The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer

by Lt. Danger

Part 22: Hatavat Halom

Act Two Chapter Fourteen - By The Ruins Of Babylon

We sought an audience with the Slumbering Coven and were found wanting. For our sins, we were cast into the Pit of Gehenna.

Welcome to the Skein.

Some of our new neighbours have gathered together to give us a friendship hamper.

: Hey! Why do we have to attack everyone that blighted Mistress sends here?
: Yeah, we don't have many left since the last time Gulk'aush came to feed. We should be welcoming newcomers, not murdering them!
: [Diplomacy] Yes, a warm greeting would be much nicer than murder.

: I refuse to gang up on any more poor, defenseless souls.
: I'm with you. Let's go back to the Sleeper.

: Doesn't matter. More loot for us. Let's do the deed.

Naturally it goes poorly for them.

* * *

The Skein

This area is the largest, most traditional dungeon in the game. The Skein serves as the foundations for the Sunken City - and as a dumping ground for those the hags deem 'undesirable.' It's also widely despised as the most irritating area in the game, which just goes to show how well it was designed.

Check out the map:

Half the map is submerged under pools of water. This makes getting around very difficult. It forms a three-quarter circle - or more accurately a seven-eighths circle - so if we wanted to go to the rooms southeast of our starting position we'd have to go all the way around through the rest of the map.

The Skein is also chock-a-block with telthors, elementals, mad hags and other exiles. The presence of spirit-food is good but it's best to plough through the Skein as quickly as possible. Why?


: {insane rhyming, singing badly} When they come, kill each one. When they die, stack 'em high. When I'm through, eat them too.
: {Low, throaty chuckling} Heh heh heh heh heh...
: {mad cackling} No dreams, no nightmares! Ah ha ha ha ha!
: {insane, starts quiet, gets louder} Bite off the bone, suck the marrow! {louder} Bite off the bone, suck the marrow!
: {insane talk-singing, soft, sad lullaby} Where've you gone, my son, my son? Gone to rot in the sun, the sun? Please come back, my son, my son... {spiteful} Kill them all, one by one by one!
: {insane, starts quiet, gets louder} Sleep... Sleeeep.... {louder} Sleeeeeep! {shrieking} Sleeeeeeeep!
: {insane, sad, weeping} Oh my love, my love. Your flesh stuck in my teeth, my love! You were too salty, too salty, my love. When I belch... I still smell your sweet perfume. My love...
: {staccato, monotone} Eyes shut, eyes not, I'm not, awake, asleep, asleep, a dream, a dream, a dream...
: {laughing so uncontrollably she swallows her own tough and then coughs loudly} Ha! Ha Ha! Ha ha ha ha! Ha- {loud, choking cough}


The oldest prisoner in the Skein is Gulk'aush the hag - immensely powerful and mad as a hatter. 'Gul'kaush' is less a name, more of an epithet: according to Gann, in hag-speak it means "lawbreaker"... or "lover." But anyway, every few seconds you'll hear her insane ramblings echoing through the corridors of the Skein.

Every. Few. Seconds.

There's only so many barkstrings for her too so it becomes extremely repetitive very quickly. It's an atmospheric touch but perhaps one applied too liberally here.

Feel free to play I-Spy with her mutterings in the dialogue box in the lower left of the screen.

* * *

The Skein is dark in addition to being large, and with few distinguishing characteristics . It can get a little disorientating so I'll do my best to keep track of where we are. This camp of exiles, for instance, is a few chambers west of where we arrived.

: They attacked you? I don't believe-
: It's true. I was there, Geiard. That hagspawn went crazy. I told you he was cracking.
: Yeah, those brutes got what they deserved if you ask me.

Geiard is the spokesperson for this group, though not the leader. 'Riverdweller' is a callback to Uncus Riverdweller from NWN2, and if you look close enough you can see they use the same model. Geiard can tell us what we need to know about the Skein and Gulk'aush.

Don't mention that name to him, though - he believes uttering the name attracts her attention. Say it enough times and he'll even attack you.

: Hahna, would you mind reciting the Parable of the Squeaking Rat?
: Absolutely, Geiard! It teaches a most valuable lesson. One that those new to the Skein must take to heart if they are to survive long.
: The Sleeper said: "The mad woman catches and devours the rat who squeaks its name. So do the other rats learn not to squeak."
: Do you understand now? If you wish to survive here in the shadow of the mad woman, do not squeak - er, speak - its name!
: That sounds like nonsense.

Who is the Sleeper?

: When most are exiled here, they arrive terrified and untrusting. And without guidance, they turn crazy real fast.
: When the Sleeper arrived, she was still, vulnerable and peaceful. So we carried her here to protect here. And then she began speaking of profound things and guiding us.
: What does she speak of?
: She speaks of death and of life, of lessons learned and wisdom lost. She is cryptic and makes you search for the meaning in her words. But there is meaning - such meaning.
: I am ashamed to say that when I first heard the Sleeper, I thought she was babbling nonsense. But I learned.

Well, the Sleeper is the real leader of the exiles.

She's also in a coma, which says a lot about Geiard Riverdweller and his pals.

: I have felt this... presence before. Back in the half-drow's house in Mulsantir, where it felt as if dreams had touched this plane.
: I believe that that place was the home of this woman, Skyla Avolov - she radiates the same power.
: She doesn't seem all here.

: Her mind, her dreams are like a whirlpool. Without someone to brace me - or I bracing someone else - I would be lost.

Interesting. Gann served as a dream-guide in the Ashenwood and at the Wells of Lurue, but those dreams were our dreams - or rather, the dreams of dead spirit-eaters. This is different.

We'll come back to the Sleeper later.

* * *

This room is in the top left corner of the map. This must be left over from when this was an Imaskari city.

: The globe up top needs to be replenished if this device is to work again. I'd imagine fresh blood catalyzed by the essence of an air elemental would generate the magical resonance needed.
: We stepped over several fresh corpses on our way here. Perhaps they could supply the blood we need.
: The device appears to be missing its lever. We'll need that too.

Safiya explains what we need to do to get the machine up and running again. It's not explicitly stated what the machine does, but for your benefit I'll explain: it's a pump. Reactivating it should drain the pools of water, opening up hidden accessways and maybe even a way out of this hellhole.

We grab the empty globe from the machine.

In the same room is a handy demonstration corpse.

: The Imaskari globe is responding to the fresh blood in this corpse - you should harvest it. Don't worry, it's not as vile as it sounds - simply touch the globe to the corpse.
: [Bring the Imaskari globe close to the body.]


However, we still need to energise it.

There's a special air elemental that wanders around outside the pump room. Occasionally it spits out one-liners like the above - and when it's killed, it vanishes in a foom of light and respawns somewhere else in the complex. I know we want to trap the elemental and not kill it, but this is a necessary stage in the plan.

: I doubt that powder offends your nose as it does mine - but I would be wary of it.
: How strange. I have never seen an air elemental leave... eh, "guano" such as this.
: This powder is just the catalyst we need. Mix it in with the contents of the globe.

That earns another "yuck" from me.

* * *

Down in the bottom left corner now. This is halfway around the circle of the Skein.

Ah, and this is Fentomy's Primal Earth Elemental. The one he wants us to kill so he can enslave it.

Unfortunately killing it would be unwise and in fact short-circuits our pump-room strategy altogether. The Earth Elemental is literally a Load-Bearing Boss.

But we need a lever for the pump anyway so we take this one, since we won't be using it.

: Good work. I was about to fall into hibernation just watching you toy with that contraption.

I'm not sure whether Safiya gains Influence because we're puzzling stuff out or because we're following her orders. Either way, though, the pump quest really lets you rack up the Influence with Safiya.

Right, pump activated. Let's get out of here.

Ah, right. I forgot.

There are three pumps, and all must be activated.

Which means we must repeat the process twice more, and find the levers to activate them.

This is what irritates me most about the Skein: the backtracking. If you want to complete everything in the nicest possible way, getting all the loot and not killing any friendlies, then you'll have to go around the Skein at least four times. Four and a half if you want to revisit the Sleeper again. On a big map with circuitous pathways this gets very tiresome.

In fairness that's the point of the Skein. Obsidian is mixing fluff and gameplay: the Skein is the dumping ground for the Slumbering Coven's criminals and enemies, so of course it's going to be miserable. I'm very nearly completely serious about this, as well - we can take the methodology we used to examine Ashenwood and apply it to the Sunken City quite nicely. We 'died' when we went through the Shadow Portal on Lakeshore, guided by the psychopomp Fentomy; were judged by Mistress, representative of the Coven (the God-figure again); then thrown into Hell to suffer eternally.

And in some religions that'd be that. But there is a way to leave the Skein.

: You would understand if you heard the Sleeper speak of it.
: Hahna, would you mind reciting the Parable of the City of Fudge Mint for our newcomers?
: Certainly, Geiard, it is my favorite one!
: The Sleeper spoke: "Oh now exiles from life above, your fate awaits you in the City of Fudge Mint where you will be eating upon the Wall of the Fey Thiless."

I... was actually thinking of something else. But thanks for contributing, Geiard! And at least he's made the link more explicit.

What's different about the Skein (as opposed to Ashenwood) is the implication made by equating the foundations of the Sunken City to Hell. If the Skein (literally) supports the Slumbering Coven, what does that say about Hell and God?

Ahem. We should return to the matter at hand.

One of the pumps (at the very bottom of the map) has a lever in place already (thank Heaven for simple mercies) but the other is in the hands of a gnoll exile.

We don't want to upset the Sleeper yet so we propose a trade: his 'club' for a shiny duergar axe he saw in the hands of another exile.

The other exile camp is in the lower right corner of the Skein. They're all hostile so we don't feel bad about murdering them for an axe.

It's not even a magic axe. Why wouldn't he accept one of the +5 Thunder-Axes of Godslaying we have lying around in our inventory?

All right! The pools have drained away.

By the way, Obsidian managed to alter the water level in real time, without loading up another area or whatever. That's pretty neat.

Not as neat as this loot I mean wahey

Every bloated corpse in the drained waterways is like this.

One of the drained pools has stairs leading up to a section we couldn't access before. Is this the way out?

No such joy. Say hello to Lucifer.