Part 39: Act Two Chapter Five - Gnomes, Glowstones, And Other Things Beginning With 'G'
Duskwood's a dangerous place. Apparently everyone in the party is allergic to Duskwood 'tree pollen' and this manifests itself as Spell Failure: there's a decent chance all spells cast will fizzle uselessly.
It's not quite as exciting as a Wild Magic Zone but it adds a level of challenge missing in most of NWN2. We can no longer just nuke every monster with the highest-level spells we have.
In the centre of the Duskwood is this large tree, surrounded by various Dire animals.
And in the tree (or part of the tree, I forget which) is a dryad, Lyssa.
Wait, did she just call us Lorne?
We take Sand's prompt and run with it.
: [Success] Why do you play these games with me? In exchange for your disguise, you promised me the goblins' Glowstone. Where is it?
: [Bluff] That's why I'm here. We need new disguises to infiltrate the goblins' camp.
: [Success] I don't have enough powder for you and your companions.
: I'll take whatever you have, then.
Oh... okay. So we've just solved the mystery of Ember. This is Garius' ploy to eliminate us: Lorne butchers Ember, then Torio pins it on us. But you knew that already, didn't you?
Our successful Bluff has got us the last piece of evidence we needed. But let's go back a second:
Blowing Sand's bluff results in this dialogue. Obviously Sand is upset that you're messing up his elaborate plans.
: Alteration powder, a gift from a former guest. It allows you to appear as whomever you wish, for a time.
: Lorne and his men stopped nearby before heading on to the village. From my tree, I spied on their conversation.
I'm not surprised. Villains always lack subtlety.
: Look around you. Can you not see the stumps of the Duskwood trees?
: The villagers ignored me and harvested the trees again and again, taking far more than necessary. It was an opportunity for vengeance.
: I offered to disguise Lorne and his men, if they would bring me the Glowstone that lies beneath this glade. He agreed. But I was a fool to trust him.
: And why would I give it to you? What's in it for me?
: Anything you like.
: Lorne has failed me. So, you will bring the Glowstone to me, and I will give you the alteration powder.
: Let's go get it - it's a fair trade, as I see it.
Fetching the Glowstone is how you get the powder from her if you can't or won't Bluff her. The Glowstone can be found in the underground caves, halfway between the goblin camp and the spiders.
One problem, though:
The goblins worship the stone. Its carcinogenic properties also give the goblins magical powers.
: This the Glowstone cave. Only goblins allowed to visit stone!
: Wouldn't the stone be safer with your tribe, instead of all the way out here?
: Why you ask dumb question? Sacred Glowstone lies by sacred pool. Always been that way.
: I'm taking the stone. Don't try to stop me.
Casavir whines about bullying the goblins. Elanee also gets upset, but because the Glowstone corrupts her precious nature or whatever.
The fight is brief but explosive. The Glowstone guards all have some kind of low-level arcane magic up their sleeves.
They're no match for our professional murderers, though.
We can give the Glowstone to Lyssa for the powder, or choose to keep it for the ability to cast Searing Light three times a day.
You know, I feel kind of bad about taking the goblins' precious Glowstone. If you don't want to do that either, then you can always just kill Lyssa.
: Creatures of the Grove, aid me!
And she summons the animals of the wild to help her destroy the intruders. Or does she?
: You are alone - and even the creatures of this grove, as twisted as you have helped them become, will not turn on me.
This is the one and only time Elanee is useful. It's actually quite cool. Why can't she do more stuff like this?
Oh yeah, because nature adventures are often just slotted on to the Big Epic End-of-the-World Main Quest.
And we can get the evidence we need this way, as well.
Anyway, enough crazy dryads. There's a path heading up the side of a cliff - let's go there.
Revenge of the Wolves. It's just like Highcliff, only the wolves are primordial mutants with massive spikes growing out of their back.
At the end of the ridge are two gnome women, Mirri and Jilla.
: Oh, my, gnome women. They sure have wandered far from home.
: I'm Mirri, and this is my sister Jilla. We traveled here from Lantan, beyond the Sea of Swords. Traveled here and... and decided to stay.
: Why would you leave your home?
: Oh, we were far too tidy for Lantan. It's a very messy place.
: We had boxes and boxes of insects, sorted by class, and tied up with string.
: And the others were forever getting into our things, moving them about, reclassifying them, and writing us silly notes.
Gnomes have always been the butt of D&D's jokes (or maybe just the butt). As the only non-Tolkien race, they've never really... slotted into the game properly. Think: in the starting line-up, you've got the fighter-race, the wizard-race, the thief-race, the generalist... and the gnome, who's sort-of also magical but not really, and sort-of underground but not like the dwarves, and sort-of jolly and fat but halflings have got that covered already. And because you've already got Mr. Haughty, Mr. Stern, Mr. Happy and Mr. Angry, there's no defining character trait for gnomes either - apart from hilarious comic relief.
The stereotypical gnomish class was Illusionist, which for a lot of the game's history was just a sub-class of Wizard. That's pretty shameful right there.
The lack of a defined character has meant gnomes have shifted emphasis along with the fantasy genre as a whole. As fantasy has incorporated machines and engineering and technology into its thematic superstructure, so have the gnomes: they've gone from mostly being worryingly Jewish/Roma con-men and tricksters to crazed inventors and tinkerers. Compare your 1st Edition gnome Illusionist/Thief to Jan Jansen to Grobnar Gnomehands.
By the time 4th Edition rolled around, it became apparent that nobody wanted to play a shoddy dwarf knock-off (instead, they wanted to play fucking dragon-people or whatever) so gnomes were written out of the initial line-up and relegated to the Player's Handbook 2.
To be honest, they're like Druids - potentially interesting, but they really need more attention than they get now, else they get overshadowed by everything else.
Where was I?
Uh... perhaps I'd better go back to talking about D&D mechanics again.
Hands off, sluts, I saw him first!
: Oh, staying is fine with me, thank you. We have such wondrous adventures.
: Besides, these two women seem more than capable of handling things on their own. I mean, just look at this collection.
: What brings you up here?
: Insects, of course. The Spiny Hornfly, and the Yellow-tipped Weevil...
: The Duskwood has them in abundance, and in so many new varities that we've never seen before.
: You collect insects?
: You have all twenty varieties of hornflies? Even the Crimson Devil Tail? Very impressive.
: Not only that, we've discovered four new aphids, just here in the Duskwood. It's far more interesting than Lantan ever was.
: We catch them and sketch them, then name them and box them up. Trim and tidy, clean and neat.
These two women are sitting on an entomological treasure trove! I'm sure the Lantanese Academy can't wait to get these bugs back for classification!
: Ember? Isn't that the human village, Jilla? The one we visited last tenday?
: Just so, Mirri. And we got all that wonderful mutton, remember?
: Ember was destroyed. Do you know anything about that?
: Destroyed? No, we hardly ever come out of the wood. Our... work keeps us busy.
: They used to tell us on Lantan that the whole island could sink into the sea before we'd notice. "There go Mirri and Jilla, after their insects again."
: Well, islands do sink into the sea sometimes. They are rather heavy, and when they sink, well - it is hard to notice.
There's something... not quite right about these two women. And I don't mean the 'gnome' thing.
They seem pretty comfortable for two little gnomes surrounded by slavering mad-eyed dire wolves.
: Wolves are no trouble, are they, Jilla?
: No trouble. Besides, we're very small, and hardly a threat. Perhaps they've grown fond of us.
: You found this cave abandoned?
: Strange that you should ask. When we first arrived, we found a woman living here. Didn't we, Mirri?
I've got this strange itching sensation at the back of my skull. I feel like I'm forgetting something important...
: We'd rather you didn't, to tell the truth.
: We like to keep everything just so... our boxes, and our samples, and the insects, of course. It wouldn't do to go trampling them underfoot.
Adventurers don't know the meaning of the term 'personal space.'
Well, the cave's a cave.
Some wolves, too. Don't Mirri and Jilla live here?
Let's investigate further.
Well that was a mistake. This is- was Calindra's partner.
: Why... that little werewolf has the same name as the gnome girl we met outside. What a coincidence!
I'm afraid I have some bad news, Grobnar.
: You two are werewolves? How did this happen?
: A woman was living here, when we first came from Lantan... she welcomed us, took us in, listened while we talked of hornflies and weevils.
: In the night, she fell on us. She bit us, both of us, but not deep enough to kill.
: She wanted to make more of her kind. She said she was the last... the last of the Duskwood Pack. They'd hunted and slain the rest.
: We thought we might do the same, with your gnome companion. Maybe add him to our pack. But... that would have been wrong.
Ah, yes, I see now. This is a callback to a sidequest in NWN1, in which you hunted down some werewolves plaguing Port Llast - though obviously you didn't do a very good job. Thanks a lot, Hero of Neverwinter.
: We came back from hunting sheep, and he was here, in our cave... tapping at our wall in the dark.
: We try to stay away from folk... we truly do. We hunt animals, and when we can't catch any, we eat our specimens. We gorge on beetles and grubs.
: But when meat wanders into our lair... then the scent fills us up, and there's naught we can do...
: Uh... my, they're... drooling.
: The blood, flowing warm between our teeth... the taste of soft, yielding flesh... just so...
Anyway, the wolves attack.
In previous playthroughs, I always had massive trouble with this fight. I couldn't buff my characters reliably, due to the Spell Failure effect, and you've got to have Sand in your party to go to Ember/Duskwood so he's dead weight...
Mirri and Jilla are werewolves, so they get DR too. Most of the party are still on +1 weapons, which I don't think is enough. I mean, we could just use spells instead- oh, but Spell Failure...
But this time around it's turning out really well. Maybe it's my +2 Dagger that deals additional Cold damage or maybe it's Grobnar's songs not being affected by the tree pollen, but the fight was over pretty quick - and not a single casualty on our side.
Alas, poor Grobnar, cheated of everlasting romance. It is sour comfort, Grobnar, but I tell you: 'tis better to have loved and lost than to be turned into a psychotic werewolf.
We grab the insect collection off of one of the sisters' corpses. I've got a worthy use in mind for this.
: [The spider deftly tears apart the little wooden boxes, and thrusts its fangs into squirming weevils and grubs.]
: [After happily feeding for some time, the spider raises its fangs and scratches out another marking in the dirt with its foreleg.]
: I think it wants to come with us.
: It looks... happy. Gods, those fangs are huge. And it's... still got insect bits on them.
: It seems we've made a friend. I suggest you let it down easy with a polite, but firm, refusal.
: If you're sure...
Are you kidding me? It's a giant spider!
This sure as shit beats a useless mopey paladin.
And Elanee just has to go and ruin the moment.
: When one denies nature, or uses it for their own ends... by such acts Neverwinters are made. But your choice is your own - not mine.
Oh no, not more Neverwinters! Cities where people are happy and rich and prosperous, how terrible!
: I cannot believe we're doing this.
: [The spider twitches its mandibles excitedly. In the dirt, it sketches a single, graceful rune.]
: That looks like the elvish symbol for friendship... "kistrel." As good a name as any.
"XP granted for befriending a giant magical spider" is the second-best XP message in the NWN2 series.
This is our first recruitable, aside from Guyven. Remember this: that when the time came, the giant spider was amongst the first to volunteer.
Okay, we're almost ready to take this to court. We're going to tie up some loose ends first.
We're taking a massive detour to Old Owl Well. We don't actually need to go here, but Callum's got some new dialogue and I don't want part of the trial to just come out of nowhere at you.
: I want to thank you once again for taking Logram down for us. The orcs have been so busy tearing into each other to choose a new leader that we've been able to fortify our position.
: I've been accused of a crime. Would you be willing to testify on my behalf?
: Heh. I'm not surprised, to be honest. I didn't figure you to be a law and order type when I first met you.
Hey, we're Lawful Evil! That still counts!
: So who's your accuser? What's the charge?
: Luskans have accused me of destroying the village of Ember.
: I know you've got a shady past, but you saved us a lot of trouble - and lives - by bringing down Logram for us.
: Well, if you're sure that's all you need. I'll be happy to testify. Don't you worry. By the time I'm done, they'll be ready to build a statue of you.
On second thoughts, this may have been a bad idea.
Back in Port Llast, we check in on our prime witness.
I meant Marcus, not Elgun.
: Now that boy... he's an odd one. Just wandered out of the wood, they say, and attached himself to some folk in Ember.
: He'd come in and out of here with the other Emberfolk. Nice enough lad. Bit too serious for a child, but better that than running about and breakin' things.
And we have some bad news for Calindra.
: How many times did I tell him? Brawn should always be tempered by caution and wisdom.
: I'll miss him, even if he was a fool.
: What will you do now?
: For that, I would be doubly grateful.
: In Amn, a coin in the right pocket is all that is required to secure a contract. Here, it is all in who you know.
We can't help Calindra further - for now. We'll be back, though.
Finally, Nya needs to be told we done good.
: Then the people of Ember will rest in peace. You have a good heart, and I thank you.
: I've kept this amulet all these years. It belonged to my love, but I think it will suit you well.
The Amulet of the Doomguide protects us from Death Magic. I suppose this is theoretically useful, just not in the NWN2 OC.
That's not why we did this quest, though.
: Ah, I don't - but I hope you don't, either. The fact you don't form attachments is what interests me.
Oh, does it? I'm beginning to tire of your sideways remarks, mister. Just what the hell do you mean, anyway?
Screw the trial. This warrants further investigation.