Part 15: Last Man Standing
Act Two Chapter Seven - Epileptic Trees
In a rare act of grace, Sheva Whitefeather has lent us a Wychlaran sailboat. We're taking it up the river to see the Wood Man.
The password for the boat is "wendersnaven," oddly enough.
* * *
Three hours later we arrive at the Lake of Tears border garrison, just in time to repel an attack of Blighted Treants and Shambling Mounds. How convenient.
Well, maybe not convenient for the berserker guards.
: Dalenka said they wouldn't think to attack from this side. Where is she?
: What happened here?
: Forgive my rudeness. I have been greatly troubled lately.
: How could you be having problems out here in the middle of nowhere?
: That's a strange thing to say.
: These attacks are only part of the problem.
: A few days ago, after the first attacks, we sent berserkers into the forest with offerings to appease the spirits. When they did not return, we sent more.
: We were stretched thin before that. Now we are making our last stand.
: If you grant me access to the Ashenwood and tell me where to find the Wood Man, I will help you to find your soldiers.
A fair deal, no?
: ...claimed by the forest, just as this garrison is soon to be. And yet...
: If you are here to contact the Wood Man, perhaps we are not at cross-purposes.
: Perhaps not. What would you have me do?
In broad terms a hathran is basically a Witch - at least, that's how I use it. But strictly speaking hathrans are just one rank in the hierarchy. The eldest Witches are othlor, and command all others in the order. The younger Witches are ethrans and get bossed around a lot. We've met one ethran already - Katya in Mulsantir - and we'll be meeting a pair of othlor soon.
Nadaj is an ethran... something which she is particularly bitter about.
: The Witches' pecking order is based on age rather than talent.
: In time I will be equal to the other hathrans. For now I must be patient.
Nadaj doesn't like her boss Dalenka, either. For good reason too.
: I know why you have come, stranger, and the answer is no. I will not abet this fool's errand of yours.
: I will not be the one who allowed you to complete the destruction your kind has wrought here.
: My kind?
: I do not have the manpower to keep you out of the forest, but you shall receive no guidance.
: May you meet your fate in the forest as swiftly as my berserkers met theirs. Good day.
Everything Dalenka just told us is completely wrong.
Apart from not having enough soldiers, that bit's true.
Nadaj practically jumps at the chance to undermine Dalenka's authority by offering us advice. Not very Lawful, but I suppose we can always shop her in to Dalenka afterwards.
: I myself went into the forest to speak with him only a few days ago. He was not there. No telthor has seen him lately, it seems.
: The telthors spoke of problems deep in the wood. New problems that threaten its survival.
: The Wood Man's strength is not what it once was, and if the forest is weakened, so, too, is he.
: What must I do to reverse this?
There are three
The second is putting out a raging forest fire.
The third is clearing a telthor sanctuary of invading monsters.
But before we go exploring:
: She is... cold, you might say, with travelers from foreign lands. It is the Rashemi way.
: But you're not.
: I think the sentiment increases with age, and Dalenka is older than most.
not gay not gay
: I had hoped that by granting passage to one of the Red Wizards - the very group this garrison was built to keep out - we might found our relationship in trust.
: Please... let us not slip on blood spilt before either of us was alive to witness it.
What I find interesting is that the Ashenwood is up in the northwestern corner of Rashemen, bordering with Thesk and not Thay. Now, Thesk isn't perfect but it's sunshine and happiness compared to the Red Wizards, so why is there a border garrison here? I mean, yeah, the Tuigan horde came marching through several years ago, but that was then and this is now. Why is it still here?
Unless it has little to do with Rashemen and more to do with the Ashenwood itself...
We rest up and ready ourselves. Ashenwood's a long module.
* * *
It's also a big area, perhaps the biggest in the game.
It's full of Treants, Shambling Mounds, and Fell Trolls. Two of them are immune to Sneak Attacks, while the third requires fire or acid to kill, and all of them have hundreds of hit points.
We're not going to have time to solve any quests today but we can get the lay of the land. In the centre is this massive great glowing tree, shrouded in perpetual summer. This is where the Wood Man normally resides.
To the north is the spirit sanctuary: an island retreat. And- oh dear, look, some careless module designer has dropped frost giants all over it! Littering makes me so mad.
The displaced telthors are sitting warily on this side of the moat.
This spot, by the way, is totally gangbusters for Suppressive playthroughs. The Suppress power grants more energy when cast around spirits, up to a maximum of five - so the four telthors (and Okku) grant +10 Spirit Energy in addition to the base +5, making this the best spot in the game to Suppress. All your spirit-eating worries go away in a spot like this.
It's not necessary in this playthrough, since my Craving is so low I can recoup all my Energy losses with Okku and two summoned elementals, but if you accidentally get your Craving up too high and need to Suppress it back down, or you're just simply new to the game, this is the place to go.
Huh? Oh yes, the giants.
Killing the giants should be easy enough, but there's a complication:
: I couldn't say for sure, because it was before my time, but it is said that hundreds of years ago, an... unnatural creature came to these woods to feed.
: It came here not for flesh and blood but for the existence of the spirits that dwelt here. It was eventually repelled, but not before it tore the dryad spirit from our sanctuary.
We'll have to replace the guardian spirit somehow, after we've dealt with the giants.
East is the blighted section of the forest. Those trees look bad.
: My eyes are failing me, young sapling. I can make out no features, distinguish no faces. I see only that you are small.
: How did you get this blight?
: Get it? In the first place, you mean? Oh, it has been hundreds of years since I first felt its grip.
The premise of Planescape: Torment was that you were an amnesiac immortal who had had many personalities (or "incarnations") over the years. Every so often you'd meet someone who had met you before - and since a lot of your previous incarnations were insane, evil, or insane and evil, they generally weren't positive encounters.
This spirit-eating thing is starting to rub the same way.
: Well, when it came time for him to consume me, I turned out to be a bit more than he could absorb all at once. Left him vulnerable.
: What happened then?
: I was lining him up to crush him under my roots, but he'd left me weak, as though the sap had been let out of me. Dizzy as I was, I couldn't see much of anything, much less crush it.
: But I did manage to fall on him and break his spine. Don't remember what happened after that, but I think the Wood Man had things sorted out by the time I awoke.
: It was! For months, I lay on the forest floor, much as you see me now. But after that accursed creature left this place, the forest began to rejuvenate, as it always has.
: And with that, the withering in my limbs reversed its course, and my bark formed anew. It has been healthy for centuries.
Aha. This is the work of a god. Talona, goddess of poisons and diseases, is taking advantage of the Wood Man's absence to sow a little misery.
As the old saying goes, it takes a god to catch a god. Gnarlthorn recommends we appeal to Chauntea to cure the forest. We can make a special mixture out of two tainted items and some sacred forest water, then take it to a place special to Chauntea and ask for her intervention.
What a wholly unnecessary waste of time.
Luckily Gnarlthorn gives us one item for free. Bonus!
The south path is empty, save for bloody giant Fell Trolls.
It ends in this narrow trail, leading deeper into the forest.
Nadaj mentioned a forest fire or something like that...