May 16, 2011

Let's Play Baldur's Gate - Part 20: "Crime And Punishment"

Finally, after trials and tribulations (and bugs), we've come full circle. This is where it all began, and this is where it all ends (hopefully). Candlekeep. Iron Throne leadership. Us.

I briefly consider talking to Candlekeep's head honcho, Ulraunt, to get some sort of a permission to fight in his library, but that would require going all the way to the sixth floor, and probably won't accomplish anything, so I skip it. And really, we've gotten away with wanton murder of mages, nobles and trade reps in the secure Baldur's Gate; what are these guys gonna do, take away my library card?!

Finally I walk up to Rieltar and confront him (again). However, he and his company seem surprisingly reluctant to attack, opting to shush me away from their meeting instead, almost as if they weren't the bad guys! It actually takes me a few attempts and some insults, but, after repeatedly bothering one of the more rash members of the group, I finally get them to draw steel and we have a proper fight.

There are four enemies but only one of them, Rieltar, is a mage, so we quickly take him down and deal with the three melee dudes by whittling away at their health with arrows and Magic Missiles, while they try to catch Lexter the PC and his Boots of Speed. Finally they all die, and we pilfer their corpses looking for incriminating letters.

Let's see: armor, armor, shields +1, a variety of hacking and pummeling sticks, potions... and no conspicuously wordy letters outlining details of the conspiracy most of the recipients probably already know at this point. Well, those are knucklehead fighters, they don't know anything. Surely Rieltar himself, being the mastermind, or someone close to him, must have detailed (and incriminating) orders!

Well, shit.

Still, no cause for alarm. We've danced this dance before: we just have to walk away from the murder scene and everyhting will sort itself out. I mean this is a secluded library fortress, important political envoys must turn up dead all the time here. They'll probably blame rats, the pesky buggers!

We walk out of the blood-soaked, spell-charred battlefield of a meeting room (every library needs one), wistling in unison and trying not to make eye contact with the floor supervisor, and I try to figure out our next step. Now, I know those guys were evil and deserved to die (well, one of them was), but I was sent to gather evidence of their wrongdoing, and the usual investigative routine of killing everyone involved (or nearby) and searching through their stuff hoping to find a justification for killing them seems to have failed, for once, so I try the usual investigative routine number two, and look through the belongings victims suspects kept in their, now vacant, houses.

I seem to recall being told that the living quarters were on the fifth floor, so that's where we go.

However, this is not to be. As we ascend to the fourth floor, one of the (previously absent) guards approaches and demands that we turn ourselves in to face the trial for murder of the Iron Throne members. These guys work fast! I mention that they attacked us and that they are evil nasty men responsible for the iron shortage, but, the guard refuses to be the judge (unlike every other guard we've met so far) and insists that we get arrested and properly put on trial. After a short hesitation I agree and order my party to stand down.

There isn't even any soap to drop here!

We end up in the "prison", which appears to be a supply closet in the local bunkhouse. Soon, the Ulraunt appears and lays the blame on us. He tells us that we've been seen fleeing the murder scene, Koveras pointed out that I have a shadow assassin ring (which, I'm guessing is the +1 protection ring he gave us) and there were Amnish-made coins in our possession, which should be enough to get us all nice 4x4 appartments for the rest of our lives. He wants to send us to Baldur's Gate to face the trial, which is both good news and bad news. Good because we have powerful allies in the highest echelons of power, and bad because there are quite a few skeletons buried in the city's closet, which might come up during the investigation.

Ulraunt leaves and an awkward silence fills the room, soon to be disturbed by Tethoril, who claims to know me enough to be sure I couldn't commit such terrible crimes (which proves he doesn't know me at all, but, y'know, gift horse) , and offers to teleport us to the catacombs which might, somehow, allow us to escape.

Perhaps it would be better if we had a fair trial and cleared this all up, but what adventurer can pass up an invitation to raid some catacombs, so, carefully making a point of not telling the old mage that I'm actually responsible for the murders, I take him up on his offer.

Well, we may be escaped convicted murderers, but this is probably the most proper "dungeon" we've raided so far, so it sort of evens out. The place is appropriately mazelike, complete with false passages, annoying traps, random piles of corpses, undead and ancient tombs (with working mechanical locks).

It's almost like I'm playing Diablo
We come across numerous old acquaintances from Candlekeep, all of which spout aggresive jibberish and turn into doppelgangers before attacking us, wander the crypt/underground book depository, find some friendly dwarves who help us out... I don't even know. Before long, we come across a trio of familiar wizards: our old pal and friendly neighbourhood stalker Elminster, Tethoril and...

They tell me that I've been driven mad by Koveras (who is actually Sarevok, the Iron Throne big shot I've read about in some of their correspondence), and have been killing my friends who have been trying to help me, confusing them for doppelgangers. At this point I am inclined to believe that everyone we come across is a shapeshifter, but they offer a compelling story: apparently Gorion hasn't been killed on that fateful night in the beggining of the game, he has been poisoned and taken prisoner by Sarevok, but Elmo and Tethi have just managed to break him out once Sarevok left his lair and went to Candlekeep.They offer to guide me out of the grim catacombs and sort this whole mess out, but their story doesn't add up. If I've been driven mad, how come my comrades have seen and killed the doppelgangers which presumably were normal people? What kind of a poison requires fifteen whacks on the head with a two-hander the size of a cow to work? Why would Tethoril send me down here only to come back with his friends and get me out? And why have the two dwarves I've met been sticking around and helping the party out against those, allegedly imagined, doppelgangers instead of turning into them too? That's quite a lot of whys, so I press the trio for answers until they finally give up and show their true, monstrous faces, as we fight two normal and one greater doppelganger.

After a while, we exit the gloomy catacombs and end up in some caverns, where we meet a fellow named Prat, who asks us who we are and why are we not Sarevok, who he has been expecting. I don't bother with deceit and trickery and outright state that we're the infamous thorn in the Iron Throne's side, which is probably a rash decision as Prat calls his friends and attacks, which brings us to a fight with three mages.

Hoo boy, this is gonna suck
After some eight tries, we finally manage to get enough lucky breaks to kill the group. Looting the corpses, I find a letter to Prat from Sarevok, explaining that he set us up the bomb with the murder of Rieltar, and plans to take his place in the Iron Throne, and soon to become a Grand Duke of Baldur's Gate as well, which is a mighty handful of information to pass on together with work instructions, but hey - gift horse.

However, our trials have yet to end. After dealing with spiders and their annoying web traps, we find a small cave with two basiliscs separating the caverns from the exit.

Those nasty creatures have a spit that kills anyone it connects with and petrifies their corpse into a statue. A quick asset review shows that we have no protection from petrification spells or scrolls, so, after a few tries, I decide to forego trying to fight the beasts and lure them away from the exit instead. A plan is born: using Boots of Speed, Lexter draws the slow creatures away into the side caves, while the rest of the party, having had Haste cast on them, quickly run for the exit. After a few more tries the plan mostly succeeds, although the basiliscs bite Xan to death in the process, which is okay because, unlike petrified people who automatically get excluded from the party roster when they get hit, we can get him back with a Raise Dead at any major temple. We finally reach sunlight, marking the start of Chapter Eight.

Suddenly, one of the Basilisks follows us out of the cave! Not being ready for such a turn, I send the party running in the wrong direction and have to turn them aroud and pass the basilisk by, which gives him a window of opportunity to spit at two of my party members. Lexter pulls an impossibly lucky save from it (PC getting petrified is instant gameover), but Jaheira gets hit and turns into a lovely statue, which we are forced to abandon. A quick trip to the nearby Temple of Llathander brings Xan back, albeit without any of his stuff, we purchase a stone-to-flesh scroll and hike back to Candlekeep, to see if we can get Jaheira back. Thankfuly the basilisk has wandered away, giving me plenty of time to use the scroll and re-hire the unpetrified woman, making the party whole again.

Next stop - Baldur's Gate (but first - a pawnshop)!


bucaneer said...

Considering how much trouble you went through in order to find a book, a library card should be a useful asset and not something to risk losing at the first opportunity. At the very least, you should've kept the killing as silent as possible.

And another lesson learned: beware of guards doing their job properly, for they bring plot and other misfortunes.

Someone said...

It's a sort of a Catch-22 scenario though, isn't it? You need to get a book to access the library. Where do you get books? In a library.

It's as if they automatically assume you are not going to return something and just fine you proactively. This is what would happen if Robert Kotick was in charge of education.