Part 18: Act One Chapter Fifteen - Seventeen Updates Until Crate Encounter
This is Axle's estate. Waterfront property, very nice.
Moire gives us one last bit of advice before sending us up to meet the boss. Wish us luck, Moire!
Unfortunately the scripting fucks up and this scene is a little wonky no matter how many times I play it.
: Didn't Moire tell you about me?
: I know you seek entrance to Blacklake - where Lord Dalren was murdered, yet that does not deter your efforts, despite the potential risk.
: And as you serve Moire to get entrance to Blacklake, another murder occurs - Lord Brennick. Naturally, I begin to suspect your visit may not be a coincidence.
: There was another murder?
This is Axle Devrie and he gives me the willies.
: We suspect a rogue mage of some sort... and despite the credence I give to rumor, I suspect the mention of demons may have some truth to it.
: But suffice to say, getting into Blacklake is no simple matter - and while it is within our power, it would cost much. So the question is - how much can you offer?
: I already put the docks into shape, burned down the Watch headquarters so we can all breathe a little easier.
At the moment he's angry with us because the game thinks we solved the Docks quests violently.
: Burning down the Watch headquarters... you think that'll increase profits? If so, you're more of a fool than Moire is.
: What's wrong?
: If I wanted to burn down the Docks, I could do it in a heartbeat - but that would get us nothing... no profits, just more violence.
: As it stands, I'll need to make sure we're all well-armed from now on, because not even all the gold in a dragon's hall is going to keep the Watch off our back now.
There are lots of good reasons to be afraid of Axle. He looks mean, sounds mean, talks mean. Which is odd, because he's the "softly, softly" questgiver for the Shadow Thieves plotline.
There's another reason as well, but you won't see that until Act 3.
: The key to a solid business arrangement is understanding, getting along. Everyone recognizing their responsibilities... and fulfilling them without the need for bloodshed.
Axle in a nutshell, really. Smart evil, like we're supposed to be.
: If this is how you would like things handled, very well.
: Indeed. To do that, we need to maintain order in the Docks... our order.
: The incident with the City Watch building has convinced me that I need to involve myself directly with our operations. To do that, I need Moire closer to me.
: I may disapprove of her methods, but she has her skills. With me as a counterweight, perhaps we can achieve our goals without... dramatic... displays of our reach.
Now we're talking.
: Moire has told me of your encounter with Luskans. They are a complication to our affairs in the Docks... and a symptom. I need someone to keep things under control.
: You seem to have many problems.
: Problems are to be expected. As long as we have solutions, then we maintain control.
: What happens in the alleys of Neverwinter is going to happen no matter what the Watch does to try and crush it. So my preference is we keep it civil.
: Of course, it helps get your point across if you carry sharpened steel - and we have a shipment of weapons coming into the Docks. But not enough men to make sure it's safe.
: So I want you to show me what you're made of by making sure that steel gets safely to us - without hounds sniffing us out, with barely a ripple to show where you've been.
If you think some of these lines sound like they're from the discarded Hollows questline, you'd be right. It's around about now that we'd be getting our stronghold for the Shadow Thieves.
: Remember that I still control the district. You'll merely be handling the more mundane task of keeping it under control.
: It is not the Watch that I am concerned with. I'm certain you will deal with any hounds you come across appropriately.
: The weapons are being smuggled through a section of the district known as the Back Alley. Not a colorful name, but accurate enough.
: The area is still... rough, and difficult to control. But it is free of prying eyes, and witnesses.
: Why the concern?
: There are rivals... the few who are left... who would love to get their hands on the weapons.
: The presence of the Watch leads me to believe that there's a turncoat amongst my men... and when I find him, he'll be days dying.
: Meet at the entrance to the Back Alley, and make sure the shipment arrives safely at our warehouse.
* * *
Lord Nasher and Sir Nevalle. We've already met all the bad guys - now it's time we see who's on our side.
: My Lord, the Watch is patrolling the Docks in force. They are attempting...
: Yet somehow, things have only become worse. I've heard word the citizens are calling the place the Thieves' Quarter now.
Well, okay, they're not on our side yet, but there's still time. Things change.
: If the Watch cannot patrol the Docks, then I'll have to take action, Nevalle. Relations with Luskan and our other trade neighbors are delicate now - if we alienate the merchants...
: I will not let it come to that, milord.
: My Lord, I swear to you, these thieves will be rooted out and dealt with.
* * *
We know Garius - he was the spectral image commanding the Shadow Priests at Highcliff and Fort Locke. But who are these two?
: Torio informed me of your troubles in infiltrating Blacklake, Lorne. So I am sending assistance.
: The Sea Ghost sails from Luskan to the docks of Neverwinter, carrying allies of our cause.
: Allies, milord?
: Yes... I have dispatched agents to assist your infiltration of Blacklake, Torio... unless you disagree?
: I only need more time, milord. I will find a way past Blacklake's walls.
: No, Lorne... you will be needed elsewhere to deliver a message for me, to our other allies to the east.
: We are sending the shadow priests to Old Owl Well?
: As for you, Torio - watch for the Sea Ghost. I shall be in contact with you shortly before its arrival.
* * *
: Us kids are just sticking together. Trying to make a living, but we don't bow to no one.
: You're going to work for us now, boy.
: Look at the poor boy. Someone ought to...
: It's not like that at all. This boy is a... well, he's a thief.
: But she broke a pot - and you don't do that in our household... No, sir...
: It's really not like that at all - he's - he's... he's playing you all for fools!
Yeah! I was actually strong-arming a beggar child into giving me all his money! That's totally different!
: We'll talk again, Wolf! This isn't over!
: That's right - you run. Are you all right, lad?
: I'll be fine thanks to you, kind strangers. Especially you.
By 'you' he means us, I suppose.
The entrance to the Back Alley is hidden away in the far corner of the Docks.
It's not a pleasant place. Bad roads, puddles of slop and sewage...
...and it's full of roving gangs of thugs. Each gang has its own Wizard as well, meaning we have to watch out for spells like this (Grease).
There are three special encounters we have to clear. First up are these Watchmen.
We bribe him out of the way.
This second, larger squad of Watchmen is the next obstacle.
: Who needs to fight? I am a sorceress. They cross us, I'll turn them into torches.
: I could just set fire to something a few blocks over, let them run off and deal with it. They don't look too bright - and I did it plenty of times at the Academy when I needed to distract the House guards.
: All right, men! Move to it, before the whole district goes up in flames!
: They'll likely have that fire under control pretty fast. They're split up for now, but we'll need to act fast.
: I'd watch that tongue of yours - you're not the one giving orders around here.
Ooh, you little miss!
Third and last obstacle are these thieves. Unlike the other two, there's no peaceful solution.
: You're throwing away your life here.
Which is a bit of a rip. Qara goes down in the opening scrummage but Neeshka's spell-like ability (Darkness) gives us concealment bonuses and lets us survive the ambush.
Phew. All done!
With the City Watch, this quest is split up into two parts: trailing the wagon through the Back Alley before it can unload at the warehouse, then later raiding the warehouse and finding evidence to bring the Shadow Thief ringleaders to justice. There are also a few influence opportunities that we don't get - both times Neeshka wants to take a few items from the confiscated materials, and both times Khelgar wants to stop her.
We, however, get to do both quests in one big bundle.
: This gold should more than pay for your efforts. Heh, try not to spend it all at once. Though if you were able to, I'd be impressed. A lot of money here. Moire must like you.
: I won't. I mean, we won't. Maybe I better hold onto it.
: What in all the Nine Hells is going on down there? The men better not be dipping into the kegs?
: It's a raid! Someone tipped off the Watch!
: Great. After all this, we're still getting arrested.
There are four shipments in the warehouse, and four squads of guards have been dispatched to these shipments. We've got to kill all of them (as well as any others that spawn in along the way).
The best thing about this segment is that it really gives Qara a chance to shine. These guards are being spawned in by encounter triggers: they all appear in tightly knit bunches, ideal for a Fireball or two.
The worst thing is that it's totally anachronistic. In fact, the whole Docks sequence is horribly out-of-place. Thieves' Guilds, City Watch "hounds", "protection money"... this isn't medieval high fantasy, it's a Prohibition-era gangster movie. We're about two steps away from "Cheese it, it's the law!"
You study actual medieval law, this kind of mafia wiseguys/weapons-smuggling bullshit doesn't appear very often. It's more about being drunk-and-disorderly, or people evading fines and taxes, or persecuting beggars/vagabonds/Jews and foreigners. There's no organised crime - hell, there's no organised police force! It's volunteers and maybe two or three paid officials a parish!
It's not Obsidian's fault, these tropes seem to have incorporated themselves into the genre somehow - like some kind of parasite. Not a lot we can do about it anyway. Ho hum.
Eventually we clear out all the guards and exit the warehouse. The shipment is secure; let's tell Axle the good news.
fuck fuck I don't fucking believe this
: It looks like those weapons will be needed sooner than we thought. Perhaps after all this is over, I can give you a butcher shop all your own down on the Docks... if there's anything left of the Docks.
: In the meantime take this, and use it. We have a new matter outside the Neverwinter walls that requires your attention.
: And why me?
So Axle just chewed us out again. This is another bug; I know I resolved the Back Alley quest peacefully by bribing the guards and setting the fire - that's supposed to be enough.
This is what he should have said:
: I have received word the shipment has reached its destination, with... minimal blood being spilled on the cobbles.
: I think you grasp what Moire cannot - that the Watch serves a purpose, and that purpose is to stand in place, look away when needed, and let us run the show.
: Please, take this pass into Blacklake, so that you don't have to run any more tedious errands in order to stretch out Act One. Go ahead, it will be fun to advance the main plot! Don't worry, I'll handle my own shit from here on out!
Crappy lousy Shadow Thieves.
: So what is this matter?
: With the recent difficulties with Luskan and the problems with trade along the High Road, diplomatic relations with Waterdeep has become even more important.
: Should Luskan or other enemies of Neverwinter choose to act... improperly, having a strong tie to Waterdeep can prevent troubles - hopefully, before they occur.
: What trade problems?
Actually, it does.
: Gold flows into Neverwinter from merchants. We aid those merchants... or hinder them. But of late, they have not reached the city gate, which means no gold and no traffic.
: What is happening to these merchants?
: These merchants are going missing, and we do not know why - the High Road has become a stranger to us, and it is devouring merchants, one by one.
: We know little about why - not even our smuggler contacts in the Mere have been of us in uncovering the reason, at least the ones who still live.
Axle's dialogue is a little all over the place here. Yes, it's part of his character to lecture on and on, but there's also the trail ends of a cut quest here, I think.
But we're overrunning as it is, so get to the damn point already, Axle.
: An emissary from Waterdeep has gone missing, and I suspect that someone has led them astray.
: The emissary was last reported seen in the vicinity of the Old Owl Well, a range of mountains infested with orc tribes that are always at each other's throats.
: Maybe the emissary was killed by orcs?
: Furthermore, forces from Neverwinter have been dispatched to the mountains. Normally, I would be skeptical of their ability to deal with the situation...
: ...but somehow, the Greycloaks managed to wrest control of Old Owl Well from the orcs in the region. And somehow, the emissary was... misplaced.
: Sounds like the situation is under control.
Sorted! We can sit back, rel
: Fortunately I already have an agent within the Neverwinter soldiers - and she will be your contact. She goes by the name Karina - seek her out, and she will tell you what to do.
: Now go - travel to the Old Owl Well to meet with Karina. She will have more information for you.