The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer

by Lt. Danger

Part 28: Your Application For Tenure Has Been Denied

Act Two Chapter Twenty - "The Holy Spirit" Isn't A Part Of Any Kinship Terminology I Know

In a previous update, we spent almost the entire chapter talking to Gann. Not long after, we travelled to the Sunken City and reunited Gann with his long-lost mother.

In another update, we spoke with Safiya at length, and now we are about to embark on a journey to Thay to visit Safiya's mother's Academy.

Today we'll be speaking to Kaelyn the Dove.

We already kinda covered Kaelyn when we explored the Death God's Vault early in Act 2, but I think there's more yet to discuss.

In Gann's update, we looked at the nature of truth and falsehood. In Safiya's update, the matter at hand was faith and epistemology. We'll be taking a different tack for Kaelyn by looking at the theme of 'family' in Mask.

This is the Loyal Influence dialogue with Kaelyn. As Safiya boosts Intelligence and Gann Charisma, befriending Kaelyn nets us Wisdom. Lots and lots of Wisdom.

Kaelyn's dialogue is littered with Bluffs and Taunts. We'll be taking a few today but the main purpose of these checks won't be apparent until we recruit the fifth companion of the game.

: [Success] I am glad you accept without hesitation, it shows that there is trust between us.
: Only when I have traveled with one for some time may such a blessing be done - as you have supported me, allow me to support you with this gift.
: It is a protective ward that enables focus even when one is in tremendous pain, and allows one to resist wounds and ailments that assault the body so the mind can remain pure.

There are additional options for male characters:


: So to pass it on... do we kiss...? Or should I take off my clothes, and...?
: {Confused} I do not understand.
: {Slightly crisp, the player made a come-on to another party member} [Influence Loss: Safiya] Neither do I.
: {Responding to a sexual innuendo the player just made toward a female party member, and agreeing with it} [Influence Gain: Gann] I do. And if it's true, I'd like a blessing of the "menagerie" as well.
: {Still a little confused, but more naive than mean} No, it is not necessary for you to disrobe or place your lips against mine. {Beat, still imagining it, like it's a bizarre new thought} What an odd means of transference.

Very telling. She's almost like a child, isn't she? Remember the conversation she had with her grandfather? "What is there to be done?"

* * *

Talking to Okku is somewhat annoying. Either I get a zoomed-in close-up of his face, or this excellent shot of Calliope's feet.

: He was an old Rashemi man - I never thought of him as having a name, he was merely "spirit-eater" to me.
: All I remember of him was his plan - he was convinced he could end his curse... clearly, he was wrong.
: How did he become a spirit-eater?
: He slew a madman - the bearer of the curse before him. As a "reward" for his act of justice, the hunger passed to him.
: Why did you promise to help him?

: Though the spirit-eater wears a new face - your face - my oath endures.
: The old man knew that when his mortal body died, the hunger would pass to a new victim. He convinced me to take him into my barrow.

We've been there. We met the Old Man that Okku knew, the creator of the spirit-trap.

: I recall his muffled screams of anguish as the hunger consumed his mind... for a time, the spirit-eater remained in that trap... until you arrived...
: So the room where I awoke - that was where the old man died?
: Yes... where Safiya found you... that was the old man's grave.
: I was deep in slumber when you were placed in the trap... I do not know who placed you there, or how long you languished in solitude.

Yes, very true. And we do know who placed us there: Lienna and Nefris, acting on some nefarious plan.

Hey, look, I'm establishing facts here. Just pop a deerstalker on my head and call me Sherlock.

: When I brought the spirit-eater to my barrow... and turned the homeland of my ancestors into a prison... the corruption of the spirit-eater spread to my tribe.

Okay, it's been a while since we met Okku's clan, at the Wells of Lurue. They weren't best pleased with his decision.

: While I cannot help but agonize over my decision... you are right. I did what I had to do... there is no use in praising or condemning me.

I brought this up with Okku because it raises a classic dilemma: when you love two things, two people, but must sacrifice one to save the other. Who do you choose? How do you choose?

In Okku's case, he sacrificed his clan for the sake of Rashemen. You can argue that it was a waste, because we're the new spirit-eater... but if the curse had not been contained, Nefris may never have been able to find it and infect Calliope with it, and if her goal of eliminating the curse is true, then Okku's sacrifice was a necessary step on that path, even if he made it unwitting of its true significance.

There are other, similar cases throughout Mask. Gulk'aush was forced to choose between killing her lover and her son, as punishment for her crime. Lienna and Nefris sacrificed us to the spirit-eater curse, presumably as part of a plan to destroy it once and for all - though the true stakes haven't become completely clear yet.

In a house on the south side of Mulsantir, five vremyonni have betrayed their positions to a durthan for the promise of seeing their families again. Not all sacrifices are noble.

(Calliope persuades the vremyonni to stop spying and just hide out with their families for as long as possible before their recapture.)

And a few updates ago we chose to destroy the Slumbering Coven, ending their death-grip on the world of dreams and freeing Skyla Avolov from her endless nightmare - against her wishes. Not all sacrifices are welcome.

(We get a Periapt of Wisdom +8 though, so Skyla can be forgiven for being snippy.)

* * *

Back to Kaelyn.

: If the universe would not remove the Wall of the Faithless, then I would. I was not the first to feel this way.
: Have I told you of the First Crusade, the war of Akachi against the Wall of the Faithless?
: He was a faithful adherent of Myrkul - Lord of the Dead those many centuries ago, before the rise of Kelemvor.

I'm a little confused about the timeline in Mask. Here (and elsewhere) the game implies Akachi lived and died hundreds of years ago. But the Priest in the Furnace of the Death God's Vault was alive during Akachi's Crusade, and he died when Myrkul fell and Cyric ascended after the Time of Troubles, barely a generation ago.

: Yes, one of Myrkul's chosen ones, in fact.
: He dispensed justice in Myrkul's name, and hunted the enemies of his god across the planes.
: But when one he loved fell victim to Myrkul's laws, he appealed to his god... and was rebuked.
: Laws? What laws?

: There is a punishment for ones who carry such beliefs. No matter how virtuous their lives, those who do not believe in the gods will suffer upon the Wall of the Faithless - until their souls are no more.
: What happens to them on the Wall?
: Once they are on the Wall, they die again, and it is not a quick death. It is a slow slide - it is agony, until their souls are dissolved into the Wall.
: They decay, until they are destroyed completely, utterly.
: No one deserves such a fate for simply not worshipping the gods.

We have good reason for saying this:

Looks like Gann won't be lonely on the Wall!

: So he gathered allies, great lieutenants of dragonskind, devas, and even the undead, to his side. He attacked Myrkul - and was crushed.
: Wait - a dragon, a solar, and an undead? I saw each of those in a dream I had.
: What?

: But I could not find them. Your dream is the closest I have ever come to encountering them - if they exist, they are hidden well.
: I wonder what this foretells. Perhaps they shall come again, but this time in the flesh.
: So the Wall remains.

I say this update is about family... obviously this conversation has little to do with such a theme. But this theme intertwines throughout the companions - in Okku's clan, in Gann's and Safiya's mothers. And here we see the loss of faith and the nature of truth. Did anyone notice Kaelyn's cognitive dissonance earlier on? You might need to have already played the game to get it, but it's important. And yet even with such a lie hanging in her head, she's still the inheritor of the tale of the Betrayer's Crusade - the one who knows the most about it.

In part because she attempted her own Crusade not long afterwards.

: So you're waging war on it? Isn't there some other way?
: I have considered other ways, and those routes are no longer open to me. This is the only way.
: Myrkul's construct has passed to Kelemvor, the new God of the Dead. He... is set in his ways, and is as deaf to appeals as Myrkul was.

* * *

I'll take a moment here to talk about the Mulsantir Ice Troll Berserker Lodge. Don't worry, we'll return to Kaelyn's colossal dialogue tree in a sec.

The Lodge is a Barbarian-orientated area - lots of opportunities for high-strength-high-constitution characters to shine.

There are a few minor sidequests anyone can complete. For example, Nak'kai the Shaman can 'boost' Okku with three Brilliant Spirit Essences - this will immediately grant Okku an additional experience level, which is very useful towards the end of the game.

The main attraction is joining the Lodge. This is of limited value to us as a non-Barbarian, but pride demands I try nonetheless.

We must complete three rites of initiation.

Yulia's rite is an endurance test of freezing water. It's a pure measure of HP - we need about 250 natural HP to survive.

Forovan's rite is an arm-wrestling contest. 25 Strength required, or 20 if you ask around and learn to challenge Forovan on his weaker left arm.

Lena's rite is a combat circle - one-on-one combat with a selection of the tribe. After four victories, we're declared the winner.

Unfortunately it doesn't help us one bit. The epithet feat for joining the Lodge adds a bonus to our Barbarian Rage... which we don't have because we're a Rogue.

But we can do all the challenges again for item rewards. A Ring of Major Cold Resistance, a Belt of Storm Giant Strength and Sergei's falchion "Transcendant Edge" are all available to characters with 350 HP, 35 Strength and excellent damage output.

Of course, I cheated to accomplish all of these (well, not the combat circle, that was easy). What can I say? It's nice to belong to a family.

What I wanted to highlight with this aside was the overall coherence of Mask of the Betrayer. There's a thematic unity to Mask that you don't really see in other RPGs, and certainly not in the original NWN2 campaign. Every sidequest in Mask involves at least one of these key themes:

Every sidequest, from Shelvedar Nuum's Telflammar spies to the crisis in the Madatov home to the Ice Troll Berserker Lodge, hits on one or more of these core themes. Maybe Yusev wants a tome on immortality, or there's a sneaky necromancer hiding out in the Shadow Plane, or drunken pirates start a fight in the Sloop because of a hated Red Wizard threatening their homeland. Nothing is random or arbitrary; everything included in the game has purpose, however limited.

I want to develop this more later on - I just wanted you to be aware that I'm not showcasing this stuff for nothing. For now, let us focus on the topic at hand.

* * *

Okay, back to Kaelyn again!

: What were your siblings' names again?
: Efrem the Stag and Susah the Crow traveled with me. And Josu and Bekkah, twins, paladins, with courage and manes from which the Lions were born.
: Why did you take the name of the Dove?


: That seems at odds with your Crusade.
: It was never my intention to attack the City of Judgement. My intention was to bring down the Wall of the Faithless.
: To bring down the Wall by violence was not my intent. I had hoped if Kelemvor saw the strength and conviction of the Crusade assembled, it would cause him to reconsider.

: Does it amuse you to hear such words from one of celestial blood? Take what amusements you can from it, it is not a trivial matter to me.

Kaelyn is not happy with our perfectly reasonable objection to her beliefs.

I mean, come on. "When Kelemvor sees how many people agree with me, he'll turn tail and flee!" Silly girl.

: Are you all right?
: I am sorry. It is nothing... I have read those words before, from another. Akachi is said to have spoken those same words before he led the crusade against his god.

A powerful omen, yes. A strange one as well.

: He dwells in the House of the Triad on the slopes of Celestia as I did. He is one of the solars, the strongest of devas.
: He is a champion of order, and of structure. He was the one who led the shaping of Limbo's outer reaches two centuries ago, to forge stability from that chaotic plane.
: And he ended the reign of the tyrant Ankhriva and the Dessicated Kings of the Shrimar, who were allied with Myrkul, long ago.

If you remember, we met Ankhriva in the Sunken City, waiting for an audience with the Coven. Mentioning this to Kaelyn upsets her.

: The outer planes were his home, where he felt he could make the most difference. The prime was not something he concerned himself with, and even on the prime, he would not allow his feet to touch ground.
: When we met, you mentioned the "House of the Triad." What is that?

Kaelyn's grandfather isn't as inconsequential as you might think. We won't be meeting him this playthrough but his part is not yet complete.

: The realms of Torm, Tyr and Ilmater lie upon the crest of each mountain, and the triumvirate forms the House of the Triad. It is a place of great beauty, where the orchestrations of the devas are carried on the wind and sun.

Kaelyn can be a bit annoying at times. When we called her out on her hypocrisy, we lost about 15 Influence... we were very lucky to make it up by accidentally quoting Akachi. She's like a petulant child who stamps her feet whenever she's frustrated. She lacks the nuance, the maturity of age. She may have 40 Wisdom but God knows where it all goes.

But there's a lot of good to her as well - and I mean beyond Neutral Good bossiness.

: But as a priest of Ilmater, can't you go to his realm?
: The House of the Triad is closed to me, as is all of Celestia... even Ilmater's realm, with its temple that embraces the sky.
: No creature there can feel pain, fatigue, or even exhaustion. One is renewed within its walls.

The reason Kaelyn is barred from the House of the Triad is because of her Crusade. She could return... if she was willing to turn her back on the injustice of the Wall.

I'm not entirely certain of Kaelyn's exact place in the Planescape cosmology - whether she's a proxy or not, specifically - but I don't think it's good for Kaelyn to be in a position where if she dies she cannot go to her afterlife. If she can't return to the House of the Triad, where is she going to go?

That's the sacrifice Kaelyn made for her apostasy. Disagree with her Crusade if you like, but you've got to respect her devotion and her principles.

What intrigues me is that she almost seems to self-identify as the Apostate, just as Gann does as the Heathen and Safiya the Sceptic. Yes, Kaelyn is proud of her faith in Ilmater, but what she said about her original intentions regarding the Second Crusade suggests otherwise. She wanted to convince Kelemvor of the injustice of the Wall, not defeat him. Heretics generally believe that they are the true believers and everyone else is following corrupted practice, but Kaelyn seems to almost acknowledge her status as an apostate... as a betrayer.

* * *

Gann and Kaelyn's interaction earlier in the game was very insightful. We can get something similar by asking Gann's opinion on our feathered friend.

Gann on Kaelyn

: You sound almost afraid of her.
: It is good to fear those who are driven in such a way. With them, the dreamwind travels, and the whiplash extends its reach to all who believe in such a one.
: Our songbird... I think she will need the power of her voice in the days to come, and perhaps sooner than we all think.

* * *

: There was a time in the past where I felt I had the power to lead others in a righteous cause. Now, I see what a true leader is capable of.
: I, and my brothers and sisters, bow to you. You have earned our loyalty, our devotion, and the bond that comes with it.
: Bond?
: Bond implies capture, I suppose, but that is not its strength. This bond will free you from other chains, and, hopefully, help you end your curse.
: Our philosophies and our desire to save others link us already. In traveling with you and seeing proof of your heart, I can channel my strength through that link to empower you.

It's easy to miss this option. It's pretty cool if you didn't include a surname for your character (I didn't).

: A name? I had not thought of that. What name would you like?
: For one who defeated the bear god in battle, I would think the choice is obvious.
: Not bear.
: I was going to say "turtle," Okku my friend. To travel with you requires a thick shell and tremendous patience.

: What do you think I should be? Whatever you choose, I shall accept it.
: It must be a thing of the wild, or something that once was part of the natural order. Tell me, when your power first emerged and set you on this course, what was your first victim?

We could also have chosen the Snake or the Bear, or the Jackal - oh, but that's for another playthrough...

: We pledge our devotion to you, and the link is now forged. Your quest is ours, and our power and strength shall be as yours.
: Even should I die, or we are split in battle, the Menagerie shall remain devoted to you. So shall this bond be forever marked upon you.

Perhaps it's worth it.

Kaelyn's Crusade, I mean. She abandoned Kelemvor to campaign against the Wall of the Faithless, but is also barred from the embrace of her new god, Ilmater. She's given up her afterlife for the sake of freeing others from theirs. Even her family had to disown her, if reluctantly - both literally for her brothers and sisters, and figuratively in the case of our God-figure (this time it's Kelemvor).

But she has her principles, her righteousness. In the end, that's what counts, right?

And she has found new family here - in us, in Calliope. Family is important... it drives so much in Mask, is the foundation for so many motives, yet is also the source of much conflict and suffering.

But never mind all that, check out the new name!