Part 19: Level Two: The Ghosts of Al-MugabiLevel Two: The Ghosts of Al-Mugabi
Yesterday we bumped into this handsome fellow. The sage Tsorell seemed to think it knows something about the ghosts in the nearby ruins, so most people agreed we should greet it and see how it fares on that front.
"Greetings, great beast," you say. The lyon couches lower. Then, it speaks in a deep, grating voice. "Marry," it says, "'tis a most puissant Frankish lord. Come, put off thy armor, that I may embrace thee and feast thee, as befits a humble host to a noble guest."
I think we're going to have to politely decline that offer.
"I thank you for your kindness, good beast, but I fear I may not stay to take advantage of your gracious hospitality. I am told, good creature, that there are ruins here about. Mayhap you can tell me of them?"
"Yes," says the lyon. "The ruins of Al-Mugabi. I know much of them. But before I tell you of them, you must perform a service for me."
"Certes, Sir Lyon," you say. "It is only meet that I should do you a service in return for your aid. How may I assist you?" The lyon displays its paw. A large thorn protrudes from it. "You may aid me thus," it growls. "Simply remove this accursed vegetative spear from my pad, and I shall help you as best I may." It grins, displaying fangs.
That's a fair request, but I don't trust this thing. It'll probably just wander off after we help it. So no deal until we get the information we want first.
The lyon growls and grumbles. "'Tis most unknightly to haggle thus over terms and conditions, but I shall tell you. The city of Al-Mugabi was destroyed by the Tercelidae. Its ghosts remain to wreak vengeance on their conquerors. Only those who vow vengeance may pass. I shall tell you what you must say to dispel the ghosts if you withdraw this thorn from my paw."
No no no, buddy. The password first.
The lyon does a dance of frustration. "Very well!" it roars. "You must say 'The dawn shall wash the sands in red,' and the ghosts will know you seek revenge against the Tercelidae. Now fulfill your part of the bargain!"
Alright already. Let's yank that sucker out.
"Ah," says the lyon. "At last." It studies you for a moment, then licks its fangs and stretches. "I'd eat you, but I had a gazelle recently. And besides, knights are like lobsters: removing them from their shells is tedious work." With a bound, it disappears into the wilderness.
There's actually a bug here and getting to this point results in death even though it shouldn't. I've just gone with the clearly correct response should you still be armed and armored when the lyon has the thorn removed (see below for the other outcomes). Regardless, we got what we came for, and I'm fairly sure we can trust his word given that we held out on him until we had everything we wanted. On to Al-Mugabi!
...Or what's left of it, anyway. And yes we've seen this art before. There will be recycling, but not as badly as it might appear from these first few PoPs.
Truly there was a great city here once; now, there is nought but ruins. As you ride through the rubble, taking care that your mount finds safe footing, eerie noises rise about you. The light dims, and strange forms flit through the air. The ghosts move about you. They are dressed strangely; in turbans, headdresses, and flowing robes. Some bear hideous wounds. They seem to beseech you; some fall to their knees and plead, others hold out possessions or their children. You ride onward. Soon, you find yourself back in the square you first entered. Whatever direction you ride, whatever turns you take, you always return to your starting place.
Seems we have no choice but to speak to the ghosts.
"Speak, shades of the city!" you shout. "Why do you wander restless from your graves?" One ghost moves toward you. His mouth moves and you hear a sepulchral voice. "We have no graves. All of us, every one, was slaughtered by Chugotai Khan. Our bones lie scattered across the face of Al-Mugabi. None save those who fight the Tercelidae may pass this place!"
Incidentally, I'm pretty sure Tercelidae has a hard C, so it's pronounced like "turk," which is the obvious analogue for that group. The Atarri, of course, are Arabs. Regardless, we too fight the Tercelidae!
Some good options here, but the lyon told us it's the dawn shall wash the sands in red.
Suddenly, there are no shades about you. It is the late afternoon; the darkness has vanished in an instant. About you lie the ruins of a city; a melancholy vista, but one seemingly void of any trace of the supernatural. You come to the city gate, or what remains of it. The Sage Tsorell awaits you, seated on a boulder. He rises and dusts off his pants. "Good. And now to fulfill my part of the bargain."
"The land you now enter was, of ancient times, ruled by the Atarri nomads. It was long ago incorporated into the Maze, and hence the Mad One has had time to wreak his evil will upon them. There is none among the Atarri who does not worship the Mad One. Yet the Mad One saw fit to visit conquerors on his people; some generations ago, the Atarri were conquered by a barbaric race, the Tercelidae by name. They were led by Chugotai, the Great Khan; his descendant, Osmet Khan, rules yet in a great palace.
"But in truth, it is his Vizier Aboud who governs the land; he is an evil wizard of mighty power. He wields the Talisman of Chugotai, which greatly increases his magical prowess. It is said that only the wielder of the Talisman may penetrate further, into the third and most perilous realm of the MadMaze. If you wish to visit the very courts of the Mad One himself, you must obtain it.
"The lands betwixt here and the palace of Osmet Khan are sere and dry; much of it is desert. Prepare yourself accordingly. And that, I fear, is all the aid I may give you. I have work to do. Good bye." And however much you pester the old man, he will say no more.
There's our sagely info dump for the level, and it's quite a lot to take in. It seems we are heading into a place where the Mad One is worshipped, but where those who worship him are not necessarily our enemies. We will assuredly have to come into conflict with Aboud, if not Osmet Khan himself, and in that task we may find aid among the Atarri if we know of their quest for vengeance against their conquerors. Still, I suspect we'll need to be careful going forward. At least we've finally gotten through a maze on the second level... though there's many, many more to come.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
Unsurprisingly, agreeing to take off our armor is not wise.
"Thou dost me great honor, noble lord," says the lyon, grinning widely. "Now put aside thy sword and take thy ease on this boulder, whilst I fetch our repast." You put your sword aside with your armor. "And now," says the lyon, "may I ask you a boon? This thorn protrudes from my paw, vexing me sorely. Would you be so chivalrous as to remove it?"
This is stupid, but let's see it through.
You dismount and draw the thorn from the lyon's paw. "Thank you, fool! And now, 'tis time to break my fast!" The creature leaps upon you, rending you with tooth and claw. Dismally, you reflect that death comes all too often to those who trust to lyon words.
Oh come on. Let's never speak of that sentence again.
Suppose we tried to threaten the lyon to give us information?
"Know, creature, that I am a belted knight. I can make short work of any beast of the earth or creature of the air. Tell me what I wish to know, or it shall be the worse for you." You draw the Sword Valterre and brandish it, to back up your words. Suddenly, the lyon has disappeared. You study the countryside, but you cannot see him; a belted knight you may be, but a tracker you are not.
Unsurprising. Now for something a bit more surprising: An actual, honest-to-goodness alternate solution that might be better than the one we actually used. I believe only ultrafilter suggested this: We'll sing!
The lyon crouches lower and stares at you. You continue to croon. "A madman," it says at last, and sighs. "And as the Kadith of Ibd'Aban would have it, the insane are sacred to the Mad One. Come, o lunatic, and I shall share with you my most recent kill."
...Uh, okay. Let's follow it.
Might as well take that thorn out, while we're chilling at a gazelle corpse with a lyon.
"Ah!" says the lyon. "Thank you, o crazy Frank."
Now maybe it can tell us of the ruins?
"Ah yes," says the lyon sadly, staring off into the wilderness. "The city of Al-Mugabi. They are mad, as mad as you; they were slain by the Tercelidae, slain by the thousands. They live on in death, spirits thirsting for vengeance. They will only let those who vow defeat to the Tercelidae to pass." "What must one say?" you ask. "'The dawn shall wash the sands in red,'" says the lyon. And the creature disappears.
Now that's a much more efficient solution, plus we got a free haunch of gazelle!
Not many alternate solutions in Al-Mugabi itself. The only noteworthy thing is if we answer wrong to their question, we'll get kicked back to the maze with a newish feature:
This is a pop-up, which wasn't used much during the first level and won't see a ton of use on this one, but does become more prominent on the third. In this instance it's no different than a new window, but in others it will be used to offer information without leaving the current selection screen. Just showing off what it looks like for now.
Oh, and we can faint at the lyon:
Or flee from it!