Part 48: Act Two Chapter Thirteen - Heckraiser
Lord Tavorick's home. Nasher's expecting the Blacklake Murderer to strike here next and we've been dispatched to stop him.
Nasher also sent Captain "Black" Ballard and his men to defend Lord Tavorick. These two are Guff and Wetherly, a charmingly-rustic bickering duo.
: There, see that? Cautious! Know what that word means, Wetherly?
: Bad idea, encouraging him, your ladyship. He's locked his own children out of his house, on account of forgetting his latest password.
: It was dark an' raining that night, Wetherly, an' young Ronel's been growing so quick I hardly know him to look at him!
: I'll let the gods be the judge of that, Guff. Now, let's quit pestering the squire, afore she decides to clap us in irons.
* * *
This must be Captain Ballard and Lord Tavorick... and his lordship's fancy-girl.
: That is what Nasher wants, isn't it? To keep me from dropping dead? Eh?
: Lord Nasher is concerned about m'lord's well being, in light of the recent deaths of m'lords associates.
: Bah! If Nasher cared about "m'lord's well being," he'd buy me a potion of youth. Failing that, he'd send me a harem. Eighty-four girls, one for each of my years. Yes? Maybe?
: If you don't mind me saying, Squire, it's an honor to serve with you. My men and I were there for your trial by combat. Warmed a lot of veterans' hearts to see you rout that Luskan dog.
: Thanks. Have you inspected the house?
: Yes, Squire. I've already made an initial sweep of the house, secured the outer doors, and billeted my men on the second floor.
My, he's good.
: The quiet one with the bow is Comely Finn. Doesn't say much, but he's killed more Luskans than any of us with those arrows of his.
: My sergeant is Deorwin, called Graylocks. Like a father to the boys, and deadly with an axe.
: Guff and Wetherly you've already met. I'll be bringing them inside and locking down the front door when night falls. By your leave, I'd like to barricade all the exits, as well.
: If you think it best.
: After you've sent the old man upstairs, we'll get underway.
: I'll go and talk to Tavorick, then.
: Well, good for Nasher. He ought to send more women to guard me.
: Hells, sack all the men and hire on an army of pretty ladies. City Watch would be a good deal more popular, I guarantee it.
Cute: the lecherous old man. I suppose his impotence makes his creepiness seem endearing rather than simply unpleasant.
: Who was that woman I saw earlier?
: What, Melia? She's one of Ophala's girls from the Mask. Comes and visits from time to time, reminds me what it's like to have a lady in the house.
: Lovely girl, Melia. Plays the harp like a songbird. I can't actually hear it, you understand, but she's wonderful to watch. Beautiful hands.
Crap, and now I feel sorry for the old pervert.
: That's right. Thought she'd try those lovely hands at wizardry. Begs me to buy her a spellbook. Then tries to cast Explosive Runes on her own diary.
: Pretty girl, but not so bright. I should have kept a better eye on her. Not that I didn't keep an eye on her, but it was the wrong sort of eye, if you catch my meaning.
: What, you mean Dalren and Brennick? Probably happier now, those two. Acted like they were dead anyway.
: Hawkes was different, though. Used to walk up to the Academy and back, every morning. "Cyran," he'd say, "my heart's gotten just as forgetful as my head. If I don't remind the lazy old thing to keep pumping, it'll up and quit on me."
: Good old Hawkes. We used to sit on those benches out front and ogle all the pretty girls. Never know when you'll meet one who fancies older men... that's what Hawkes always said.
: Where is the shard?
Since that is what the murderer's after, you know.
: Nice enough fellow, Nasher. Seems to like sitting on that throne of his.
: Ancestor of mine made that throne, and you know where it got him? Exiled to Icewind Dale. Silly fool thought he's sign his initials on the bottom. I ever tell you what I think of artists?
: You have a real talent for changing the subject.
Tavorick seems to think we're one of his 'girls.' Time to remind him otherwise.
: Oh, very well. Shoo the old dotard away, he smells like boiled cabbage anyway. No, don't bother to disagree, I know what I smell like.
: I'll be upstairs in my chambers. Think I'll go to bed and dream a bit. Always pretty girls in my dreams, and I don't even have to pay them to keep me company.
All right. Now that he's sorted, we can inspect the house.
There's an old storeroom adjacent to the main hall. Inside are two barrels.
: [Words are stamped across the lid in faded print: 'Quantity: 40 blast globes. Granted by the Many-Starred Cloaks, Neverwinter City, to Lord Cyran Tavorick, 1360 DR']
: My, blast globes. Very explosive - and if that date on the barrel is correct, very old as well.
: Opening this barrel, in my expert opinion, has the potential of creating an effect not unlike casting a fireball at your feet. But a little peek can't hurt, I think.
: We'll tell Ballard about them. We might be able to use them to defend this place.
We can actually get 2 Influence points with Grobnar by just opening the barrel right there and then. The ensuring explosion hurts a bit, though, so we'll save them for later.
All right, so now we organise the defence of the mansion. We've got a few options here which will slightly affect the way the quest plays out.
We have several options here. By the front door is a good choice - lots of enemies coming through there. Southern doors are also acceptable.
We can also barricade the entrances. The front door will remain clear (because that's where Guff and Wetherly will be posted) but blocking the other doors will... not actually help much. But it's the look of the thing.
Ballard, Finn and Deorwin will stand by the stairs in the main hall; that's the only way up to the second floor, where Tavorick will be hiding. We'll be up there, too - the last line of defence.
That's all we can do... for now.
: Secure the house, Captain. I'll be upstairs.
* * *
: Bah! Why can't Black Ballard pair me with Finn for a change? At least I'd have some quiet!
: Not the gods, I think. Weapons to hand, boys...
* * *
You remember what I was saying about the difference between Act 1 and Act 2? You know; Act 1 was 'location-based' gameplay, a (lazy) kind of design where you make an area, stick some enemies in it, tie it up with some conversations and dump the player in the middle of it all. It's not tremendously interesting because it's linear gameplay: you start at the beginning and proceed to the end, killing monsters along the way.
Act 2 is more about 'objective-based' gameplay, which is more dynamic. This quest is an example of that kind of gameplay, and it's a lot more fun because we're allowed to do so much more. We can set up traps (this is I think probably the only place in the game where trap kits are actually useful), assign guards, place barricades... and all that has an effect on the progression of the quest. It's great stuff.
So this is our first tactical decision. Should we split our forces to cover all targets or stay together to maximise damage?
We decide to keep Finn and Deorwin up here with Tavorick, just in case. We'll manage fine downstairs on our own.
* * *
This is the second decision. We can keep Guff and Wetherly on the front lines and risk them dying, or stick them behind cover and do our own dirty work (for a change).
Keeping everyone alive nets you an experience bonus, so better safe than sorry.
: Aye, Squire. A few bandages, and we'll be back in the gray. Though Guff'll still be ugly.
: Look sharp, Squire. They're coming through the door!
And we're attacked by mephits and succubi. The mephits' fire attacks aren't strong in themselves, but there's a lot of them and it all stacks up. The succubi and erinyes (basically interchangeable) hang around at the back and throw enchantment spells around.
They come at us from two directions - the main entrance for most of them, but one or two sneak around the sides and enter from the storeroom.
Mechanically speaking there isn't much that separates this quest from others - maybe scripts that spawn the monsters in waves, and that's hardly new. In fact, I wouldn't even say it's a great example of objective-based gameplay, since our preparations aren't all that significant. The barricades hold the demons only for a few seconds, the barrels are marginally useful if you can get them to trigger, and guard placement doesn't matter so much when you're the one doing all the heavy lifting. There are better versions of this kind of quest - one is actually later on in the game.
But it's the thought that counts. I'd much rather have this than miles and miles of bloody orc caves.
: Aye, Squire. We'll put shafts through their eyes, and send 'em back to their steaming pits!
Anyway, so we're fighting demons again. Yep, I remember this lot. This is the work of Demon Guy: a powerful warlock that we first saw attacking the githyanki back in Act 1... and before that, we players saw him murder Lord Dalren. A nasty piece of work, evidently.
: Hells, that was Tavorick! Thrice-cursed demons got around us, or climbed the walls of the house.
: Upstairs, Squire! Go! I'll hold the rest of them here!
* * *
Good thing we told Deorwin and Finn to stay with Tavorick, eh?
: Listen to me, Calliope. Our only chance is the crypt. I had the place warded... they'll only be able to come through the door, and it should take them some time to penetrate the wards.
: You might have mentioned that earlier...
: I am very fond of my ancestors, Squire, but they make for dull company. And these demons are rather more determined than I thought they'd be.
And the three of them join the party. Ack.
* * *
: Even better to be so, Captain.
: The demons are keeping their distance. It's as if they're waiting for us to move.
Making a break for the crypt is kind of difficult when you're trailing four companions, five guardsmen and a doddering old man. Luckily they're all quite tough (even Lord Tavorick).
Son of a bitch, who put these useless barricades here?
* * *
A couple of fiends beat us down here, but they're nothing to worry about.
I kind of wish Obsidian had chosen some better fiends for this sequence. Erinyes and succubi are kind of boring and aren't supposed to be used as footsoldiers. How about some barbazu, or vrocks, or hamatula? Big beefy motherfuckers that you might use for, e.g. storming a heavily-defended mansion full of guards and PC adventurers.
Anyway, we reach the sanctum.
: Oghma's eyes! What is that stench?
: Address me, demon! Who are you?
: I am Qaggoth-yeg, leader of hordes, cleaver of babau and bebilith, the hunter who does not tire. From the yawning and clamorous layer of Yogguul was I plucked, and now I hunt at the bidding of my Master.
: And who are you, my mortal friend? You have a wonderful scent about you. Beneath your weariness and your sweat, you smell of lives shattered, and hopes trod underfoot.
Why, thank you! It's "Oppression for Her" by Calvin Klein.
: Perhaps I could smell you better... if only I could come... a bit closer...
And the door explodes. Wait... can you see it? Through the mist?
Qaggoth-yeg is a hezrou - one of the aforementioned big beefy motherfuckers. He's surrounded by a stench that saps ability scores and has a hell of a lot of hitpoints. See that spell Sand is casting? That's Avasculate, which does half a creature's hitpoints in damage... meaning Qaggoth-yeg has at least 200 hitpoints.
He's tough, and he's backed up by a couple of succubi, but there's ten of us and one of him. It was only a matter of time, really.
: I haven't got the shard. Haven't had it since yesterday. Passed it to Melia, in fact, just before you got here.
: Whole business was a diversion, to get whoever's seeking the shard to reveal himself. Instead he sent that brute with the tongue-twisting name.
: You passed the shard to Melia? To some girl from the Mask?
: I do still have a few wits left, you know... Melia's one of the Nine. She's holed up at the Moonstone Mask with a half-dozen guards, posing as patrons.
Are you kidding me? This was a diversion?
: Put a girl in a pretty dress, and nobody takes her seriously. Now you've got to get to the Mask! Warn Melia, and protect that shard!
Hey, put a girl in studded leather armour and nobody takes her seriously then either - as this update has proved, to our cost.
Come on. We've got a murderer to catch.
* * *
We run all the way down to the Moonstone Mask in the Merchant District. Unfortunately it looks like our suspect is already here.
: He murdered Evlyn at the door, and if he's not stopped... he'll... please, you must do something!
The rooms upstairs are littered with bodies (and more fiends).
Here. This must be where Melia was hiding.
He summons in two massive hell hounds...
...and vanishes, taking the shard with him.
The Nessian War Hounds are strong, but their size is a liability. It's easy work for Calliope to slip around the sides and Sneak Attack them from behind.
Done. We've defeated the best both the Abyss and the Nine Hells have to offer.
But the Warlock escaped, and he has Tavorick's shard.
And Melia is dead.