And there it is. Suddenly, I can see why my party members insisted on coming here. It's all coming together now. It's like my entire adventuring life has been leading up to this moment. The moment when I open the chest and find the answer to all of my questions. I become still for a moment, breathless in the face of this overwhelming joy, my heart skips a beat and I close my eyes and open them again a second later, to make sure my imagination is not playing tricks on me. No. This is real and it is happening now. The Culmination of my trials, the Ultimate Answer.
|In a calming blue color to boot!|
It takes me a while to collect my thoughts and get used to this game-changing fact. I have a Bag of Holding! Now I can drag away and sell absolutely everything! No piece of loot left behind! After a bit of soul searching, I decide that I can't retire to rest on my laurels just yet. No, my life will only be complete when I gather enough stuff to put IN the bag! Yes. I have a quest, a brand new purpose.
Oh, and there is also a bunch of documents and stuff. Whatever. Examining Mulahey's correspondence with the mysterious Tazok gives us some new facts. Apparently he and his "superiors" tasked the cleric with quietly poisoning the ore with the help of kobolds and a special alchemical compound (the samples of which we also find in The Chest). He wasn't supposed to attract attention by killing the miners, but something went wrong and now Tazok threatens to "replace" his servant if he can't get his act together. Taz also writes about hired mercenary groups, which have been sent to hunt the region's iron caravans, mistaken for mundane groups of bandits and highwaymen by the locals, and about his contact staying at Feldepost's inn in Beregost. Looks like someone is purposefully causing the iron crisis and we have places to go and people to visit. Still no tie to the Gorion business but I'm sure something will come up, since we are clearly under divine guidance here.
Before we head back to Nashkel, I order the party to take a nap on the cold hard floor of the mine grotto and get another nightmare.
|"The night is warm and calm, even though you are sleeping in a mine"|
We make our way back to mayor
Before we go back to Beregost, I send the party to the inn to rest up some more, but another bounty hunter meets us at the front door. It's the usual ordeal of getting mass-dazed and loading until someone manages a lucky crit and bring him down. The guards are nowhere to be seen, of course. At least his corpse yields some sweet enchanted gear and a huge pile of throwing axes, which I adopt as my character's ranged weapon of choice (they are heavy as all damnation, but with the bag of holding I can finally afford to carry around more than 3). In Beregost, the creepy old wizard that has been stalking me since the beginning of the game show up again and even introduces himself. His name is Elminster and he's apparently some kind of a big deal around here. He says something about me "straddling the morality fence" but gives a bit of useful information - Tazok's mercenaries camp out in the woods to the northeast.
Later, a little girl approaches and tells me some woman at the Jovial Juggler has been looking for me. I brace for another bounty hunter fight, but it's just officer Vai of the Flaming Fist (which is some sort of a paladin organization from Baldur's Gate). She says that the bandit attacks have worsened since my trip to the mines, to the point where she and her men are cut off from 'Gate and they haven't been receiving new orders. She says she will pay me 50 gold for every bandit scalp I bring. Funny she should mention that, I was just carrying some around to satisfy my gore fetish. You see, unlike the WoW system used in more modern RPG's, in BG quest items appear regardless of you taking the quest or even having heard of the quest. That means that you can pick up skulls of all the skeletons you kill before you do the Melicamp quest, just for giggles, and that you get a scalp from every bandit you kill even before Vai asks you to kill them, which means that your character will probably end up carrying a scalp or two around, just for the hell of it.
I leave smith Fuiruim an ore sample, give Thalantyr some of the "iron poison" and remember that I still need to save Dynaheir from the gnoll fortress. Both Edwin and Minsc have been surprisingly good sports about that whole "loyalty quest" thing and never once asked why we were killing kobolds in some random mine instead of doing what they signed up to do in the first place. Unfortunately, the fortress is located ways to the southwest, across the Bridge of Doom. We stock up on healing potions and move out to settle an old score. With our new mages and their spells, and a few party members gaining level 2, the fight is easier but still fairly tough. It takes a few loads and using Minsc's ranger ability to charm a nearby neutral bear into fighting the poisoned arrow brigade (this is also the point where I discover that Fighters get a Heal Light Wounds special ability in 2nd edition), but we finally prevail. More tough fights with ogres later, we finally arrive to the fortress.
As we cross the hanging bridge guarding the entrance to the fortress grounds, a pair of Ogrilions (no, I don't know what those are and probably don't want to know) demands 200 gold for passage. Using shrewd negotiation techniques (telling them I don't have that much) I manage to knock the price down to 100 gold, but my further haggling attempts are met with hostility. Judging by the amount of gold on their corpses, they weren't very good at extortion. They did have some nice magic wristbands and a bunch of useful potions though.
We make our way to the fortress proper. Groups of 2 to 6 gnolls come out to greet us, they look big, tough and dangerous but they are actually only marginally more fierce than kobolds. Narrow passages and ladders of the fortress are perfect for bottlenecking the incoming groups with the party's meatshields and keeping them away from the fragile casters, and moving in tightly packed groups means that they are more susceptible to the mages and their Color Spray spell. I was afraid we will meet considerable resistance but it appears that the path to the gnoll base is much more perilous that the base itself!
|Taste the rainbow!|
Edwin expects me to kill her but I tell him to stuff it, and kill him as he tries to run away. Cruel, but it's better than having a wronged red mage on the loose, planning revenge. I immediately get a replacement mage as Dyna joins the party, and things are looking up.
But I still have some unfinished business to the west of Beregost.