The Let's Play Archive

Neverwinter Nights 2

by Lt. Danger

Part 72: Act Three Chapter Eight - Flowers For Qara

The Alliance quests are one-shots: you complete them, you get an alliance (or not), that's it. Move on to another quest.

If you want to progress the main storyline, then you talk to Khralver Irlingstar.

: Yes, um, well... I'll get right to the point.

Khralver's been bugging us to meet with Sydney since the end of Act 2. Now, with no other quests to turn to, we finally oblige him.

: Your mistrust in Luskan is understandable. Mistress Natale offers her aid in part to make up for how Luskan wronged you while under the corrupt influence of Black Garius.
: Now, um, as I was saying... Sydney Natale wishes to meet with you and certain of your companions that she believes can make the most use of the information she intends to provide.
: Why did Sydney send you instead of just coming here directly.
: Mistress Natale is keeping the information she has... a secret, even from her brethren in the Hosttower.
: She wishes to have a clandestine meeting at a neutral location away from the prying eyes of Luskan, Neverwinter, and Crossroad Keep.

Hmm, interesting. We already know not to trust Sydney Natale, but I can empathise with wanting to stay out of sight of Luskan.

: Which companions does Sydney want to meet with?

Odd choice. Khralver won't let you meet Sydney without Qara and Zhjaeve, and he doesn't offer any further insight as to why Sydney wants these two.

Okay, we can guess one, but the other...?

* * *

: Not to worry. Mistress Natale will be joining us momentarily.

Exit Khralver, stage left.

: Yes. But we're not that much alike.
: I'll say. You're a dainty one. You look to weigh a stone and two pebbles. Am I right?
: You'll be able to judge for yourself when I'm standing on top of your charred body.

: I can see why you're no longer an officer of Luskan. Now be silent, fool! I hired you for your brawn, not your tongue.
: Heh, yes sir. I'll just stand here and be a good lummox, you'll see.
: I'm sorry I had to send Khralver to fetch you. I would have come to Crossroad Keep myself, but too many eyes follow my movements.
: Who is your companion?

Jalboun's the last sergeant we need to recruit for Crossroad Keep. Unfortunately he's currently tied up working as a bodyguard for Sydney.

: Scraping by? No wonder you have those scars all over your face - or is it just how your face looks normally?
: I think he's pretty amusing actually - let him speak.
: Now there's a captain I wouldn't mind working with.
: Trust me, the charm wears off quickly, but you two deserve each other.
: Please pay Jalboun no mind. We have important matters to discuss.

We should know of True Names - we used them to dismiss Mephasm and control Zaxis. If we could exert the same control over the Shadow Reavers...

: The Hosttower of the Arcane keeps a record of the true names of all its members, to use against them should they ever violate their contracts.
: After the ritual, the Arcane Brotherhood tried to use the True Names of Garius and the others, but they didn't work. They have ascended from their mortal forms and become... something else.
: Since they could no longer control Garius, the Hosttower was quick to divorce itself of any involvement with Garius and his constituents.

Bah. Just our luck.

: The Hosttower assumed they were useless, but I suspected otherwise. My intuition is rarely wrong in such matters, and it has kept me alive many times.
: So I performed a divination on the True Names and they revealed a link. Unfortunately, I don't have the lore to decipher the results.

This must be what she wanted Zhjaeve for.

: So you could read these names aloud?
: The recitation is difficult, but I can give these voice, yes, b-

: [Failure] Grovel all you like. The Hosttower does not negotiate or ally themselves with anyone - we take what we wish.

Surprise, surprise, Sydney wants to kill us.

Again, this is more of a surprise for the character than it is the player. Sydney's the one behind the animus elemental that's been trying to kill Qara.

: Having the names and reciting them are not the same, but the gith can bridge that gap.
: When I have defeated each of the reavers myself, I will return to Luskan to secure my claim as Master of one of the spires of the Hosttower.

And Zhjaeve's just a tool for advancement. It's true what they say: never trust a Luskan.

: Then you act foolishly. In ambushing us, you undermine yourself when more could be done if we were allied.
: Forget this. I say we burn this Hosttower "mage," and take the names.

: If you're going to kill us, go on and try it, you witch... before your perfume does the job for you.
: Oh, Qara, I won't bother with you myself. I'll let my servant finish the job, as was intended.
: What... what are you talking about?
: My dear, the Hosttower has been promised your father's entire Academy as servants, to train as we see fit, to use as we see fit. The only price is that we deal with you... permanently.

* * *

Act 3's all about wrapping up the game. The quests are all written to give resolution to characters or plot elements that weren't removed in Act 2.

So we get to revisit the lizardmen, make contact with the Druids of the Mere, become friends with the Ironfists. And, for the same reasons, we get a little sidequest or content for each companion. Druids for Elanee, Ironfists for Khelgar, Wendersnaven for Grobnar. Some of the characters don't have a specific quest, but are tied into the main plot (mostly Ammon and Zhjaeve).

This encounter with Sydney Natale is all about Qara. It's bringing to a close a subplot that was begun back in Act 1, when Qara got into a fight with Glina and sent Magister Johcris around the bend.

Qara's been a bit iffy in this playthrough. Her insult-fight cutscene didn't play, then I wasn't sure I could get the animus elemental encounters to trigger either. And then there's the cut content:


: {First elemental attack} Do you know anything about that elemental that attacked us?
: {A little uncomfortable} I have no idea what that thing was... but I don't like it.
: I mean, it even looked like me... right?
: You seem a little disoriented after it attacked.
: {A little scared, doesn't want to admit there's a problem, as if she's sick} Disoriented... uh, well, I felt weaker for a time. It's like when it vanishes...
: {Uncomfortable} Well, when it vanishes, I feel wiped out. Drained.
: It's your problem, not mine - it seems to be hunting for you.
: {Snappish} I know it's my problem. I'll handle it, okay?
: Are you sure? We couldn't kill it the last time.
: I can do it, all right?
: {A little quiet} I... just hate being attacked by something I don't even know how to beat... it's like someone's playing some game with me.
: But whoever it is, they're not going to win. I swear it - they'll regret it, and I'll burn them where they stand.

At this point you could ask Sand about the animus elemental and he'd suggest a way to defeat it. Then you could tell Qara the good news:


: Sand discovered what the elemental was that attacked us.
: {Irritated, snide} Did he? That'll be the day. Are you sure he didn't summon that thing?
: He's trying to help you. You could be a little more grateful.
: Why don't you thank him for me, if you two are such friends? You know what a deceptive, snide little worm he is.
: Maybe you should be quiet and listen for once.
: {Irritated, folds arms} And what did his superior highness of all magery say?
: He says it's an arcane elemental, part of an Illefarn summoning curse.
: {Irritated} What in the hells is that?
: It's a curse of a sort, an elemental able to siphon the energy of a sorcerer it's bonded to - and it's bonded to you.
: {Confused} So how do I kill it?
: You can try to control your temper, and instead of lashing out at it, you can try to calm yourself.
: {Scoffs} So I kill it by not attacking it while it's weak? Seems to me Sand's setting us up to be its victims.
: Well, it might be possible to overload the conduit with enough rage and power - but there's no guarantee that will work.
: {Thinking} I could muster more power... but I've never released that much at once before.
: Then again, it's my life... and I can't let that elemental keep attacking me.

Qara doesn't come off very well in NWN2 and these dialogues show why. She's supposed to be hot-tempered, feisty, independent and proud - but she comes off as rude, selfish and ungrateful. It's mischaracterisation on Obsidian's part.

Half the problem is Sand. Qara's set up in opposition to this clever, funny little elf who is actually helpful and thinks about people other than himself. Sand's a total hero for us after the trial and as a result all of Qara's accusations toward him appear baseless. She's grasping for reasons to dislike him, which makes it seem like it's her fault.

I don't think this was Obsidian's intention. Sand may appear to be a good guy, but there's a dark undercurrent to him which only comes out in the cut content:


: You and Sand don't seem to be getting along.
: {Angry} Oh, don't patronize me. You show more attention to that arrogant self-righteous "wizard" than anyone else.
: Anyone else? Or just you?
: {Barreling ahead} He may act like he knows everything, but it's only because he doesn't know anything.
: That's why he studies books, gathers magic items - it's because he wants to be close to that power that he can't have, because it's not part of who he is.
: He envies you, you know. All that power he can sense coming from you - he wants to be close to it. He doesn't care about you at all.
: {Disdainful} He's worthless. And worse, he's useless.
: We need to stick together if we're going to beat this threat.
: You don't need him, you need me. He won't fight, except with words, and words are useless now.
: Don't worry - by the end of this, you won't have to worry about me anymore. I can handle myself.

Unconvinced? Qara's not exactly an unbiased source, is she?

We could ask Sand, but I'm afraid he'd just lie about it. For example, this is the explanation he'd give if we asked him why he set up shop in the rough'n'tumble Docks district:


: The Docks are a little more to my taste than the Merchant Quarter. People tend to be more, well, honest in their dealings - less political, as it were.
: And trust me, finding space for a shop in the Merchant Quarter can be difficult... and expensive.

This isn't true. Half of the real reason is that he's trying to lay low as a former Hosttower mage - fair enough if he wants to keep that quiet, I don't blame him.

But the other half is that he got chucked out of the Merchant Quarter because he had a row with the Headmaster of the Neverwinter Academy, who then applied pressure to Sand's landlord. Sand tries to paint himself as a straight-talking scrupulous merchant, but in fact he's just as guilty of "politics" as anyone else... only difference is, he lost. And worse, the Headmaster of the Academy is Qara's father - hence his unwarranted hostility toward her.

Another cut conversation, this time regarding Sir Nevalle - one which I could only find in the voice files. This doesn't make much sense with the current plotline, in which Sand is open about his connection to the Neverwinter government.


: How do you know Sir Nevalle? Isn't he Nasher's aide?
: Nasher's aide...? Oh, that gentleman? Yes, he comes to my shop sometimes to purchase charms. Sometimes the "upper class" favors discretion.
: Somehow I don't believe you.
: Well, you should. But since there is some measure of trust between us I feel I can share this with you.
: I occasionally supplement my trade by supplying information to Lord Nasher concerning... "goings on" in the Docks.
: And, well, I must confess... after seeing that shard of Duncan's and Daeghun's... there is something about it. And I felt compelled to come here and keep an eye on it.
: Then you arrived and shed more light on it. If there's anything I can't stand, it's a mystery. I prefer answers to questions, and those shards are a rather large question.

The last two lines are important. Maybe it's me being cynical, but I don't buy Sand's explanation for following you. "Looking for answers" my arse... he's attracted to the shards and the power they hold, and his "answers" line is him covering for himself.

Or maybe that's just what I want to believe. Here's the last cut conversation - a cutscene between Sand and Qara set in Crossroad Keep.


{This takes place during the night in an isolated area of the Crossroad Keep Courtyard. Qara is by a campfire, around her are a number of barrels, just enough to be noticeable, but not enough to upstage her. She is staring into the campfire, smiling.}
: {Slight sarcasm} I am surprised you sought out a campfire when you could simply make one yourself.
: {Cold, doesn't turn} Maybe I was waiting for something to burn... like you.
: Maybe I could torch some of those precious books you're always reading... or your worthless spellbook.
: {Irritation} Is that your way of expressing your disdain for such learning, by consuming it?
: {Shakes head, condescending} You have power, girl. It is a shame you limit it with your ignorance.
: {Slight smile, echoing Sand's insult quietly} Ignorance?
{Suddenly, the barrels burst into flames around Qara. She turns on Sand, her face furious. Her body should be glowing, if possible, if we can put a spell effect on her. If possible, I'd love to get an echo effect on Qara's voice to show how much power she's holding back.}
: {Furious, her voice echoes} I have no limits, Sand!
{Sand backs up, clearly alarmed. His face is frightened}
: {Furious, her voice echoes} Is that why you challenge me? Because you see such power and can never wield it!
{Her power subsides, the barrels still burning behind her. Her voice returns to normal}
: {Contempt, quiet} You are a sad little thing, Sand. You squat at the altar of magic, desperate to know it, yet it is forever out of your reach.
: {Taunting} It must be maddening to see it in me. {Beat, and then threatening} Mad enough to try and harm me, I think.
: {Wary, didn't realize how dangerous Qara was - this is almost a shocked realization, like he just got slapped in the face} You are a threat - a threat to us all!
: {Contempt} No, not all. {Beat, dismissive, drips to condescending at the end} But tell whomever you want, they will not believe you. And they need my power - for you are far too weak.
: {Walks off into the darkness past the flaming barrels} Challenge me again, Sand, and I will show you your weakness, I promise you.
{Camera switches to show Bishop, who wasn't visible before - but he's been watching the whole thing}
: Looks like you two've had a falling out.
: {Still a little stunned that Qara almost kicked his butt} She's dangerous! She needs to be stopped!
: {Slight curious, sees an opening} Really? And how would one do that?

A real shame that one was cut, because it really explains a lot about Sand and Qara.

It also redeems Qara slightly. She's the rebellious companion of the party - but rebels are bastards who are redeemed only through the evilness of the authority they fight. Sand (and all Wizardry) is the authority that Qara faces, but since Sand is so nice and sympathetic, it makes Qara seem stroppy and violent.

What this cutscene accomplishes is making Sand appear somewhat slimier and more malicious than he presents to the player. It is possible Sand cornered Qara alone, by herself, for some nefarious means - which would justify Qara's dislike of Sand, even if she isn't very good at articulating it to Calliope. And, in turn, Qara's display of power retroactively justifies Sand's wariness and creepiness. And from that, Sand's grudging willingness to help Qara with the animus elemental and Qara's reaction to that help takes on new meaning, new pathos as well.

It's amazing how a few conversations can change our perspective of an entire relationship. Before, I suspect you thought Qara and Sand to be a sad pair of fussy old magelings who couldn't put aside their petty rivalry to help save the world. Now, though, it takes on a whole new (rather sinister) meaning.

* * *

The third fight with the animus elemental is also the last.

: Save it, witch. If that's your last trick, you don't have much future left.
: Dear Qara, you are quite a catch, indeed. And such a temper.

The amount you have to offer Jalboun to get him to switch sides depends on how you treated him earlier. If you were nice to him, at Qara's expense, you only have to offer the same amount of wages. Offering to double is the safest route, though, because it's not as if we're actually going to pay him.

Don't Intimidate him, because if it's successful he'll just run away.

The fight against Sydney is kinda tough. First biggie is she's a high-level Wizard, which in 3rd Edition makes her a minor goddess, and you only have Zhjaeve and Qara to oppose her. Second are these assassins that pop out of nowhere a few minutes into the fight.

Third is that she "teleports" around the map. Whenever she reaches Near Death, she respawns at another location, with restored health and new protections in place. Basically you have to fight and kill her several times.

Fourth is that you have to keep Jalboun alive. He's not very tough and is especially vulnerable to the Luskan Assassins that replace him in the battle. Usually a Stoneskin from Qara is enough to keep him alive, although there's always the possibility of a lucky hit from Sydney's spells.

: That witch didn't have the power to stop us, and those reavers won't, either.
: Despite this ambush, this battle has worked in our favour. These True Names are a weapon we can use against the reavers... we should return to the Keep with them at once.
: Yeah, let's go. The sooner we're back at the Keep, the better.
: Hey, not so fast. There is the matter of my payment.

Ahahaha, oh my.

1000 gold pieces! However shall I find the money to pay you, dear sir?!

Except we don't even have to pay him anything. We offer him a job at Crossroad Keep instead, which completes our set of recruitables and effectively 'finishes' the Keep minigame.

Jalboun's a Sergeant for the Greycloaks. He's actually not that good; if you assign him to recruitment or training, you actually lose Greycloaks and those that stay become less effective.

He is however very good at special missions - equal only to Light of Heavens. The only drawback is that if you've been progressing the Keep along with the main plot, you won't have any special missions left to actually assign him to.

* * *

Back to the Keep.

Oh look, the murderer was waiting for us.

: She tried to betray us, but we got the better of her.

: Indeed. And what might that be?
: Oh, she has their names. So we know what to call them when we're asking them not to attack us.
: Their True Names? Show them to me.

: A wise decision. Let me read these...
: They might work - it is a slim chance, but better than nothing.
: These names carry power, and they are our salvation in this war. Furthermore, you know this, I can see it in your gaze and hear it in your words.

You don't get the voiceacting in these screenshots, so here's how I want you to read these lines: Zhjaeve is smug and contemptuous, like she won a prize and Ammon didn't and she's rubbing it in. Ammon, meanwhile, is quick to pounce on her every word and tell her, in every way, exactly how wrong she is about everything, with an equal measure of smugness and contempt.

Y'see, Zhjaeve and Ammon don't like each other.

(God, does anyone in this game get along with anyone else?)

I don't really know where this dislike comes from. Okay, Ammon doesn't like Zhjaeve because he's a prick, I get that... but Zhjaeve was the one who suggested we take Ammon into our party in the first place.

It can't be morality, because Zhjaeve doesn't care about Bishop (though Bishop is below the notice of a plane-hopping zerth). Maybe professional jealousy? Zhjaeve's big deal is fighting the King of Shadows, which is Ammon's speciality as well. He's also a planeswalker as well, so there's infringement there too.

Or perhaps it's Calliope they're fighting over.

: Then we shall each be armed for the battle that awaits. Provide me with my own scroll with the names, and we shall each carry them as blades.
: That is a task for Aldanon... I have more important matters than to serve as your scribe.

Excellent. The plot progresses. An enemy emerges from the shadows.

And we have a new toy to use on him.