Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers about Icewind Dale's story. If that bothers you then you might want to skip it. If you want to read this series from the beginning you can check the "Let's Play" section up on the top menu.
When we last left our heroes, they had just retrieved the McGuffin (also known as the Hearthstone Gem) from a bunch of snake people in the mountains. Then they went back to Kuldahar to give to the only person, Arch-Druid Arundel, who could use it to find out the identity of the great evil that has been plaguing the region. They almost got fooled into giving it to a doppelganger of Arundel but fortunately they were able to perceive the deceive before that. Unfortunately the real Arundel was dying on the floor of his home and only had enough strength to tell the party there was actually someone else who could use the gem, someone called Larrel. There was only one small problem... Larrel was as prisoner in a place called "Severed Hand". Also, apparently all of them forgot that at least two of them could cure wounds (Hansel with Lay on Hands and Snow White with her Cure Wounds spells) not to mention all the healing potions they were carrying. Or maybe they just thought this would make for a more dramatic story for when they release their auto-biographies later on. Who knows?
We finally get to the start of chapter three! Like the start of any chapter we get a nice background artwork with some written and narrated description of the events.
It was a pretty uneventful trip, so much so that the party were starting to hope that would also be this tranquil to get Larrel's help. But since this is a RPG, of course it wouldn't be like that! In fact, things already started going wrong the moment they set foot in front of the Severed Hand tower, when a skeleton... ghost... thingie... who seemed to be stuck in some scene in the past. He was talking to some dwarf, something about betrayal then threw a fireball at an empty space in the ground before walking back in the tower.
That was definitely not what any of the party members was expecting. In fact they were more prepared for the old "let's get ourselves imprisoned so we can find the person we are looking for then make a prison break" usual kind of deal. Since that is not what they got they decided to go with their usual strategy to situations like this: jump into the situation without any knowledge whatsoever of what to expect and hope for the best! The best being with all of them alive and hopefully without any missing body parts. Well, not missing their own body parts that is.
And they just had to enter the tower for things to get ugly. They didn't even get 5 steps in an they were already attacked by some ghost orcs.
It may be a bit hard to see in that screenshot but the ghost orcs are definitely there!
There were a lot of those orcs. I mean a lot. They had to fight with them throughout the whole first floor. Then the second one. And half of the third one. The other half were covered by some skeletal undead and some kind of wraith-like ones called Shattered Souls.
Besides their sheer numbers they cheated quite a bit. Well, sort of. There were some rooms where the ghost orcs would only appear after someone entered the room almost surrounding them. While the other type of undead had in their midst one that was called a "Fire Skeleton". Or something like that. It was basically a skeleton that could throw fireballs. Took me a couple of fights with those to realize I should use my brain and then use Hansel as bait to get the fire skeleton to start casting then make him run away as fast as possible. That way the fire skeleton would fire at the floor where Hansel stood and none of my party members would get hurt. A few times of that and the skeleton wouldn't be able to cast anymore and try to get close for melee where my party had the advantage!
Between all the killing (re-killing?) of undead they found something neat, a Jester's Bag of Holding. It is like a broken Bag of Holding in that instead of being to holding an infinite number of items inside its own pocket dimension it instead can only drop a random item, once per day, presumably items that were put there by its previous owner. It is just simple items like potions, scrolls, daggers, dead cats. You know, typical adventurer stuff.
Finally at the fourth floor they came to a part of the tower that wasn't as destroyed as the rest, containing several rooms and stairs up leading into different sections. There wasn't any more enemies to fight either, for the time being. Instead they found the ghost of some of the elves that inhabited the place. One of those is a man called Lethias.
Sorry for the screenshot. I know it is pretty much impossible to see him but he is in there!
Unlike the undead that appeared in the entrance of the tower, Lethias wasn't stuck in time. He knew he was a ghost yet he was still keeping his duties of protecting the tower. Once the party told him what their goal was, he was willing to give them some info. Apparently in life he was a Bladesinger, a sort of elite elven warrior who was trained at combat, magic and diplomacy. As such it was his duties to protect the tower and the people within. When everything went to hell in the tower, he fought for days as best as he could with his fellow warriors to protect the tower against the orcs and goblins. However it was clear they were fighting a losing battle and they would have to take drastic measures.
It seems one of the towers of the place, housed some very powerful artifacts and weapons. If they were to fall in the hands of their enemies it would doom the entire region for generations. So they hastily concocted a plan to avoid that. They would go to release the magic contained in all the items in one go, blowing up the tower and anyone inside it. They also wanted to take as many orcs and goblins they could with the explosion. They just needed a volunteer to get them inside the place and as you can guess it, Lethias offered himself for that task. He did his job pretty well and kept fighting to the end when he heard some explosions at the base of the tower shortly before he died. Then he somehow woke up as a ghost.
Lethias was also able to provide some information about Larrel. It seems the arch-wizard locked himself with other wizards at the top of the Labelas Tower before the whole tragedy. Apparently they were trying to save all of them through magic. Since things went so terribly wrong he guesses that the wizards might have something to do with it. His advice to the party to try to get inside Labelas Tower to find more answers.
Before going there though, they decide to explore a bit more of the fourth floor. In one of the rooms they found a bard, called Telanis, who gave them some info on the dwarves and Larrel.
It seems that a long time ago the elves had and alliance with the dwarves against the orcs and goblins of the region. Then one day the elves found out the dwarves had given weapons to the orcs. Which kind of explains the scene the party saw when they just arrived at the tower. The song however is pretty vague about how they found out the dwarves were giving out the weapons though.
About Larrel, it seems like the elves wanted a place to live in the northern regions and amidst all the wizards, they found Larrel to be the best man for the job. So he went on a journey looking for the best spot for it, found this one and they started building the Severed Hand in there.
The other rooms didn't have much of a significance besides some other groups of elven ghosts who disappeared once the party got close. In one of them they also found a ghost elf merchant who still thought he was alive. He even had some merchandise too! Granted some of it was already rotted but he was willing to buy whatever loot the party had and had some arrows which was nice because they really needed more of it. He also had some information about the different towers that make up the complex. It was pretty much the usual division of "This tower is for the warriors, this one is for the priests, this one is for the wizards..." and so on.
Finally it was time for the party to head up. They went to the nearest stairs up and what they found in the next floor only made things even more complicated.
That tower was broken, with pieces of it floating in the air, somehow. The undead thing from when they arrived at the tower was there too. It was rambling about something working, how he blew it up, how they (whoever they are, probably the orcs) won't ascend and how he has to complete the spell. Then he proceeded to go up the stairs. The party tried to follow him but the stairs going up were broken so they could not.
With a collective sigh they decided it was better to go back down and explore the rest of this place for some answers. This task was getting weirder the further they went!