the extent that they fulfill the tenets of their moral philosophy. Irenicus would be unlikely to be punished eternally like in the movie above; he'd probably be on the fast-track to becoming some kind of devil lord.

I'll have one more post with my final thoughts, and then an index of all the posts. For everyone who read this far, thank you for going on this journey with me!

Next: Part XXXV: Final Thoughts!
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable
Current Music: Baldur's Gate I - Hero of the Heartlands (Scott Buckley OC ReMix)