Part 73: Act Three Chapter Nine - Satan's Dark Delight
When I said that we were "finished" with the Keep minigame, I was sort of lying.
Okay, so it doesn't fully end until it reaches 100% or the end of the game, whichever comes first. But there's one last little sidequest we have to do.
This has been sitting in our basement like a canker ever since we first got Crossroad Keep. It's Garius' magic circle and it's completely useless - that is, until you get Ammon Jerro in your party.
And you can use it to summon demons, if you like.
: Few in Faerûn know more of planar binding than I... nor more of its dangers. It is not something to enter into lightly.
: You spent time in my Haven. You would not want to see what could happen if any of the creatures you met there gained free rein within this keep.
: Can we use this circle to summon something?
: With the right tools, with the right focus, yes, you could summon a baatezu or tanar'ri. Provided you know the fiend's true name.
: I know Zaxis' True Name.
Ammon's the character who tells you how to summon demons, but it's good to have Neeshka and Sand along as well.
: No good can come from bringing him here.
: I agree with Ammon Jerro. He's smart about these things... well, except about the tattoo aesthetic.
: I will not help you bring that monster within this Keep... should he come here, it will only be to destroy this place, or our alliances.
: I have the True Name of Mephasm.
: I don't know - Mephasm just seems... well, too nice. Like he knows that you're going to walk into those clawed hands of his if he waits long enough.
: If you wish to summon him, I will instruct you how to do so... but I will not summon him myself.
: Tell me how to summon Mephasm.
Mephasm seems like a nice guy. He's helped us out twice before - why not a third time?
This is what you need Sand for.
NWN2 has a fully realised crafting system that unfortunately changes completely from one expansion pack to another. The general mechanics are the same throughout (and I'll go into greater detail next update): each item has ingredients which must be placed on a workbench and 'used' in some manner, which then creates the item. Item creation requires either skill points like Craft Weapon or spellcasting and specialist feats like Create Wondrous Item.
So in this case we get a Faint Power Essence, a Glowing Fire Essence, a Star Sapphire gemstone and a gold necklace and put them on a Wizard's workbench, then have Sand cast Darkness on the bench.
Be prepared to hear this a lot this update.
: I'm certain. I want to summon Mephasm.
: So be it. Call out his True Name, then cast the focus into the circle hard enough to shatter it... he shall be here quickly enough.
Oh, fantastic. We just summoned Mephasm.
* * *
This is a weird little sidequest.
It's certainly different. There's no bloodshed or violence, just good old-fashioned talking (and a little crafting). Also I don't remember having many opportunities to summon demons in RPGs, despite it being a fairly significant part of the fantasy mythos.
But it's hidden away down in the bottom of your keep, with no hints that it exists or that it can do anything except glow ominously. The only way to get Ammon's demon-summoning conversation to trigger is to walk over a relatively small part of the summoning circle - but you never have any reason to ever do that.
I'd like to say that this quest'll bump up our Lawful Evil quotient considerably, except that it won't. Even though demon-summoning is one of the most stereotypically evil things you can do, you won't see any significant alignment change for talking to Mephasm. To be honest there's probably more Chaotic points than there are Evil points, which is just nuts.
It doesn't matter anyway. The only reason we're summoning Mephasm is because we can.
* * *
: Somehow I doubt that.
: Despite what you may believe, Ammon, there are things even hidden from the Lower Planes.
: Now he's definitely lying, trust me.
: Neeshka, I assure you, what I speak is the truth.
: Oh... well, all right. But... but that just seems like a lie, you know? You sure seems to know a lot about things. Actually more than a lot.
: You are so well-hidden, not just from the eyes of those on this plane, but from those on other planes as well. That is skill and talent and a power no one can take from you.
: So Neeshka, when I tell you that there are things hidden from the Lower Planes, I speak truly. And I would ask that you recognize the value in such things... and the value of when we cross paths.
: Yeah... all right.
As you may have guessed, Mephasm is sort-of Neeshka's grandfather. In a way.
The official word is that Mephasm was 'involved' in Neeshka's creation, whatever that means. Devils are always scheming away with some crazy plot that takes ten thousand years to complete, so having a few kids explicitly so they can rope them into a plot a few generations down the line is nothing special.
This subplot doesn't actually go anywhere. Demons and devilblood will come up again before the end, but it won't be involving Mephasm in any way.
: We are not here to discuss the past.
: It is not my intention to go against the wishes of either of you - but she has summoned me, Ammon, and I must answer.
: [Influence: Failure] The past should lie where it is. We have problems enough now that merit our attention.
: I will respect your history and the past - let them remain secrets.
: Thank you.
: Secrets do not make one stronger, Ammon. A burden is lighter if it is shared.
We could have forced it out of Mephasm (though Ammon will actually let Mephasm talk if you have enough Influence), except that he wouldn't tell us all that much anyway. It's better to let it be and avoid the Influence hit, then get Ammon to tell you himself later on.
* * *
So I'll briefly interrupt here to look at some of Ammon's dialogue.
The interesting ones are locked off until you gain the necessary Influence, which we won't be getting for some time. Not to worry, there's still some to see.
: The Jerro family was once part of the highest nobility of Neverwinter. When growing up, I displayed a certain... aptitude for magic, especially the magic tied to the Lower Planes.
: With little training, I was able to do spells well beyond my years... and well beyond any training I received in the Academies and elsewhere.
: Yes, you will find that where magic is concerned, one school of thought rarely knows the full range of the art.
: One should never limit themselves to one teacher lest they cripple their studies before they are begun.
Hrm. And yet Ammon is so incredibly possessive of us with regard to Zhjaeve (just as she is).
: In my case, it did not take long to master that power - the greater discipline came in using it sparingly so that few could see.
: Why did you do that?
: When one displays such power, it does not grant you freedom, it becomes a cage, and makes you a target.
: You will be constantly beset by the problems of others, who will see your power as an excuse to compensate for the lack of theirs.
I think Chris Avellone has some unresolved issues vis a viz morality, RPG fetch-quests and traditional concepts of heroism.
: Nevertheless, I displayed enough talent to be accepted by the Neverwinter Court, to be the jester mage.
: That seems a step down from your aspirations... and talent level.
: To make my intentions plain, it was a position of convenience and opportunity, one of many.
: The position allowed me to obtain access to many of the secrets of Neverwinter, as well as free access to the Academy libraries, their vaults, as well as the court records.
: Also, I thought that perhaps my position might give me a greater voice when attempting to convince others of threats that beset us, but that proved to be an ill-founded conclusion.
: Before you said you received training outside the Academies of Neverwinter.
: Oh, yes. I had several teachers. Many are dead now through unfortunate circumstances, but not by my hand, I assure you.
: Demons don't seem like a good source of instruction.
: If one keeps the proper perspective and never shows weakness... well, suffice to say there is much that can be learned. It is only when one solely listens to the Lower Planes does it cause blindness of purpose.
: Oddly enough, it was by walking these "dark" paths that I saw the greater threats we faced.
Strange. Ammon likes to present himself as a "I did what had to be done" kinda guy, but this sounds like he was looking for power, then justifying it afterwards with a grand threat to the Realms.
: Shadows were growing stronger around the Mere of Dead Men - this was due to the growing power of the King of Shadows.
: What did you do?
: I attempted to warn the court of Neverwinter of this, but they were too busy vying for power and holding blades to each other's throats for them to listen.
: So I sought allies... elsewhere. Amongst demons, and devils, and even the githyanki.
He makes it sound like the githyanki are the worst of the lot (I don't disagree).
: I even gained the name of my enemy - as you proved when you first encountered me in my haven. To think you believed me to be our mutual enemy... the irony runs deep, indeed.
The million-dollar question, I think.
: Perhaps if you had sought another means to make your intentions known, we could have coordinated our efforts and none of this need ever have happened.
: For a recluse who keeps his history quiet and shields himself with demons, that's the worst excuse I've ever heard.
: Is it? Perhaps some perspective will enlighten you.
At this point I have flashbacks to the Khelgar sidequest - fruitlessly trying to educate Khelgar and losing Influence for it. What's that, challenging companions' beliefs and making them think about their opinions? What a cockish thing to do!
But Ammon's quite good in this regard (and this makes him better than all the other companions on this fact alone).
: We would have crossed paths eventually - you needed the shards.
: Indeed. And for the sake of amusement, perhaps you can tell me what you would have done.
: [Diplomacy] If you hadn't shut yourself off from the people you were trying to protect, we wouldn't have had the troubles we had.
Well, it didn't pan out. 25 Diplomacy is a lot of skill ranks. It's a shame, because persuading Ammon that he wasn't very approachable is worth 3 Influence.
Don't worry, we don't need that Influence anyway. I have a plan.
* * *
Back to our official update subject matter.
Info-shminfo, I want infinite cosmic power!
: The insights I share with you can be given freely. The laws that bind me require bargaining for anything else.
: When you seal a bargain with the Lower Planes, such a bargain will always work to their benefit, in time.
: Jerro speaks wisdom, gained firsthand. I would heed it.
: I will maintain my connection to this place so that you may call upon me again, should you choose.
And Mephasm vanishes. Bah.
Fortunately we don't need to craft another summoning charm to bring him back.
All right, we'll try this again.
: Are you so eager to risk your soul? I would give it serious thought before you ask me again.
And he vanishes again. Bastard.
He's got a point, obviously. Our immortal soul is our most precious commodity. As a Lawful Evil tyrant-queen who murders anyone who stands in her way, we should give this due consideration.
: Very well, I will tell you more. Perhaps you will reconsider when you learn of the prices.
: Wh-? I can go to the Hells? Actually, I've gotten that offer before, many times.
: If you are so willing to sacrifice your companions, then they plainly hold no great value to you.
Well, he has a point. Time for Plan B.
: Couldn't I just sell you my soul?
: Certainly many of my kin would leap at the opportunity to claim your soul, and in what remains of your brief life, you would receive much power.
: I will take no part in such a bargain. You would do best not to ask me again.
Mephasm's not much of a salesperson. He's not really selling me on this whole 'bargaining with demons' thing.
Well, it's a free market. I'll just take my purchasing power elsewhere.
: Fine, perhaps I will take my bargain to another fiend. Maybe Zaxis.
: You have to be joking.
: You know not what you say. But fortunately, you lack the lore to summon one such as Zaxis, unless someone carelessly shares those secrets with you.
: Without that, you would have to wait for Zaxis to come here of his own volition, and I think Zaxis is not clever enough for that.
Oops. Uh, Plan C?
: Coin is not the currency by which my kind trade. Metals of your plane are of value, but only when crafted into objects of focus, such as the one you used to summon me.
: What kind of objects of focus do you want?
: Specifically, there are three that I believe are within your power to produce. I will provide you with the details of their fabrication.
There are three infernal foci to create. Each is good for one boon from Mephasm.
These work in the same way as the crafting for the summoning charm: place items on a bench, have Sand (or a Wizard PC) cast Darkness, collect focus.
And there, a focus to trade with Mephasm. They're completely useless otherwise.
Mmm, money is always good. I'll take riches!
oh fuck off
5000gp, are you kidding me? I'm a high-level adventurer, I shit diamonds every day, and you're giving me 5000gp? We get more from the Keep each turn in income tax!
What utter bullshit.
Anyway, we make another focus.
The lesson to learn is that money isn't everything.
Artifacts of power, on the other hand...
...are equally as crap. The helmet's all right (Mask of Death) but the weapon is a mace (which nobody in our party uses) and the miscellaneous item is a pair of Boots of the Shifting Sands, which lets us cast Earthquake but has penalties to agility - so that's no good.
This last boon had better be good.
I know that 'three wishes' stories are always supposed to end in disaster as a stern moralising tale about the errors of greed, servitude and laziness, but usually it's through some mind-bending twist or terrible price. Like, the demon consumes your soul, or the genie 'misinterprets' your wishes and gets you killed.
But I've never seen one in which we're punished via pure mediocrity.
This is actually separate from the infernal foci business. The foci are good only for the artifacts and gold - this is a different bargain.
: Simply put, I can give you strength, character or wit - in an aspect of your choosing.
: What is the price?
: The price is a blind sacrifice. You must give up something very important to you without knowing beforehand what it is.
: I don't care about the price. I want to be more powerful.
: It would be Neverwinter hypocrisy for me to challenge such a reason... I even respect it. But trust me, it will give only a temporary gain in the end.
We can choose to increase any of our six main statistics. I chose Constitution because I couldn't think of what to pick (and we won't be using it anyway).
: The price is paid, and the power you seek is yours.
Dealing with Mephasm has its benefits, aside from the crummy rewards. There are a good few opportunities to increase (or decrease) Influence with Ammon.
: Better than most, perhaps. But the end is always the same.
: I think you underestimate this one, Ammon. Perhaps someday you will see fit to share your lore of planar binding.
For making three successful bargains with Mephasm, we gain the Infernal Bargaining epithet. Sweet.
Our final bargain also got us a stat-boosting Token. It's a simple inventory item that sits in your backpack and gives a +3 bonus to whatever stat you chose.
I won't be using it because it gives us a funny red glow (see above) and also because the silver shards already give me a boost to Constitution and the two don't stack. Luckily I can hand it over to Ammon or one of the other companions without any drawbacks.
And in return all we had to do was... what? Make some kind of blind sacrifice? Pssh.
I can't even tell what the difference is.
Hey, where'd our weapons go?