(Warning! Spoilers ahead! Skip it if you that bothers you. Also this post is brought to you by... Snow White! Because according to her elves are better than everyone else. So is this post. Her words. Not mine.)
When we last left our heroes, they were dealing with Kresselack the Black Wolf. Or at least whatever left of him in spiritual form. Kresselack claimed to not be the one responsible for Kuldahar's troubles but he could give some information to the party if they help him out. Unfortunately such help required the killing of a priestess of Auril, a goddess of all things cold. In normal circunstances the party would reply with a "No way!", kill the undead and call it a day. Kresselack however made a good point that the priestess could end up attacking Kuldahar next though, thinking that such a place of warmth in the middle of a region filled with extreme cold would be an abomination. After a brief discussion the party agreed to at least investigate the case and if Kresselack was lying there would be hell to be paid! Or some sort of holy hell because Hansel is a paladin and dealing with normal hellish forces would not fit with him and... ah, that is a terrible analogy. Let's just go back to the plot, ok?
So, Kresselack told them that the priestess was currently somewhere in the Valley of Shadows and off they went to search for her. And what do you know, within the yeti cave they cleared earlier they did find someone!
As usual when meeting a new stranger the party decided to interrogate them about everything which may have included a question about why the sky is blue.
At first the woman didn't want to reveal her identity, just saying that she was a simple clergywoman seeking retreat. Since her religion preaches that enlightment can be obtained through adversity and hardship that was a pretty good place to do so. She would also decline to say what exactly is that religion she follows, saying it is a private matter and while they were at it would they just leave her cave already?
Then they told her they were seeking a priestess of Auril and wondered if she would be such a person. She claimed to be somewhat familiar with that goddess, that her true followers were few and very secretive. Also she was curious of why they were seeking such a person.
The party couldn't let go of the feeling they knew her from somewhere else though. So they looked at their notes and came to the conclusion that it was Lysan the barmaid at Kuldahar. At the library. With a candlestick! Ops! Wrong game!
Speaking seriously though, they did recognize her as the barmaid in Kuldahar and stop with all the mysterious crap. What would be a simple barmaid be doing in a cave like this?
She admited being Lysan, the barmaid, and indeed she was the priestess of Auril they were seeking. Now it was their time to answer her, why were they looking for a priestess of Auril?
They sort of gave her a non-answer, by asking her what are the tenets of her faith. All that she was willing to share was that Auril, the Frostmaiden, asks her followers to extinguish all fires, open structures to the cold and to embrance winter. More than that and they would have to convert to her faith. Now would they finally answer why they were asking so many questions?
The party told her then about Kresselack and his request to be left alone. To which she replied she could care less about him. She was has been working to clear that tomb for months to make it more pleasing to Auril and it wasn't because Casper the Friendly Ghost Kresselack was bothered with it that she would stop now. She even started rambling about all the work she did: she cursed the entire Valley of Shadows to make the spirits do her bidding and started attacking the living. Then she infiltrated Kuldahar as a barmaid, started spreading rumors about the evil within the valley, how it was a threat to Kuldahar and then waited until someone went to clear the tomb for her. It just so happened to be our heroes!
Snow White then made a remark that she didn't seem all that powerful (or clever) to do all that. Lysan was angry at that insult and told them that when she cursed the valley she could felt a calling, a great force that helped her curse come into being. That would be surely the will of Auriel. She was the chosen one!
Then they asked what she intented to do about Kuldahar. Lysan replied that such a place was an abomination and it would fall and become a cold wasteland too for such is the will of Auril. Unfortunately the party could not allow that to happen and a fight ensued. Unexpectedly though, a few yetis appeared out of nowhere and attacked the party. Where did those yetis come from when the area was just empty a minute ago? They were ninja yetis of course! They were hiding in plain sight all this time just waiting for an order to attack!
Unfortunately for Lysan the ninja yetis were no match for the party, nor was she. Unfortunately no screenshot of the fight again because the ninja yetis were too sneaky to appear in one. Once the fight was over a spirit appeared and thanked the party for freeing the undead of the region from Lysan's curse.
Unfortunately he couldn't give any more information besides that the curse was too strong and they couldn't resist it. Oh, well. Job done. Time to get back to Kresselack and get his part of the bargain.
Upon hearing the news, Kresellack was thankfull and told them to get whatever they could find in his sarcophagus which turned to be a plate armor, his legendary two-handed sword and another magical sword. After getting the loot the party asked him to fulfill his party of the bargain, to tell them who is behind the great evil plaguing Kuldahar. To which Kresselack answered he had no clue either but it was not him nor something in the Valley of Shadows otherwise he would't known it. The party were a bit miffed about it and pointed out he promised that he would help them out if they killed the pristess of Auril. To which the Kresselack replied that he didn't promise anything and that knowing where your enemy is not is just as important as knowing where he is. They should think about that one of those days. Words of the wise!
With this part of their investigation finished the party decided to return to Kuldahar to report their findings.
Before we get to that though, just one nitpick. I was disappointed that there was absolutely no way to attack Kresselack. Despite all the options given they have to help him out and kill the priestess of Auril or else the story would stop right there. Although I don't mind the part about killing Lysan, since she clearly stated that she wanted to pretty much destroy Kuldahar, I was just annoyed that there was no option to kill Kressalack and find out about Lysan in some other form. For today's games this seems to be pretty normal, and it is, but back then the developers were more careful to give multiple solutions to a problem in a CRPG to allow the player to somewhat roleplay their characters. Even in Icewind Dale, a game that is pretty much linear for the standards of the time, there were many cases where the player could choose whatever resolution felt the most natural for his cast of characters. When such an option wasn't possible they tried to make sure it felt natural due to the circunstances. This however just didn't feel like such a case to me. And despite me poking fun at the game throughout the series, they were all friendly pokes in a game that I love. This however is my first real nitpick and disappointment in an otherwise excellent game. Hopefully it will be the last too.
Alright. Enough complaining. Back to the story.
Arundel felt even more distressed when he heard about the party's report. If the great evil wasn't in the Valley then there was only one way left for them to find out what is behind the evil threatening Kuldahar. It was an artifact called the Heartstone Gem. It was an artifact that rested in Kuldahar and was used by the druids to check on the balance of things and spy in the affairs of men. The problem is that it was stolen a long time ago by one of the Archdruid's disciples who was impatient and wanted to get power fast. That disciple ran to the mountains and was never seem again, nor the artifact.
A few years after the event there were rumors about a strange cult building a temple in the mountains. Arundel thinks that there may be a connection between the disciple's disappearance and that cult. If so perhaps they may find the Heartstone Gem in there. He gave the party directions to where the temple is rumored to be, asked them to retrieve the artifact and return with it so he can finally find out the culprit behind all these troubles. The party accepted then proceeded to resupply and go to the inn to rest. The next morning they would go into another dangerous trip! But we'll get to that in the next post of this series. 🙂