Part 17: Level One: Castle Perilous, King CarlonLevel One: Castle Perilous, King Carlon
The woodsman told us that striking the hind of such a monster is the most effective way to kill it, and the posterior sting is the hindmost option we're given here. Will our strike suffice?
Success! It seems to not have liked having its tail cut off. I suppose if I were a horrible monster I wouldn't either, but we're also pretty lucky it died so fast. So where's the thing it was guarding?
Beyond the body of the monster, a passageway leads from the pit. Down it, you see an eerie verdant glow. You move down the passageway. It opens into a huge chamber. On a dais in its center, a figure of kingly mien lies supine, a cube of green imprisoning him. His eyes are open, his face frozen in torment. Scattered around the chamber is an army, men gathering arms, men donning armor, men readying for war. All, too, are frozen, and all encased in cubes of green.
Interesting. Perhaps Timozel's victory over Carlon wasn't exactly through superior force of arms. It sounds more like his dark wizards imprisoned Carlon's army, captured the king, and then imprisoned him with his men as a form of torture.
Timozel probably should've thrown Valterre in the ocean. Or just killed Carlon. He was really asking for this to happen, when you get right down to it.
"Well met, good knight," quoth Carlon. "Nay sire," you respond. "I am no knight, but a common villager." "Give me your sword," Carlon says. Hesitantly, you hand it to him. "Kneel, peasant!" he cries.
He takes the blade and strikes you with its flat on each shoulder in turn. "I call you knight, and knight you be; if not by birth, then by this act I make you so."
Our hero's journey has finally reached its not-entirely-shit stage!
We can try to be humble, but Carlon isn't buying it:
"I cannot... I mean to say... I am unworthy."
"What?" cries Carlon. "My ears betray me. Is this the hero who dared the Maze of He Whose Name Is Not Spoken? Who laid low the Knight of Sable? Who braved the Castle Perilous?" Have you indeed done all these things? Yes, it seems you have; yet the doing seems less heroic than the telling.
Note that I have no idea how Carlon knows about us beating Gonzaga.
"This is a kingly blade..." you begin.
"No," says the King. "It was not forged for kings, but for heroic things. My place is here, to heal the wounds of the land; yours is onward, to fulfill your great quest. All I may do here is threatened as long as the land is ruled by the Mad One. It is meet that I surrender Valterre unto you; for you have need of it, and the whole world has need of you. Come now, we must rid my castle of the vermin that infest it." And within a space of hours, you do.
Yes, the game really is that abrupt about it. Apparently with his army intact, Carlon can easily whip Timozel's ass, further suggesting that Timozel only won by foul play.
With this, we've cleared the first level of the MadMaze! Congratulations are in order. I think we've earned ourselves a break.
By which I mean our character deserves a break. We shall soldier on with the next part of the story.
The months pass, and one morning, a page brings you word that King Carlon will receive you in the courtyard of the castle. With him is a sable stallion, spirited and well-trained. Carlon strokes his neck and says, "You will need a mount. And Veillantif is as good as any in the kingdom. And you will need these also." He motions to squires, and they bring forth a chainmail byrny, greaves, a traveler's cloak, and a handsome saddle.
Hang on a second, we know that horse! He was with us in the tourney! I guess he was real, then, and Tostien simply brought him to us with his magic? Either way, it seems we're acquaintances, which bodes well for our ability to get along.
"My lord," you say. "It is too much."
"Nay, 'tis too little, for 'tis inadequate to ensure your success in the second realm of the MadMaze. Whether you conquer it or no is not in my hands; all I may do is equip you as best I can. Here." He hands you a purse, heavy with gold and silver. There are gems too, and a handsome golden armband. This is wealth untold to you; even Wellan cannot command such riches.
"My lord..." you protest.
"Baubles," says the King. "Now, hearken. Each realm of the MadMaze, 'tis said, is more difficult than the last. The second level is a sere place, desert and dry; we shall load down your horse with as much water as we can."
"What do you know of those who live in the second level?" you ask.
"Of those who people it, I know little, save that traders who call themselves Atarri visited my realm last week. The traders tell me that the mazes there grow larger, and are less regular. Those who have braved it say that mapping is no luxury, but a necessity of survival. I urge you to take assiduous care in your sketches. Alas, the second realm has been within the MadMaze's skewed walls for longer than my own realm; the Mad One has had longer to wreak his will upon its dwellers. You must be wary of them. But this may urge you onward in your quest: 'tis said that the names of all who succeed in passing through the second realm are inscribed in a heavenly volume, a Scroll of Heroes."
Carlon pauses and reflects. "Would that I could go with you! What a grand quest 'twould be!" He shakes his head. "But no, I am needed here to mend the wounds of the land and my people."
Yeah, I'm sure that's why. I'm sure it has nothing to do with how much worse the second level and beyond are than the first.
He slaps Veillantif's side. "Now go, stalwart warrior; go, and the Lady's grace be with you." Feeling like the parfit genteel knight, you spur your mount and wend your way from Carlon's domain toward the perils that lie ahead.
Remember this? This screen greeted us as we departed our village into the first level. Sure enough, we'll be going directly into the second from here.
But before we begin, there are a few things I want to point out. Our trek through the second level will be a bit different from our first for a number of reasons.
- Killing things is now an option. Where before we were a shitty peasant with a dagger, we're now a decently well-armored knight with an intelligent magical sword. "Kill Him/Her/It" is no longer a joke option and may even be a puzzle solution. Just remember that some things are monstrous enough to still harm us (indeed, we can die more from here on out than we ever could), and that killing things is not always the best option.
- We have Valterre, armor, and a horse, and since the game has no memory we can safely assume we're meant to keep them unless forced to leave them behind. So it's probably a bad idea to try to sell Veillantif or something.
- We're rich! We now have money, which the game considers effectively inexhaustible, so we can pay for things, bribe people, and so forth. Where before we couldn't buy a sword from the blacksmith, going forward it might well be in our interests to buy stuff. Remember again, the game doesn't remember, so it's not tracking our purchases and we won't go broke.
- We are a strange foreigner in the lands to come, and the locals will know it. Be careful about who to trust, but don't assume everyone's out to get you. Not all trapped in the deeper layers of the MadMaze are servants of the Mad One.
- The first level was way, way easier than what we're about to get into. I joked that this was the end of the tutorial, but it's true. The PoPs from here on out become much more complex, solutions more nuanced, and logic puzzles more logically puzzling. This also means that alternate solutions may present themselves, and that offered clues will not necessarily always be immediately applicable to the next PoP. We might well encounter a clue that has no use until the very end of the level, in fact, so mind any hint that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere as it's likely to come up again.
- Mazes are larger in the second level. Until now they've been 5x5; in the second, they're 7x7, offering almost twice as many maze tiles to bumble through per maze. On top of that, the entire level has more than twice as many mazes as the first. It's possible to get through the previous level without mapping, but I would not recommend doing the same with the one to come. Finally, the second level has a little trick up its sleeve; more on that when we come to it.
- This game was made in the early 90s and we might encounter some weird political stuff in its fictional portrayal of Arabian mythology. The situation is a bit more complex in this setting than it might initially appear, but there are clearly some real-world analogues as we will see very soon. I don't recall particularly egregious stuff but be aware of it and as respectful as one can be.
Onward (eventually; this update is finished), to level two! Oh, and I hope you brushed up on your voyages of Sinbad, for no particular reason.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
Should we strike Ogrok anywhere but where we were supposed to, we'll be greeted with the following: