When last we met, I had three quests: stop the lizardmen from joining Tyranthraxus, rescue the "heir to House Bivant," and deliver Lord Cadorna's message to the Zhentil outpost.
The lizardman quest, which I did first, was the easiest. I had freed some poor lizardmen from the clutches of Yarash, and then had given me password ("SAVIOR") to use with others of their kind. When I returned to the ruined castle that lizardmen call home, I was greeted by the old lizardman chief, who was having trouble with a young upstart.
I agreed to fight the challenger, who was pitiful and went down in a single string from my two-handed sword +2. I got what I wanted:
This is where I wonder what would have happened had I refused. I suspect I would have ended up fighting the entire castle of lizardmen and ensuring that they didn't follow Tyranthraxus via genocide.
I had no idea where to find the "heir to House Bivant," so I decided to head off to the Zhentil Keep outpost to the west, but on the way I ran into a "buccaneer base." Inside, my blood boiled to find slave pens full of men, women, and children.
As I was exploring, a shady character who looked exactly like Norris the Gray sold me a pass so I could get in and see the captain of the base. I asked the captain about the boy--who I assumed to be the missing heir--and he offered to sell him.
The slavery had already tried the patience of my mostly-good party, but the captain's use of "alot" sent it over the edge. I attacked him. He was a tough character, with 110 hit points, but he went down eventually. They all do.
Killing the captain put the base on alert, and in a nearby barracks, I was confronted by five waves of dozens of soldiers each. I fought five battles that basically looked like this:
But most of them were low-level buccaneers, and it was fun to wade through them, using "sweep" to cut down swaths of them in a single attack. In the end, I had the base to myself, and I was able to free the slaves.
After a little time resting and healing, I continued west to the Zhentarim outpost. You run into Zhentarim or "Zhents" in numerous Forgotten Realms games, but I had never been quite sure what they were. Thanks to the Forgotten Realms wiki, I now know that they're an evil mercenary company headquartered in Zhentil Keep, and more than once they've plotted to take over kingdoms.
They greeted me as "diplomatic envoys" and I had dinner with the commandant after delivering to him my letter from Cadorna. During the meal, he tried to pry me for information about Phlan, and one of his aides told a story about Dirg, a barbarian hero who did battle with a demon of fire who could possess bodies and lived in a magic pool. Dirg was able to trap the demon on a "triangle of power." This sounds like Tyranthraxus, but I otherwise don't know what to make of the story.
After dinner, I went to bed. To absolutely no one's surprise, a bunch of Zhents burst into my room and tried to kill me. They failed, and the entire keep went on alert. I kept encountering random patrols, so eventually I just set up in a narrow corridor and let them come to me. After six or seven battles with random fighters, the commandant attacked me personally.
He was pretty tough, and he had a high-level mage with him, but to my astonishment, "Hold Person" worked on both of them. I still had both my fireball spells, too, so I made quick work of this battle.
Returning to Phlan, I was rewarded for the three quests and I got a startlingly frank and cold directive from the Clerk:
The Clerk had no new quests for me, but she asked me to meet with the head of the Council, Lord Urslingen, who gave me what amounts to the final quest: storm Stojanow Gate and take the castle!
Two quick items of note:
1. My swordsman hireling--whom I've brought all the way from Level 3 to Level 7--is starting to annoy me. I spent 25,000 gold pieces on a "fine long bow" for him, and he refuses to use it. Since you can't trade FROM NPCs, I had to have him drop it and equip him with a long bow +1. Then, in the last battle, when his hit points fell to 8, he actually surrendered! What kind of loyalty is that? After the battle, he just waltzes into my party again like nothing's happened--he even had the gall to take his share of the loot!
2. The only proclamation outside City Hall is the one that was there when the game started: reclaim the old sections of Phlan.
My two mages just hit their max levels and get a second fireball spell. Karnov got some gauntlets of ogre power and a long sword +4 at the Zhent outpost. I've got more magic items than I know what to do with, including two wands of magic missiles, a wand of lightning, a wand of paralyzation (yes, that's what the game calls it), a potion of giant strength, a javelin of lightning, and two potions of speed. I think I'm ready!