Part 29: Act One Chapter Twenty-Six - Breaking Into Blacklake
All right. Time to get some answers.
Blacklake's been locked down ever since the murders of Lord Dalren/Gentry and Lord Hawkes. This is unfortunate for us because we need to see Aldanon - one of Neverwinter's most knowledgeable sages. We think he might be able to tell us more about these mysterious silver shards we've been carrying around all this time.
Just repeating the plot in case you'd forgotten what it was we're actually supposed to be doing.
: Hmmm... let me think. Maybe it's because every time I'm assigned to you, I get stuck out in the cold or get assigned a menial task like this one.
: Our organization owns this inn. It's got a passageway that leads under the city wall and into the district.
: Now remember - we can't afford to be seen by the City Watch. You just tell me where you need to go and I'll lead you there... quietly.
* * *
Why does everyone keep thinking that?!
: Now, now, we should all take pride in our work, no matter how trivial it may seem. Being a courier is something to be proud of, not discouraged.
: I'm here to ask you some questions.
: Oh, you're here with questions. Well, that's simple - the answer is no. Now go away. I'm waiting for a delivery.
: You don't even know what my questions are.
There's a couple of ways to get into Aldanon's house. Members of the City Watch can walk right in; everyone else has to make a [Diplomacy] skill check or bring him some quicksilver - an alchemical reagent you can buy from the Merchant Quarter.
We actually have some quicksilver already, but we didn't become ridiculously wealthy officers of the Shadow Thieves by giving things away. We'll put our Bluff skill to good use.
: Let me just remove these wards... there, all disarmed, I think. Come right on in.
* * *
This is Aldanon, in the flesh. He's fairly important, in a 'recurring guest star' kind of way. He'll pop up a few times throughout the game whenever we need a wise-man to reveal some knowledge.
: Sorry, but I lied.
: Oh ho! Very clever - you said one thing and meant another, gets me every time! Not used to this whole lying business, quite odd to me.
: I must confess, normally I'm rather, well, reclusive. Not that I dislike people, mind you - quite the contrary.
This is what Aldanon sounds like if you're curious.
: Warding your home?
: Ah, yes. Lately I've seen figures sneaking around in the dark, and not that well-meaning sort of sneaking, either. It's obvious what they want.
: What do they want?
He's changed his tune now that we're inside, hasn't he?
Aldanon's another light-hearted comic relief character: the absent-minded professor. Yeah, I know, I can hear your eyes rolling in the back of your skull. Be fair, though - it's him and Grobnar, and one other (incredibly annoying) character we'll meet in Act 2. That's th- oh, and some gnomes in Act 3. F- And Cain Lethellon. Six.
Pretty good considering everyone else is so Serious and Concerned, The Fate of Civilisation Rests On Your Shoulders, etc.
: In any event, back when I first settled in Neverwinter, my humble abode was on the outskirts of Blacklake, bordering acres of untouched wilderness.
: Now with Neverwinter being rebuilt following all that plague nonsense, my property went from the periphery to being right on the main thoroughfare of the "rich" part of Neverwinter.
: All the nobility wants to live in Blacklake, but there's no more room. So lately they've been trying various ways to convince me to sell my land.
This is a nod back to the NWN1 OC. Previously, Nasher's castle was smack bang in the middle of the city, while the Blacklake District was somewhere off to the north. NWN1 ended with the city being destroyed by Luskans, so now Blacklake is next to Castle Never and the centre of the city is now the Merchant's Quarter.
: How do they try to get you to leave?
Aha ha ha, Aldanon, you silly old man. Isn't dementia amusing?
This is actually the lead-in to an Act 2 subplot... I think. Only, if it is, it doesn't make much sense.
: Lately they must be getting desperate because most nights I can look out and see them watching me.
: Your troubles are not why I'm here.
Damn right I am. You wouldn't believe what I've had to do to get this far.
* * *
: You've certainly come to the right place. A while ago I found another shard, with properties similar to the ones you possess.
: I've done every possible test on the shard but learned little. However, I've never had another shard to compare it against.
: If you'd like some answers, I'll gladly run some tests on your shards. I have just enough quicksilver to do it.
Hrm... our shards were souvenirs from the Battle of West Harbor. Where did he get his shard?
: Think back. Take your time.
: Someone had to have given it to me, right? Hmmm... I remember a well dressed man, perhaps nobility, though I'd never ask such a personal question...
: He gave me this shard - asked me to study it and report my findings. Now that I think about it, he's never returned for an answer, not that I've had one to give him.
: And I never did catch his name, so I wouldn't be able to find him either. Irrelevant, since, like I said, I haven't been able to glean any useful information from my single shard.
I don't know, this could be dangerous. Remember when that hedge-wizard Sand tested our shards back in the Sunken Flagon, and there was that magical explosion?
With three shards together, it could be even worse. Aldanon could get hurt!
* * *
Oh, he's unharmed. I mean, good! Good for him. I wonder why it didn't explode...
: Furthermore, the shards resonate when they are brought together, increasing their magical energy output accordingly.
: These shards are pieces of a broken githyanki silver sword. Are you familiar with the githyanki?
Oh, okay, this makes a lot of sense now. Plot Point #1: the githyanki love their silver swords.
You and I know all about the githyanki because we're long-time D&D nerds, but Aldanon gives us a quick explanation in case we didn't know already.
Obsidian knows how draining these long, expository conversations can be, so there's usually an option to skip part or all of the dialogue. It gets written into your journal so you can always read it all later.
: Ages ago, the ancestors of the githyanki were human, and inhabited another plane of existence, where they were enslaved by the illithids, or mind flayers.
: Then came Gith. Little is known about her outside the githyanki, but she led the rebellion to free her people of the illithids, and is considered the hero and founder of the githyanki people.
So far, so last update. Here comes the stuff we didn't know.
: They look like a regular githyanki weapon, until used in combat, at which point they turn into a column of flowing, shimmering liquid, really quite amazing, I'm told.
: I believe the shards that you have found are pieces of one of these silver swords. I presume the githyanki have come to Faerun to recover the shards.
Plot Point #2: we broke the githyanki's silver sword.
: I've fought githyanki, but none of their weapons had the properties you describe.
: Common githyanki would not possess a silver sword. These swords are rare and highly prized. They are given by the Lich Queen to only the greatest of githyanki knights.
Plot Point #3: we are so screwed.
I think this is Obsidian poking fun at the fact that githyanki silver swords are always popping up as special treasures all over the place, always being used as plothooks for stories involving the githyanki. If a player ever finds a silver sword just hanging around in a dungeon or some nobleman's vault, he can expect a group of githyanki knights to warp in almost immediately and try to kill him.
The reason for this is because players never decide to give the silver sword back to the githyanki. A lot of people are under the misapprehension that the silver sword is an instant-death superweapon that can cut through any enemy in a single blow.
I blame Baldur's Gate 2 for this.
Plot Point #4: Ammon Jerro is our next objective.
: Who is Ammon Jerro?
: I met him a few times. He was a nice fellow... a little absent-minded, with a tendency to drift off the subject...
: Ammon Jerro reminded me of my old mentor Master Grahler. Had the largest collection of noisy, exotic birds, made quite a racket, you know, chirping and squawking...
Ugh. I'm disappointed to see Obsidian buying into the same old tedious anti-intellectual narrative tropes. It's not that new; anti-intellectualism has been around since the Middle Ages, when those who wrote and read books (monks, humanists, philosophers, theologians, lawyers) were seen as weak, effeminate and dishonorable, as compared to strong and studly warrior-knights and other landowners.
Modern anti-intellectualism has other root sources - the long-time distrust of academia for its left-wing attitudes during the Cold War; certain kinds of religious fundamentalists and other kooks who make unscientific, unsupportable claims; underachieving nobodies who spent all their time playing sport while I studied chemistry and engineering and will have a great career someday. Anyone with any degree of intelligence or wit is immediately put down as someone physically frail, socially inept, humourless and sexless, and whose intellect is so proud and self-absorbed that they disappear into the depths of their own narcissistic verbosity. Furthermore,
: How did he get a silver sword?
: I have no idea. He was a gentle sort, though, so I doubt that he stole or killed for the sword.
Plot Point #5: fuck.
: When word of Ammon's death reached me, it was from a messenger, who had heard it in passing... the nobles who ruled Neverwinter at the time must have assumed I would simply know if another scholar passed away, for they had not mentioned it to me - it was almost an afterthought.
: I learned later that it was partly due to what Ammon's family wanted... and what had been requested by the deceased, to enter life quietly and to leave it the same way. It is sad in this age when the passing of a humble scholar and indistinct court wizard barely warrants a footnote in history.
: It makes me wonder... will anyone remember me when I am gone?
: I'm sure you will not be forgotten.
: That's kind of you to say. But unlike Ammon Jerro, I will not be survived by any family.
: I suppose they would, but the Jerro family was said to have moved away from Neverwinter after the war - and Ammon Jerro's passing. I have no idea where they might be now.
: What can you tell me about the war?
Might as well ask Aldanon. A sage of all people should be able to tell us something about this mysterious war.
: We were told the King of Shadows was not a king at all, but rather a very powerful warlock and summoner of demons.
: He invaded Neverwinter decades ago, with an army of demons. Neverwinter sent their forces to confront him.
: Both armies perished in the battle, and the King of Shadows was never heard from again.
: Some rumors suggest that he was defeated and imprisoned by a cabal of mages. Others say that he was dragged away to the Abyss by his own demon servants.
That's about as official a history as we're gonna get, guys. I think it explains a few things with regards to Black Garius and his plans, as well as some of the recent troubles in Blacklake.
Oh yeah, the shard.
: Unfortunately, any information Ammon Jerro had on the githyanki was either lost to the grave, taken far away by his family, or locked within his Haven.
: Ammon Jerro had a Haven? Where?
I think we mean "What the hell is a Haven?"
: It was a private retreat of some sort, where he went for solitude. I know it exists, but I don't know where.
: I supect that the Neverwinter Archives here in Blaclake would have its location.
: They typically keep noble family records in the secured archives. They don't allow just anyone to access them, though.
: How can I gain access to the secured archives?
I think 6 levels in Rogue should just about do it, Calliope.
: Normally, you would have to petition for access, which could take several weeks. However...
: Ask the guards at the Archives to speak directly with Archives Administrator Cotenick. He has been known to let me in... quietly, on occasion.
: Oh, and before I forget - you may take my shard. I've no use for it any longer, and who knows, you may gather more.
According to the script directions, we're supposed to get a shot of 'kidnappers' sneaking into Aldanon's house just as we're leaving. Like I said, this is part of a subplot we'll resolve later.
* * *
Karina's none too happy about waiting for us.
Sometimes I wish we'd gone for the City Watch. The Blacklake sergeant who would be escorting us around is a nice old man
: The Archives, is it? That just figures. Nothing with you is ever easy.
: All right. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can get back to the safety of the Merchant Quarter. Follow me.
* * *
Odd... no guards.
Hellooo? Administrator Cotenick?
You're not Administrator Cotenick!
: You... don't sound like one of the attackers. Why are you here?
: I need to find information on Ammon Jerro.
: Jerro? That information would only be contained within the vault. Many of Neverwinter's secrets are kept there, but it is for our eyes alone.
: More than Neverwinter is at stake here. I need that information.
What? We are Lawful.
No one asked you, Casavir, but thanks for making a contribution!
: Very well. These marauders most likely seek entrance to the vault as well.
: You must find four pedestals in the archive - upon each is parchment and a pen, which can only be seen by one wearing a Caretaker's veil. Each of the pens will scribe a question on the parchment regarding a book.
: The pen and parchment will inform you of the book their question concerns, and ask you for your answer. Answer all four correctly and the vault will open.
And I thought the security precautions at the National Archives were silly.
: Now, I must find my way out of here. Good fortune to you.
All right, another puzzle. First things first, though:
We kill all the githyanki.
We find a Caretaker's veil on a corpse. The veil is an equippable item (it goes in the helmet spot) and it's pretty rubbish. You get a not-inconsiderable penalty to Armor Class and Dexterity (especially bad for us Rogues) but you need to wear it to finish the puzzle.
(We could have just killed the Caretaker at the entrance and taken his, but we're in enough trouble as it is, breaking the curfew.)
You also need the veil to see through the secret doors scattered around the Archive. The treasure inside isn't particularly astounding but it's nice to have regardless.
The veil has True Seeing, which allows it to see through Invisibility and the like, but you'll only really want it for completing this quest.
Ostensibly you're supposed to search the shelves for books, then read them to find out the answers to these randomly-generated questions. Calliope, however, has a high enough Lore skill that she automatically knows the answer without having to look it up. Reading is for geeks!
Getting the answers right impresses Grobnar for an Influence point.
If you don't know the answer, the companions can step in and answer for you. Qara knows about magical theory; Casavir can answer on questions of strategy and politics; Grobnar is a bard and knows a little about everything.
Once all four questions are answered, the central vault opens.
What the- The door was locked! How do the bad guys keep getting past these locked doors?!
: Interesting... there is another Jerro. Zeeaire will want her.
: I shall take care of the descendant. Wipe out all mention of the thief, then rejoin the others.
I've had enough of this. Die, you yellow bastards!
NO SMOKING IN THE LIBRARY
Right, this is what we came for: details on Ammon Jerro's family.