Part 19: Act One Chapter Sixteen - Peter Singer Can Go To Hell
Wolf and his gang have cornered us outside the Flagon.
: You've helped me and Dory out of some scrapes, so I wanted to thank you proper.
: I've got a proposition for you - I heard you're friends with the owner of the Sunken Flagon. Me and my mates could really use a roof over our heads at night.
This is (obviously) tied to the two encounters we had previously with the beggar children. Like I said, it flows better when you've helped them out - if you don't, Wolf says something about you and him not quite seeing eye to eye, but then barges his way into your service anyway.
: So the deal is - we'll help you out, and you convince your friend to let us stay in the Flagon. Deal?
: What can you do for me?
Wolf doesn't actually do anything for us at this point in the game; this is a remnant of the old Hollows questline.
: I'm glad we've come to an agreement then. Dory, myself, and the rest will be by the Sunken Flagon.
* * *
It's about time we talked with Elanee a while.
Come to think of it, we still have no idea who she actually is.
Oh, well, gee, that's helpful. Thanks for the insight, Elanee.
: No more?
: The dead walk again in the marsh, and strange creatures prowl the edges of the Mere.
: There were only a few signs at first, then they grew. Animals began to vanish and die, to be lost in the depths of the Mere.
: The lizard men fled from their homes across the swamps, driving ever deeper into the territory of men.
Um... that's just super, Elanee.
: I heard what happened there... to your friends, the other villagers. The attack by those creatures that forced you to leave.
I think we might be slightly overstating our importance. On the other hand, since leaving West Harbor we've encountered hundreds of individuals incapable of resolving even the simplest of problems by themselves, so whatever.
: With my kind, especially those that listen to nature, there is no one place that we call home - everywhere we go throughout the land is comforting, with its own sounds and life.
Oh, great. Here I was thinking one of our companions was actually trying to strike up a conversation about me for a change, but no; it's just an excuse for Elanee to witter on about 'the land' yet again.
: It is like an orc attempting to read a mage's tome - laughable. Forget I said anything to you. I don't know why I bothered trying to protect you at all.
Oof. Okay, we deserved that.
This is actually the first of Elanee's romance dialogues, although this particular dialogue triggers for the player regardless of their gender.
Thankfully, this is it for Calliope - we don't get to meet our romance option for a while yet. But male characters are stuck with Elanee regardless.
Outside, we find a wounded wolf in the street.
: I don't know - it is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.
: The blood is so think, I can barely make out the wounds.
: Are... are you from the Circle?
: The Circle of the Mere, yes... but this is far from the lands we tend... and how did you come to be wounded?
: I picked up your scent, the scent of Maiden's Glade outside of these city walls... and against my instinct, I tried to come and find you.
: In my animal form, I was wounded by the city guards, and left here... I barely had the will to heal my own wounds... or even shift out of this form... left any longer, and I would be dead now.
: Your point is taken... yet I had hoped to shed this form before entering the walls.
: Whatever comes from the Mere, it comes for Neverwinter Wood as well. It was thought that the Circle of the Mere would know more of what strikes at us.
: I had hoped to find Vashne, or Naevan of the Mere, but you are the only one I have been able to find.
Ah. It seems that Elanee is pretty low down in the druid hierarchy. And here I was thinking she was someone important.
: But you would know it to be true or not. How is it you do not know the fate of your Circle?
: I have been away for some time, and my speaking with the elders - it has been over a year since we were in the same place.
: The more everyone knows, the better we will be.
: Really? That's how lives get lost - and nations fall.
: If you have secrets, you may keep them - if they matter, they will reveal themselves in time.
: I will keep hunting for others of the Mere, as ordered. Know that the druids of Neverwinter Wood have been forced to retreat slowly from their tended lands.
: It is not far from Neverwinter, but you will need me to guide you... it is impossible to find the path without one of the Mere to guide you.
: Thank you for saving me - Elanee of the Mere and the one you travel with. With my wounds tended, I may continue my journey far from this city.
As you've guessed, this is Elanee's sidequest. We're going to get in contact with some of Elanee's associates to find out more about this shadowy blight.
Check back at the start of this dialogue. See the option to kill the wolf? We're not taking it because it ends the quest prematurely, but:
: [Kill the wolf]
: [With a sudden motion, you bring your foot down and the wolf's neck cracks.]
: What have you done?! That was a druid, perhaps one of my Circle!
: Not any more.
: How you can show such cruelty is beyond me.
: One day you may be in need of such mercy - and it will not be there when you ask for it.
: Some wild animal covered with blood isn't worth mercy - nor is any man who takes that shape.
: Very well. But such acts can come full circle - the land and its creatures live by such a cycle.
It's a -5 influence hit to Elanee, which is massive. It's the second-largest shift in the game, if I remember right. It's also hilarious.
Upsetting Elanee never gets old.
The Skymirror is quite a way east of Neverwinter.
: The path to the Skymirror is a difficult path for anyone not of the Circle to walk - and it is also sealed against any who might accidentally stray near its waters, both for their protection and those of the Circle.
: The challenge changes with every turning of the season, and so do the wards - I won't know the challenges until we come upon them.
: Anything in these woods we should worry about?
: You should know that these paths are meant to only be walked with one of the Circle. Those that come here without such a guide...
: This place... it is still filled with those that have wandered into these sacred woods and could not escape. They live still, but only as reflections of themselves.
I suppose this counts as NWN2's first puzzle.
These four trees have four pictures carved into them, which sound very similar to descriptions of the icons for spells in Elanee's spellbook...
Casting each spell on their respective tree erases the image; do all four and you get a Skymirror token.
* * *
: I have followed you since you left West Harbor, your village that borders the Mere.
: And I followed you as you explored the ruins that lie outside your village. It is an ancient place, older than the Mere itself.
1) Technically we didn't leave West Harbor until after we visited the Swamp Ruins;
2) Why would a bunch of stinky elf ruins make it harder for the druids to communicate with the land?
: I was the one who sent the animals of the forest to your aid - though there are fewer of them to answer my call than in days past.
: And yes, I summoned nature to aid you when the second group attacked.
The way this is phrased makes me think we were supposed to have several other encounters with the bladelings hunting us - and that Elanee was supposed to be helping us covertly each time, before finally revealing herself.
: Why were you following me?
: It is not something I can explain, but I feel these... creatures pursue you for a reason.
: Where you walk, so do they. You are either a threat or prey to them, and I must discover which.
: And why is it important to you?
: Why did you wait for so long before revealing yourself?
: I was uncertain of your goals and your intentions - and whether you were some ally of these creatures. Only during the later stages of attack did I feel compelled to intervene.
: It is always in our nature to watch, to observe. To act... is at time, difficult.
: If there is something else you wish to ask, then do so, but there are some things which shall remain mine and mine alone.
Be prepared to hear this a lot when talking with Elanee. Regardless of influence, Elanee will strenuously avoid all talk of the Circle, her superiors, any of that... which is a bit ridiculous, considering that we know she's a Druid, that we know she's working for the Druid's Circle in the Mere, trying to find out about all the stuff going down.
: Why are you trying to help me?
We're also gonna get a lot of this, although this is because we don't like Elanee. Don't worry, in due course I'll reveal all about our enigmatic druidess.
I'll admit it now, this update's hugely disappointing. We're not going to accomplish anything of value here - it's all chasing after namby-pamby forest people and stupid 'healing the land' Gaia-theory nonsense.
Which is a shame because Druids are a really important part of the fantasy genre.
: My life in the Mere dates back several liftimes... many of my ancestors lie beneath its waters.
: And my ancestors were there when Merdelain gained its human name, before there were even such tiny settlements as West Harbor and Red Fallow's Watch.
I don't like Druids. In their 3rd Edition incarnation they (and Clerics) are far too powerful; they possess strong offensive and defensive spells, can hold up in a fight fairly well, and, in NWN2, don't even need to spend spell slots on healing spells because resting is so quick and effective. Their flavour and attributes suggest they should be more of an advanced prestige class rather than a basic core one. More to the point, they obviously draw inspiration from the Celtic religions of ancient Britain but make an odd fit in medieval/early-modern Europe.
They're also usually written terribly - whiny nature-worshippers that smell like overdressed middle-class NIMBYs and sound like really bad monomaniacal poets. Anyone remember Cernd from Baldur's Gate 2? The really bland and boring guy who had no personality beyond convoluted nature metaphors?
But blah blah fucking whine, you didn't come here to listen to me bitch.
(Elanee is mistaken here, by the way. Fifty years is far too long ago.)
It's no secret the fantasy genre (and D&D in particular) is heavily inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Actually, that's a euphemism, most high fantasy has outright stolen all their underpinnings from The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien served as an officer in the British Army during the First World War. Injured in 1916, he returned to England and started developing what would become the milieu of Middle Earth.
: And before that was the event where it gained its human name.
: Its human name?
WW1 had a massive impact on European culture. The Great War, the War to End Wars, was a symbol of excessive industrialisation and the faceless machinery of the modern bureaucracy; as such you can find a massive cultural shift that idealises and idolises the rural, agricultural/arboreal landscape of the past.
The Lord of the Rings is one symptom of this phenomenom, as is A.A. Milne's Hundred-Acre Wood and the Winnie the Pooh stories. In Germany the fallen soldiers were honoured with Heroes' Groves - memorials hidden away in heavily wooded gardens, protected from the harsh machinery of the modern world by plants, trees and the romanticised past.
: And those settlements are mostly gone now, their manors and castles now ruins desperately reaching their hands above water.
: It is for all who dwell within cities, that the land will take again what was taken from it - whether cut stone, carved wood, or fields sliced by the plow.
: You said this wasn't your first lifetime in the Mere of Dead Men.
Have you ever wondered why there are three different nature-oriented classes in D&D - The Druid, the Ranger and the Barbarian? While there is really only one urban class (the Rogue)? That's why.
I mean, yes, the vast untamed wildernesse is a suitable crucible for most epic world-shaking adventures, but three? One of which almost entirely demands adventures based around 'protecting the environment'?
: On the year the swamp gained its new name, there was a great battle fought miles within its borders.
: Orcs, spilling from the mountains, drove humans, dwarves, and my people into the swamps where they were surrounded - and cut down in the fog, trapped in mud where the footing of the orcs proved truer.
: But there were no need for graves, their corpses were all embraced and dragged down, and what dead lay upon the surface were taken by the others who dwelled in the swamp.
If the origin of Druids lies in Tolkien's war experiences, their motivations are straight out of the second half of the twentieth century. Druid Circles are straight-up (and rather clumsy) analogues for environmental groups like Greenpeace, PETA and so on.
I mean these recent conservation groups specifically; old-school conservatism (which tends more towards the right wing of the political spectrum) values the environment for what it can do for humans - it's a resource to be managed, and that's why we have National Parks and so on. But these Druids, like modern environmentalist groups, see animals and trees and things as valuable in and of themselves.
: And always, the Mere seeks more dead to draw them down into its waters, down amongst the dead ones.
: What happened then?
It's where the truly awful Shadow Druids came from, too: evil Druids who responded to the destruction of nature with modern-day eco-terrorism. I think Shadow Druids died a death with 2nd Edition, to general applause.
The fact that most conservationists would consider the environmental state of the Forgotten Realms to be really quite good escapes the campaign setting's creators, it seems.
: They gathered me up, and I made no sound, and they took me into the heart of the Mere, to show me its secret ways. And there was always much to learn.
: In time, though I knew only some of its ways, I became accepted into the Circle - and accepted by the Mere as well. It was only the last test that I failed.
This is partly why Elanee and her sidequests are so irritating. When Neeshka suddenly 'remembered' that her former partner wanted to kill her at all costs, at least we knew what we had to do, where and to who... but this? All Elanee does is talk in circles about her life, her druid pals, nature and the blight she's so worried about. That's great, Elanee, but what can we physically do to help?
Another reason is because that's just how Elanee is written. She's the stereotypically-female empathic character, the 'senser' who 'feels' wrongness... which is the exact behaviour that inspires so much rage in the logic-driven male nerds that typically play games like NWN2.
It's very similar to Deanna Troi in that Star Trek show - the touchy-feely bint to whom the audience cannot relate. Worse, the writers don't know how to write for her either, so she comes off as vague and irrelevant when she could be an interesting insight into the psychology of the other main characters.
This isn't the only reason why nobody likes Elanee, but I'll cover those towards the end of this LP.
* * *
: Give me a moment to center myself. And then, I can try to contact the druids of Neverwinter Wood.
* * *
: Elder Naevan? Can you hear me?
: I was traveling for the past season - not as long from the Mere as you, perhaps - and only recently have I returned from the Sword Coast.
: This is Elder Naevan, one of my Circle... he has been a part of it for almost as long as Vashne and the others, but I did not realize he had left the Mere.
: He cannot hear you - but I can communicate your questions to him, if you wish.
: Elder Naevan? Why were you traveling? And where are the druids of Neverwinter Wood?
: Like you, I have had no success in contacting the druids of Neverwinter Wood. I suspect they are avoiding me - or have cut themselves off from others.
: We encountered one in Neverwinter, and he had come in search of one of Circle of the Mere - either you or I, but had found no one, not even Elder Vashne.
: That is troubling news. And part of what drove me here.
: I returned... because I felt something was wrong with the Mere, and I have not been able to reach any of the other druids.
: This feeling from the Mere - it is like a black silence stretching through the Merdelain, and even seeing through the eyes of animals and birds has proved useless.
In the midst of Shadow Thief takeovers and Luskan plots, it's easy to lose track of whatever the underlying story of NWN2 is supposed to be. Elanee and her sidequests exist pretty much entirely to bring us back on track.
I will admit, it's better than another cutscene involving angry-looking bald people uttering ominous warnings to each other and trying to look threatening for the camera.
: What? How did this happen?
: Elder, I do not know. I fear it is tied to whatever is occurring in the Mere. And he said that our Circle - that it was lost.
: If so, we may be the only two left.
Oh boy! You promise?
: We shall see with our own eyes first. This news of Kaleil saddens me. Was there no other way?
: Troubling. It must not have been an easy thing to do, such an act of mercy, Elanee.
: Elder Naevan, we came here to ask the lorekeepers of Neverwinter Wood if they knew anything of what was happening at the Mere.
Ffffft... jeez, just tell everyone why don't you! We've already got one bunch of crazies hunting us for these shards, why not let some others get in on the action too!
Crummy Elanee and her divided loyalties...
Uh.... excuse me?
: Ah... yes. But she did not carry it, it was hidden near the village, I believe. She retrieved it from the Illefarn ruins there.
: Hmmm. That is a strange coincidence... but perhaps not. The darkness clouding the Mere, it is familiar in some respects to events that occurred at the time of the discovery of those shards.
No wonder the Forgotten Realms is so technologically backwards; everyone keeps on forgetting basic important facts all the time.
: Can he have returned? There were many battles fought in the Mere, and at its borders... one even at West Harbor.
: Elanee, I must continue on to the Mere, and try to find what became of Vashne and the others.
: Even if they are dead, I must see it with my own eyes... and see what I can do to find out more about this threat and the shards you speak of.
: Of course, Elder Naevan.
: I... I know, Elder Naevan. Forgive me.
: I will contact you when I know more - I will send a messenger. You will know it when it arrives.
- We went to the Skymirror to contact the druids of Neverwinter Wood, and got someone from the Mere instead
- Said person from the Mere was unable to provide us with any new information
- In fact, we had to inform the Mere elder of a series of elementary facts in exchange for nothing
- And he didn't even believe us anyway
Oh, but that's all right, we got to know a little bit more about Elanee!
...let's get the hell out of here.
On our way out, we're attacked by Ghasts and Water Elementals. Ghasts emit a Strength-reducing stench, which is especially bad for us because we've only got 10 Strength as it is.
And at the end of it all, there's this guy. Apparently some of the Shadow Priests didn't get the memo about the uniform.
: We must leave. If we remain, others may come.
About time, as well. What a waste of an update.