Part 14: Level One: Castle Perilous, The ApproachLevel One: Castle Perilous, The Approach
The artist's rendition is, interestingly enough, wildly inaccurate to every description of the place, but it sure sets the mood.
And here we are. I vaguely recall our original mission was just to bring a message to a wizard, but it's somehow morphed into infiltrating a castle whose name literally means danger in order to free a vanquished king from his enemies using a magical sword we don't technically possess yet and only sort of know how to acquire.
At last, the Castle Perilous! Where Good King Carlon is imprisoned by the forces of darkness. Long have you searched... You realize that it is a forbidding castle indeed. Its ramparts are tall; cloaked figures patrol the battlements; sheer walls rise from seaward cliffs. How can you hope to enter this seat of evil?
Sadly, "don't" is not an option. If we hope to reach the second level of the MadMaze, we've gotta get in here. But how?
Hmmmm. I don't suppose the answer would be as deceptive and simple as just walking in, now would it?
Boldly, you stride to the castle entrance. You pound on the massive wooden doors. "Ho, lackeys!" you cry. "Your hour of doom is at hand! I come to free King Carlon!"
A wooden shutter opens. A bearded face peers out at you. "He's kidding, right?" says a muffled voice. Another lackey peers at you, then shrugs and says, "Take him." The door opens, and a dozen lackeys thunder forth. They beat you to the ground.
Laughing roughly, the soldiers beat you until they tire of the sport. You are carried down three flights of stairs and flung into a cage. Fleas hop about the matted straw that covers the filthy floor. A wall-eyed guard peers into the cell. "When do I eat?" you ask. "Never," the jailor cackles. "You get et at dawn." Maybe, and maybe not. Perhaps you know a spell that can transport you from this place.
If captured in the castle (as opposed to outright killed), we're jailed and given the opportunity to use the Cipher. The only place we can actually go at the moment is back to the Inn of the Dragon Gules, and that's a long way off and it sure would be easier to just reload and try again. However, it'd take a long time to get back to the main menu and load our save. Fortunately, we don't have to, due to a neat bug/feature in Prodigy's system!
The way it works is that the maze "engine" is the primary window that Prodigy loads, and then each maze segment launches a Place of Power as basically a secondary window. The PoP can then tell the maze segment to send you to a new maze if you accomplish something in there, but there was also a little trick you could pull: Pressing the "Menu" button (roughly equivalent to a browser's Back button) would kick you out of the PoP and back to the maze segment you were in before entering. In most cases, that means you were one move away from reentering the PoP, letting you try it over and over again without needing to save as long as you never actually got to the "Your quest has ended" screen.
This feature is faithfully recreated in MadMaze-II and can be accessed by hitting the "M" key.
Anyway, the direct approach didn't work all that well. We have some clues and hints about what to do once we get inside the Castle Perilous, but actually getting inside seems to be the problem du jour. Before turning it over to the crowd, let's try the other obvious one and just look for a secret entrance... somewhere.
Knowing well that every villain has a bolthole, you search the countryside about the Castle Perilous for a secret exit. Fate is with you this day, for you find one -- a door set in a mound, with a passage leading off toward the castle. Furtively, you tiptoe down the passage. Then, in the distance, you see a flickering light. As you near, you see two soldiers standing guard over a door.
Cool. Let's just ambush them and then-
You scream and leap for a guard, burying your dagger in his throat. You turn to the other... who bashes you in the head with the flat of his blade. You fall to the ground, vision blurred, with a sword at your throat.
"Ho, villain," says the soldier. "To move is to die." Then he shouts for aid. Shortly, there are a dozen soldiers in the passage.
And suchandsuch with jail and all that. So! Our options are narrowed a bit, but we still haven't found a reliable entrance to the castle that doesn't reliably get us straight into the dungeons. We're gonna need a strategy, and who knows? Maybe there's more than one way in here. The really stupid options apparently aren't it this time, though.