Part 20: Level Two: Meeting The LocalsLevel Two: Meeting The Locals
Onward, to a new maze! Brown walls and daytime, nothing too special. This one's only got two PoPs, despite being much bigger than earlier mazes; it's actually a little tricky to find the second one, in fact. Mapping to avoid blundering into dead ends we've already found becomes a lot more important here. Since the PoPs are both mandatory, we'll just have to handle them in order.
You come across a merchant caravan wending its way across the wilderness. The leader of the caravan greets you and invites you into his tent for a repast. Awed, you gape at the wealth he displays: gold, copper, fine silks. It is far beyond anything you've seen in your native village.
We could simply chat and pass the time, but it's best if we try to get all the information we can. What does he know about the desert ahead?
"Ah," says the merchant, puffing serenely on his hookah, "the desert is vast. How I envy you, to ride through the clean sands under bright stars! But I fear your armor may prove of dubious value in the hot desert sun, and that your horse is not the most appropriate of creatures to traverse the endless dunes."
Probably true, but not much we can do about it for now. Let's tell him of our quest!
Hmmm. We have to be very careful about this. Our actual quest is relatively neutral: We're just running a message to Moraziel. No reason to claim it's anything more than that, so we'll lie about what the whole thwarting-the-Mad-One part.
"But no matter. Of immediate importance are the Bedu nomads, who live nearby. To traverse their domain, you must answer a riddle. They are simple folk and, alas, have asked the same riddle since time immemorial." He winks slyly. "I can provide a hint to its solution. I ask of you but this: if we meet again, that I may call upon you to do me a service."
I dunno. What kind of service?
The merchant shrugs. "How am I to know?" he says. "Whatever service I need of you then. I ask this deal of you because I am certain of your honesty and trust you to fulfill your bargain should I need to call upon your aid. You must trust me not to ask of you a task beyond your abilities."
I suppose that's fair enough, and we can never have too many hints.
"Excellent," says the merchant. "Have some more baklava. I may not tell you the riddle's answer, but here is a clue: Eliminate first the hunters who cannot change weapons."
"What?" you say.
"All will become clear when the riddle is asked," says the merchant. "Perhaps a soothing yoghurt to complete the meal?"
Sure, why not?
You find the yoghurt too sweet for your taste, and yearn for the tart wine of Weith. But, as the merchant tells you, the fruit of the vine is forbidden to the followers of the Mad One.
And we're on our way into the desert.
See? Didn't I tell you about the desert?
It seems that the Sage Tsorell is correct. Soon, you find yourself in a vast desert; to the horizon you see nothing but waves of dunes. You wonder how this vastness can be contained within the MadMaze.
That is an excellent question. It seems the mazes recede in places that are already confusing or difficult to traverse, as though the Mad One considers them maze enough already for his tastes. Rather inconvenient for us though. If only we had a guide!
The Bedu are of course an analogue to the Bedouin, for whatever that's worth. The man is a warrior, but his weapons aren't drawn, so let's just greet him.
"Well met," you say, and offer your name in turn.
"I see you are a Frankish knight," says Makound, "doubtless lost in this great expanse. It is said that Franks are witless and impious; I would test the former accusation. Come, answer me a riddle, and I shall lead you from this waste."
The merchant did tell us this would happen, and offered us a hint as to the riddle that Makound is going to ask, so we may as well give it a shot. He certainly knows the place better than we do.
"Here is my conundrum," says Makound: "Three warriors of the Atarri, named Al-Gabri, Baudoin, and Califah, hunt frequently together. The only weapons they use to hunt are the lance and the bow. Each uses only one weapon during a particular hunt. But each also has peculiar preferences, as I shall relate."
The game offers us the opportunity for a hint that more or less makes it easy to solve this one, but I'm not going to make that option available because it's completely unnecessary here. All the necessary info is contained within the question; the merchant's hint is helpful, but not needed.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
Suppose we got tired of the merchant's shit and threatened to kill him if he didn't tell us the answer to the riddle?
How handy, if we trust him. Now what if we actually did kill him?
You slaughter the merchant among his own silks. Leaderless, the guards and drovers of the caravan run about in panic as you make off with piles of loot. Thrilled with victory, you gallop across the desert. Your horse pants heavily. You begin to realize that, laden down with this much treasure, your horse cannot possibly survive in this desert land -- and you cannot possibly carry all this stuff and your arms and armor, too. Regretfully, you are forced to discard your ill-gotten gains.
That's right kids, crime doesn't pay!
Hey remember how we could tell the Merchant that we were enemies of the Mad One?
"Foul heresiac," shouts the merchant, "out of my tent!" He hurls his hookah at you.
We can then kill him or leave. Makound will offer the same question if we bring up our quest to him, with similar outcome should we declare that it is our intent to thwart the Mad One:
"Then die in the Mad One's name, Frankish infidel!" says Makound. You draw the Sword Valterre and charge. Quick as lightning, Makound draws his own scimitar and leaps forward to meet you. Your blades clash -- and his is severed halfway from the hilt.
"By the Mad One's beard," Makound exclaims. "That is a fell weapon you wield." You continue your fight. Soon, the Bedu's life blood is draining into the desert sands. You wander the desert for a time, but can find no exit from it, save the way you entered.
So unfortunately we do need Makound alive in order to proceed. Let's just make a mental note not to bring up the subject of the Mad One unless we absolutely must.