Part 33: Those that suck blood as well as those that just suck.
Chapter 23 - Those that suck blood as well as those that just suck.
Lacking much else to do, and not wanting to go talk to the paladins yet, I headed on back to Xzar to see what the hell it was he wanted.
I'm willing to do the job... what was it again that you wanted me to do?
My friend Montaron has been taken captive by those irksome Harpers. I would have you enter their building and find Monty for me.
Alright, I'll see what I can do
Excellent. Go to their building and return once you have found him. Short... halfling... thief... even one of your intellectual capacity can't miss him.
Fine, fine. Asshole.
What do you do on the Feast of Tyr?
Firstly thou dost say, May the Blind God keep thee.
Aye, just so. I do wish that we could properly keep the Feast, but there is no way.
What else do you do on the Feast of Tyr?
There is a celebration at the temple, with much singing and feasting, and it ends with the quenching of the lights. [Saerileth's eyes are distant, her voice low.] I can yet see it as it was on Mount Celestia. Each follower of Tyr holds a single candle. We wait until there comes the voice of the holy father, saying, "The God of Justice is blind, that justice may be blind." Then we do extinguish our tapers, and we kneel to pray. We remain in our orisons until the dawn cometh. I do hope to share it with thee.
I need to take a look inside, if I could.
You need to take a look inside? And exactly what would you be looking for?
A friend of mine is supposed to be inside. I want to see if he's still there.
A friend? What kind of friend?
He's a Harper... this is the Harper's headquarters, isn't it?
Eh? Harpers? What are you talking about?
I'm saying that this is the Harper's headquarters here in the city. That is what it is, isn't it?
Keep your voice down! That's supposed to be a secret! Where did you hear this? Who told you?
Is it supposed to be a secret? I wasn't aware of that. I suppose I'll just be on my way, then, and try to avoid telling everyone I know about this place...
Enough! Revealing our existence here could endanger us more than you know! Do you want to have the blood of the valiant on your hands?
Well, then letting me inside to take a quick look around shouldn't be much of a problem, should it?
Alright! You returned Renfeld to us, but I can't let you inside based on that. Listen... if you do a small task for us, I'll let you take a look around. Deal?
What sort of 'small task' are you talking about?
You look like the fighting sort... there is a house just north of here, near the center of the district. The owner of the house, a mage named Prebek, performs vile experiments... creating beasts which threaten the city. Destroy them, and we'll allow your wish.
Very well. I will do as you ask.
Very well. Go to the house and kill the creatures there. We will watch you and know when you have completed the task. Return here once you are done.
No, Sanasha! Remember what happened the last time? Our master is testing us!
Testing us? Again?
Yes! You know that his cruelty knows no bounds! Why, just the other day he pulled three of my toenails for miscasting a cantrip!
Yes, I remember. Well, you may be right... perhaps we should ask them?
No! The master would skin us and do his strange little dance on our hides if we fail his test! Come on, let us attack!
Errr... alright. Foul intruders! We shall stop you for our master!
Yes! We shall stop you!
Abi-dalzam's Horrid Wilting!
Augh! My face! MY BEAUTIFUL FACE!
Actually, Haer'Dalis... I have a question. All your plays... they seem to end in tragedy or destruction. They are all so... so dark. Have you no happy plays?
Ah, my sweet Aerie. I write my plays as befits the creed of the Doomguard. All things end in destruction and tragedy... to think otherwise would be foolish.
Foolish? You... you can't honestly think that. Is there no room for hope in your world?
Even hope is eroded, my dove. All things break down over time... all things come to an end. 'Tis the natural order of the multiverse. Who am I to question this?
But... but you can't embrace destruction... you have to fight against it, don't you?
On the contrary, one must assist the multiverse in attaining its goal. One day, all things will cease to exist... this is the way it shall be. The Doomguard stands to assist this goal.
But why would you... why would you even build a home or... or fall in love... if you thought that way? If all things decay, why start anything?
[sigh] Often the act of creation is one of entropy, itself. The earth is mined and chipped away for the metals that men use to create, is it not? And love is but a brief and pleasant flutter.
A brief and...? No... no! Love should be enduring! It embodies hope and strength... are you saying that you expect it to end?
Of course I do. Ah, but I see I have upset you, my dove. Let me reassure you that the multiverse shall not end in my lifetime... at least I do not expect it to. And while I know that our love must end, I do not expect it to do so soon. The Fates will decide, and until then I shall love you truly and with all the heart I can muster. I know my Doomguard thinking may be strange to you, sweet Aerie, but it need not intrude on your happiness. If it pleases you, I'll not mention it again.
No... no, I... I just want to know that you'll love me... and that you'll be there for me... that is all.
But I do love you. And I am here for you. As for the future, I cannot say.
I... I guess that'll have to be enough. For now.
The second floor is far too dangerous... anyone but a Harper who goes there will be killed, and we couldn't help you. At any rate... go on in, if you wish.
And so, we headed on in. Inside...
And who is Dynaheir?
She was my witch! You are not a witch, but you are kind like her.
She *was* thy witch? She is no longer?
[Minsc's face falls.] Dynaheir is dead because I failed to protect her. She was my witch, I her protector!
I am sorry for thee. Such shame must be difficult for one of thine honor to bear.
Yes, but Boo comforts me and tells me that I must go on and kick the butt of evil for Dynaheir's sake.
He well instructs thee.
That. That did not just happen.
Prowling around, Jan was able to loot a Helmet of Charm Protection and a Harper Amulet. After having some conversations of no consequence, we headed upstairs to the forbidden (ooooooooooo) second level.
The ghosts didn't attack us, probably because of the amulet, but we attacked them! Stupid goddamn annoying Harpers what with their meddling and such.
You are from Rashemen? I had-Ihad thought such a land was the stuff of fable.
No, it is as real as Minsc, though even larger! It lies far beyond the direction of the sun at morning.
Why would you ever travel so far from home? I-I was torn from mine and had no choice.
I was on my dajemma, a journey to prove my manhood! Oh, we were a pair, me and my witch! I was to watch over Dynaheir and bring her home in... in safety. Oh Boo, I can never return to Rashemen! I am proven unworthy! I am no man and you are no hamster... we are lost! Oh the sorrow!!!
Oh, don't cry. You and Boo have fought bravely! Who could count the foes you've vanquished! Dynaheir would be proud of you...
You have been good friends, you and Asim... Minsc would ask something! Will you be my witch, Aerie? Boo and I are nothing without a witch...
If you will be my guardian, Minsc, I shall be your witch. Your dajemma has not been for nothing and Dynaheir's death shall not go unavenged.
My sword, my soul, my hamster... all of these I pledge to... to Aerie, my witch... HEAR THAT, EVIL?! MINSC HAS A NEW WITCH!! WOE IS YOU!!
God I love Minsc.
As we explored, we found a note that gave an idea of where to find Montaron.
With the bird in hand, we returned to Xzar.
I have found out what happened to him, yes. He was turned into a bird... which I have with me, here.
Finally, Montaron will be returned to my side! This is excellent news... especially since some fools broke into my laboratory and slaughtered all my creations! They killed both of my apprentices, too, it seems. Bah! It will put my work behind interminably! How excruciatingly annoying! Before I reward you, I'll polymorph Monty back into his proper form... just to make sure you're not lying. Monty must have something interesting to say.
And the death will come on wings of song,
A song of long and winding guile,
And in the end your end I wend,
And in the end, a harp will smile!
I knew it! The whole thing was a setup!
And you were the pawn herein! You delivered the conjured poison to his very heart; that it was on my blade is but a point of semantics. I have no quarrel with you. We made the path difficult, but not unkowable, and in the end this fool did perish, as well he should.
What was his crime? What is the reasoning for this murder?
Did you not think him strange? He was spying on the Harpers, an act that should make you question his alliances. You may not have known what he was, but we did. A necromancer in service of the Zhentarim, creating abominations for sale to the highest bidder. Far from their normal range, but not an unexpected enemy. He could not lay low with such a flamboyant manner, and we knew of him quickly. You merely helped in the inevitable, and so you are free. You served well, if unknowingly, and your agreement to help him is forgotten. The amulet is worthless... the blessed bear only Harper pins. Begone, and hopefully your next dealings with the Harpers will be more pleasant.
Oh, it's the old the-bird-is-really-the-assassin trick, is it? I should have seen that one coming. Cousin Belar once pulled that on my great Uncle Tookar, although to be fair he didn't actually mean to kill anyone. He turned from a hummingbird to his original form just as a practical joke on my uncle's birthday... and startled the old gnome so much he went and had a heart attack on the spot. The elders were so upset they turned Belar into a hummingbird for good. He liked it, though, and flew off (that branch of the family was always a bit odd in the head, if you catch my meaning)... only to get eaten by a griffon a week later, I hear. Now, that's justice if ever there was, I suppose.
Xzar had on his body some bracers that weren't very useful and a staff-spear that was a wee bit more handy.
With little else to do, we returned to the paladins to tell them of our victory over the dragon Khalabaxin.
Yes, Sir Clarenshide, we have. Khalabaxin is no more.
You have shown great valor in the face of a powerful evil. Would you be interested in working for the Order on another task?
Well, I would like to help you, but I need to find my way to Spellhold. My friend is being held captive there.
Spellhold? Perhaps the Order can find a way to get you there. We will look further into securing a ship. In the meantime, will you aid us once again?
Yes, what is it you need?
We have discovered that there is a nest of vampires dwelling here in Athkatla. They live in the crypts beneath the city. The Order requests your aid in destroying these loathsome monsters.
Of course! Such evil cannot continue to exist! ...Or something to that effect, anyway...
Excellent. I am pleased that you have agreed. Very well. Make your way to the graveyard and venture into the crypts below. I will call upon our hireling wizard to meet you there. He has the means to open the door that leads into the monsters' lair.
Video - Irenicus breaks free! That can't be good.
He gave us some stakes to use on the vampires, if needed. We then went to the tombs.
Fleshy! Go forth and open the doors! Now, you stupid creature! Now! Asim, I trust you're prepared.
This naturally did not go over so well.
Minsc... Kind of charged in and started hacking vampires to pieces. Apparently he encountered a pool full of blood, or something.
We then left to accomplish something very, very important. (And then promptly fell to talking. As happens way too damn often.)
Yes, I've thought that this road is in very bad repair.
Thy light heart doth ever give me joy, my Asim. Yet not so do I see the road. I see it stretch forth until the end of the world. Behind us, too, it doth pass into the mists of the past, still echoing with the footsteps of those who have trodden it before us.
So our road is not our own, but only the continuation of what has gone before us?
True, the Road doth belong to no man, yet our story is our own. It seemeth to me that we do carry on the deeds of those that have gone before. For good or ill, we are not isolated. Our lives are a part of the tale of the Road. It hath been here ere we were, and after our lives have ended, still the Road will go on.
So our path is predetermined, then?
Nay, beloved. The Road doth branch as oft as the Planes. There is ever a choice of how to walk the way we have been given. *Our* Road is what choose to make it; *the* Road canst be seen only by the gods. But come, the Road doth beckon us on.
Indeed. What the hell are you, the goddamn Kwisatz Haderach now? Wait, I seriously hope not, considering one of the requirements for that.
We went to Cromwell, who took the Mace of Disruption that Minsc took from the pool of blood, mixed it with some illithium we had, and made it way, waaaaaay better. And so, we returned to the vampire lair, and Minsc charged in and hacked stuff to pieces. Again. Except better this time! There was a very ominous room, with lots of spikes and another blood pool.
Down in the next level, there was even more in the way of blood pools. It smelled really bad.
Also, a taunting vampire.
Back in the room with all the spikes...
You are on the defensive and yet you taunt! Such gall!
The gall is yours to think I am on the defensive when I have led you as a mantis does her prey! You will fall here, and you death shall be... delicious! For mistress Bodhi I will eviscerate you! She shall have tapestries of your sinew and bone! Come! Come to your end!
That didn't work out very well, though. Mace of Disruption and all that. We found a room with three sarcophagi and staked the vampires within.
But first, my preparations! Note how I have 6 castings of Mordenkainen's Sword active here. A wild surge rolled for Area Effect, and somehow I ended up with 6 of the swords when the game engine should have locked them at 5, stopping any others from spawing. Not that I'm complaining...
As we staked the last vampire...
You are a pawn, a stooge for a group of meddling, self-righteous idiots. Did they deign to inform you that they were sending you to your death?
If I am a pawn, then the pawn can take the queen. Look now upon the instrument of your destruction! Well, actually, the 6 Hasted flying swords that are all around you are the instruments, not me, but that's just a point of semantics since I summoned them. Anyhow, continue with the villainous speech-making and I shall continue throwing in suitably heroic objections as needed until we fight.
Oh, I was quite sure this would end in violence. You are too volatile for my purposes. I merely wondered if you knew the extent to which you were being used.
No one uses me! I work for the Order willingly!
Indeed? Are you certain? What if their interest is more than they have stated? What if they know full well who you are... and what you are? You look surprised. I know what you are, Child of Bhaal. Irenicus told me. He might have learned more, awakened your power, but the Thieves interrupted him.
What do you know of my capture!
I know more than your brain could hold in a lifetime. There is so much beneath your nose, so much you do not see. Why, even Imoen escaped your notice.
Imoen was taken from me! I will find her! And I will find this Irenicus!
You may have done both were circumstances different, but now I am afraid there is only one possible end to this discussion. I grow tired of this conversatio- HEY! Stop reading that book, damn it! I'm talking!
What? I made it pretty clear I was bored a while ago. [Puts the book away.] Alright, listening now. [Yawns widely.]
[AHEM.] I grow tired of this conversation. You have asked your questions and made your threats and I have indulged them both. Now this will end.
Good! I am so sick of wordy opponents! ...Or something, hell, I don't care.
There will come a time when you understand the value of words. Of course battle can teach as well. Come then, let us each learn a thing or two.
Mere moments later, following much whirling slashing of flying blades...
What manner of creature are you? Is this all a game to you?
Perhaps, but games can be deadly serious, especially when I keep the rules to myself. Fight on, and seek your lost Imoen; I have seen what I came to see.
And she fled, and we returned to the paladins.
Yes, we destroyed the vampires, except for their leader, Bodhi. She eluded me.
That is success indeed, and you have the thanks of the Order. And in gratitude we would offer you something of value. You seek one captured by the Cowled Wizards-no, we have not spied upon you. Your deeds are too conspicuous to remain unknown. We have, with difficulty, determined the location of those captured: a mage prison called Spellhold. We have chartered a ship for you, should you desire to go to Spellhold.
Yes, I am ready. Let's go!
Then let us go at once.
He is, in my opinion, a man of questionable character at best, but he is all there is.
Never a fear nor worry should cross your thoughts this eve, m'Lord. I have travelled this sea a good many times, and I forsee no troubles.
That is not the kind of trouble to which I was referring.
Nevertheless, they're in good hands.
And what is your ship called?
Ahh, the name changes as do the winds, mainly as I never seem to affix the plate with the proper resin. She is the Galante for now, until whim takes me elsewhere. As for the voyage, heed my words, Asim, as there are dangers to the sea you may not be aware of.
I am all ears, Captain. Yours is the voice of experience and I will listen.
Yes, do listen well.
A sudden squall or hidden reef could prove deadly to the unwary, though we are more likely to encounter pirates of ill repute.
That's why I will be going with them, as a representative of the Order.
I was not aware of any such plans. The Captain should be consulted on all such matters.
Consider yourself informed.
Then we are fully staffed and ready to sail. Best that we get underway as soon as possible. Embark, and we shall away. Hold fast, the journey begins!
Sorry about me taking so damn long, I've had finals (and still do, actually, but I have a break for a few days and the only hard final was yesterday, so I went ahead and did this little update.)