Part 69: Act Three Chapter Five - The Squeaky Axle Gets The Kick
We're halfway through the initial set of quests for Act 3, so I'se taking a break, maybe stroll 'round the castle for a bit.
: Master Veedle really needs to fix those roads better. Huh?
: Something doesn't seem right. The guard shift change isn't supposed to happen for...
What the... assassins?
: You're tough as nails - aren't you? I guess we can let this slide.
: I'll double security and try and track down proof that Axle did this. But it doesn't sound like you need the protection.
* * *
This is the end result of our choices from earlier in the Act. By refusing to send tribute or help his smugglers, we've upset Axle enough for him to send assassins after us.
We could've sent our own assassins right back at him, but - of course - they wouldn't succeed. We've got to sort Axle out ourselves.
* * *
Even if we hadn't angered Axle, we'd still eventually receive a summons - though Axle'd have a different goal in mind for us.
Security's pretty tight at Axle's. He won't let the rest of the party into his office - it's just me and him.
And his guards.
This doesn't make much sense for us because we're here to talk about his assassination attempt. If Axle and I were on friendlier terms, we'd be here to discuss Moire - hence the conversation options above.
: My messenger? How do you know this messenger spoke with my voice?
: That's why I came, I don't trust messengers.
: Ah. So in the future, should I come directly? Perhaps that would be best, to avoid any confusion.
This conversation is fraught with pitfalls, and is half the reason I find Axle so intimidating.
See, Axle's a suspicious bastard who thinks everyone's as duplicitous as he is. So, when he says "Maybe in future I should come to talk to you personally," what he means is "I bet you'd like me to come to you personally so you can MURDER me, isn't that right, you murderer?"
Every off-handed comment is loaded with double meaning. Every question is a veiled threat.
It's this again
: I thought you had a problem with Moire you needed my help with.
: I do not need help with Moire, I am requesting you deal with her. Do you understand? I fear you do not, but I am not surprised.
We haven't seen this since the trial in Act 2. Unlike Torio, though, you don't get an eventual [Success] or [Failure] with Axle, so you don't know if you've successfully used the skill at all - because Axle's using it right back at you.
It's not a bluff on Obsidian's part, either. The game is checking your skills for this, and if you fail it does have consequences. You'll need a skill rank of 25 or so for these checks, by the way - not inconsiderable.
And the tone does change slightly depending on success or failure - but Axle has a manner of speaking that makes you feel like you messed up anyway.
: And of course, there is the matter of those goods I asked you to retrieve for me from your over-zealous Greycloaks.
: [Intimidate] Are you in the habit of cleaning up the mistakes of your underlings? If not, neither am I.
: [?] But they are simply trade goods, of no consequence... even the Greycloaks need to feed, if it bolsters your status, correct?
: We speak on occasion, more frequently than you and I, yes. He knows much about your Keep and its workings while you are away, and as such, is of value to me.
Here Axle's trying to insinuate that Uncus is his spy at Crossroad Keep. I'd buy it if, you know, it wasn't so desperately obvious.
: She and her men have chosen to cause trouble in the Docks.
: Shipments for the war - and your keep - are being disrupted, and without such supplies, I fear the war effort will be lost before it begins.
: So where is she?
We may have upset Axle previously, but this is our chance to make things good. All is forgiven if we find his errant lieutenant and put her in her place.
: Where is this safehouse?
: That, I'm afraid, you will have to discover for yourself.
: Don't tell me you don't know.
: I cannot send any of my men to track it down without being discovered - their faces and movements are too well known.
: You have been away for some time, perhaps you will have better luck than I.
A shame we have no intention of following Axle's orders at all.
* * *
So the votes have been tabulated and the Something Awful Board of Directors chose overwhelmingly to sever all ties with the Shadow Thieves, preferably using force.
That's okay. That's fine. It's a fairly cold-blooded thing to do - and that's sooo Lawful Evil.
I just find it bizarre that the same people couldn't abide the thought of us being mean to some dirt-grubbing peasant farmers. "Oh no, don't tax our farmers too much. Then we'd have even more money to spend on useless shit! Oh nooooo!" etc.
But Axle and Moire, two old buddies of ours from way-back-when? FOR GOON JUSTICE MY SIRE
Ah, I ain't complaining. Axle and Moire are the two primarily responsible for our massive Act 1 headache - if anyone's deserving of death, it's these two.
* * *
: We're not alone.
: You'd best just keep on walking. This is Moire's quarter, now.
: Take me to Moire, or you're dead.
That interrogation didn't go well.
So we overwhelm them with disproportionate force. Zhjaeve summons a mighty demon, a fell lord of the Abyss, master of a thousand souls, to cut up some crummy two-bit thieves.
Our force is so disproportionate that we actually kill all the thieves, breaking the quest. Reload!
: That's how you do it.
: All right, all right! He's over in Leldon's old place. All of us are.
Well, we did kill him. It's good that the Neverwinter Shadow Thieves display such keen awareness of environmentalism and the developer's module deadline.
We execute the man for betraying Axle, then betraying Moire.
Never mind that we're about to do both.
Nice. Moire's tidied up a bit.
: I don't care what title you've stolen. You're still but a dock rat in my eyes, bending to Axle's every whim.
: I am here on Axle's behalf. Tell me why I shouldn't kill you.
: Rein in that arrogance before I bleed it out of you.
: Fine, I'll keep this simple. Times are changing here in Neverwinter. Axle isn't. Our organization has grown weak with his posturing and diplomacy.
: But I fear no boundaries. I'll cross the lines our enemies balk at, and so my Shadow Thieves will become the hands of Neverwinter.
We could side with Moire... if we were dumb. All she does is shout and threaten us - why would we entrust Neverwinter's criminal empire to her?
At least sometimes Axle was nice to us.
: How about your life? That you even considered killing me should make that enough.
: But you do have your uses, especially as one of the "gentry." I'm not afraid to use that, or anything else, for that matter.
(Which I think is a tacit admission that she's gonna blackmail us for everything she can get.)
Anyway, we want out of this, so we kill Moire.
Moire throws down a smoke bomb and runs off while her guards attack us.
Then she runs back in, all by herself, and gets killed.
She's supposed to hide back here, with a second group of thugs - but whatever. The important thing is she's dead, and we have her stuff - including Leech, a +5 dagger of Vampiric Regeneration (nice).
* * *
This is the 'happy' ending for the quest. If you do what Axle says, or upset him but make it up with skill uses, then after you kill Moire he gets all chummy with you. Wants to be your best mate and all that.
If not, he'll try to kill you.
We could've kept our ties, or cut them peacefully.
But that's not what you wanted. Now Axle will die as well.
: And know that if you should somehow best me, "Captain" - well, your troubles are just beginning.
This is a right sticky wicket and no mistake.
Calliope's on her own, surrounded by Axle's bodyguards (all of whom are Sneak-Attack-capable Rogues) and up against Axle himself, who's no pushover either.
The rest of the party are in Axle's antechamber, mobbed by more thieves, with another wave about to come bursting through the door at any moment. A locked door separates Calliope from her companions.
Unfortunately Calliope's a write-off - we can't fight five thieves without leaving ourselves open to flanks. Sand and Bishop and Zhjaeve - they're what we have to play for.
Most of Axle's minions have some kind of poison weapon (or poison arrows, which are really annoying) so Sand's not in a good spot, but Bishop and Zhjaeve survive just fine.
The thing about Rogues is that they have good Reflexes but very bad Fortitude saves. A Destruction spell handles Axle nicely, I reckon.
And we get all his loot - a Cloak of Displacement and a very nice Short Sword that grants Two-Weapon Fighting stand out as good finds.
If we'd decided to work with Axle (or to work with Moire) we'd get a hefty chunk of gold and their personal weapon, either Leech or The Dark Companion.
Not a bad reward, but I'd rather have the experience - and the warm glow of knowing that we never have to deal with this political bullshit ever again.
It's gonna be a beautiful day, guys.