Kuldahar (AR2100)

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If you've never been to Kuldahar, and few have, then be prepared for one of the greatest visions the North has to offer.

Kuldahar is one of the wonders that lie in the shadow of the Spine of the World -- the entire town lies wrapped around a great oak from which warmth springs, the heat sufficient to melt the snows around it, and creating a climate more to a southerner's liking. Its roots give shelter to the numerous buildings that mark the landscape surrounding it.

1 - Arundel, Archdruid of Kuldahar

Arundel will be your guide for the first few chapters of Icewind Dale. Upon your first visit, he will give you information about Kuldahar's current predicament and that he doesn't know what is causing it. He'll first recommend that you visit the Vale of Shadows for a source of the evil that plagues the town.

After speaking with Kresselack and determining that the vale is not the evil threatening Kuldahar, return to Arundel for 10,350 experience points. Arundel is disappointed, but believes he can better determine where the evil is coming from by using an ancient druidic artifact known as the Heartstone Gem. He goes on to tell you that the powerful scrying device used to rest here in Kuldahar, but was stolen by a druid some time ago and brought to an ancient temple to the east of Kuldahar. He updates the location of the Temple of the Forgotten God on your map, so that's where you're off to next.

When you return from the temple with the vial of mysterious liquid, Arundel recognizes it as a form of undiluted snake venom and you'll be awarded 19,500 experience points. Arundel reasons that the venom would have had to come from somewhere within the mountains, otherwise it would have lost its potency and been useless for the attack on the temple. He figures that the only viable location it could have come from is Dragon's Eye, a network of caverns leading into the bowels of a dormant volcano. Off you go!

After you've conquered Dragon's Eye and return to Kuldahar bearing the Heartstone Gem, you'll discover that the town is under attack by Neo-Orogs and other giant-kin. When you tell Arundel that you've killed Yxunomei, he will thank you for destroying his ancient enemy and reveal that the "true" Arundel is "bleeding his life away" upstairs. With that, the impostor teleports away leaving you to deal with a dying Arundel on the second floor of his home. There's nothing you can do to save him, but fortunately he lives long enough to give you some final advice. You're to take the Heartstone Gem to the elven fortress of the Severed Hand and give it to Larrel, an elven archmage that Arundel believes is the only person still living that can use the scrying device.

When Arundel takes his final breath, grab the Staff of Nature's Wrath from his corpse. He obviously won't be needing it anymore.

2 - Gerth's Equipment Shoppe

Gerth sells a variety of items, including the Bardic Horn of Valhalla and Lyre of Progression. He also collects various keys, notes, and books on the region, so you bring back any such collectables you find in your travels and exchange them for gold.

As a side note, I can't help but wonder if "Gerth's Equipment Shoppe" isn't a reference to the "Garth's Equipment Shoppe" that you visit often during the original Bard's Tale.

3 - Orrick the Grey

You'll definitely want to make a trip to Orrick's tower periodically, as he stocks some very rare scrolls and unique magic items (such as Pemby's Wand of Many Missiles and the Shimmering Sash). You can also agree to track down a book on Mythals for him. The book you'll need to locate is called "Mythal Theory", and the only copy available in the game happens to be in the library on the third floor of Labelas Tower in the Severed Hand. When you return to Orrick with the book, you'll receive 24,000 experience points and a random magic item (such as the Girdle of Labelas or Mithran's Cloak).

4 - Evening Shade Inn

The Evening Shade Inn lies nestled within the great tree here. If you've spoken to Amelia in the Root Cellar Tavern, then you'll already know about the disappearance of Eidan and that the current innkeeper, Aldwin, conveniently showed up with a claim on the fine establishment.

There's a secret to be uncovered here. Head to the second floor and pick the lock on the nightstand in the third room. Inside, you'll discover Eidan's Legacy Ring which has the proprietor's real claim to the inn inscribed inside of it. Bring the ring down and confront Aldwin about how he obtained the inn and he'll admit to the fraud. You can even make him confess to the town elders. The whole encounter is worth 3225 experience points, if handled properly.

5 - Conlan's Smithy

Conlan is the local blacksmith, where you'll find yourself doing quite a bit of buying and selling over the course of the game. He has a nice selection of items, including some unique equipment like the Helm of the Trusted Defender, Trollslayer, Daisy, and Pig's Eye, to name a few.

When you first strike up a conversation with Conlan, you'll learn that his son was snatched out of his bed in the middle of the night. If you agree to find his son, you'll eventually run across him on the second level of Dragon's Eye. After Sheemish has been rescued, you can return to Conlan to make sure the boy made it back safely. You won't receive any further experience, but Conlan will be extremely grateful. After chatting with Conlan, talk with Sheemish in the back of the smithy to receive a key to the nearby chest. Pop open the locked container to find some gold and Conlan's Hammer. Not bad.

6 - Oswald's Skyship

If you're looking for potions, elixirs, or oils, this is where you'll want to head. Oswald Fiddlebender sells a variety of potions, including some of the rarer ones. A good place to stock up on healing potions.

7 - Mirek

On your first visit to Kuldahar, you'll witness a man by the name of Mirek running from a pair of Tundra Yeti here. Dispatch the yeti and then talk with him to learn that his brother Silas was killed by "the largest yeti he's ever seen" and a family heirloom that his brother was wearing has been lost to the monsters. Offer to butcher the yeti for him and he'll promise to reward you for your troubles.

Once you've obtained the heirloom from the Yeti Chieftain in the Vale of Shadows, you can return to Mirek for 2400 experience points and a Sling +1.

8 - Hjollder and the Heart of Winter

If you have Heart of Winter installed, you'll be able to enter this building. Otherwise, it will be locked and inaccessible. Inside, you'll talk with a barbarian named Hjollder, who will tell you about an ongoing plight in Lonelywood. If you offer to help, he'll Wind Walk your party to Lonelywood to begin the expansion pack's campaign.

Once you've completed the expansion, or if you initially decline Hjollder's offer to bring you to Lonelywood, you can search this building for 20 gold, 20 Bullets, and a Sling +1.

9 - Root Cellar Tavern

There are two barmaids in this tavern that play a role in the game. The first is Lysan, who won't have a whole lot to say when you first stop by the tavern. It won't be long, however, that you'll meet up with her again in the Vale of Shadows. Your next meeting won't be on friendly terms, either, and you'll be forced to put an end to her evil scheming. When you've dealt with her, you can speak with the Root Cellar barkeep, Whitcomb, and let him know what transpired. He'll mention that he has some of her belongings that should get buried with her, but you're able to convince him to give them to you in order to search for "clues." Included in the stash are a scroll of Cure Critical Wounds, a scroll of Cure Serious Wounds, a scroll of Protection From Fire, and the Mantle of the Coming Storm.

The other barmaid you'll want to speak with is Amelia. She'll give you a brief overview of the problems plaguing Kuldahar and eventually mention that Eidan, who recently ran the Evening Shade Inn, has seemingly disappeared. The inn's current proprietor, Aldwin, showed up waving a claim on the inn and took over ownership practically overnight. This should prompt you to stop by the Evening Shade Inn and do a little investigating.