Part 23: Level Two: This Will End WellLevel Two: This Will End Well
Most said not to jump, but that means we fail, because to lack trust in the Guru Mattu after all this time displays a lack of ahahahah, no seriously, jumping would be incredibly stupid, we're not doing that.
You are no longer atop a mountain peak. In some confusion, you look about. You are on a grassy plain. Your horse is cropping grass nearby. It nickers its gladness to see you.
All that effort to get told something we already know? What kind of hint was that!?
Ah well, maybe we'll get something more useful at the exit to the current maze.
I'm not sure I like the look of this one, but the art's really good at evoking the idea.
There was once enough water here to support a modest agriculture. It is clear, however, that a marauding army was here not long ago. Huts are nothing but ashes and charred timbers. Wreckage and spoilage is everywhere. It is a vision of senseless brutality.
Yes, but it might have loot or clues in it, so let's ride in and check it out.
You prowl the ruins. There are corpses everywhere, but you come across one person, a young man, who is unconscious and wounded but breathing shallowly. You hold up his head and moisten his lips. A tongue comes out and licks them. You pour a little more water into his mouth. He begins to drink greedily, then, half-choking, comes awake.
You realize that you know this man. It is Horst, from your village: he was sent into the MadMaze more than a year ago, before Persephone.
Oh hey, fancy meeting him here.
We can ask him about numerous things, but unfortunately he's only going to be able to answer one of them. Most of what we can ask is nothing especially new. Let's go over the options though, since we can magically leave and return to bring him back to life repeatedly.
The MadMaze: He laughs painfully. "Still trying to find Moraziel?" he gasps, shaking his head wearily. "It's all... all..." He stops, the pain momentarily too much for him. Then, he clutches your arm tightly and glares at you with wild eyes. "Find... find Persephone!" he says urgently. "Tell her... the Mad One is..." He slumps. "So tired," he whispers.
Persephone: "Yes," he says, "She's ahead. Got past the palace." He grimaces in pain and stops for a moment, the agony too much for him. Then he continues. "Still on that fool quest of Wellan's. You too, I guess. Listen, find Seph. Tell her... tell her... the Mad One is..."
What Happened: "The khan's men did this," he gasps. "Butchers... I joined the Atarri." He cannot continue for a moment. "Sons of the Desert. They still fight the Tercelidae. But there were too many. We were cut down." He pants for a long moment, then clutches your arm and stares wildly into your eyes. "Remember! The dawn shall wash the sands in rr..."
The Palace: "Find... find Hassan!" he says urgently. "In the khan's palace... he's a Son... a Son of... the Des..." He slumps. "So tired," he whispers.
Regardless, he then dies in our arms. I'm gonna miss that guy we only just met.
After that somber moment, we pass to the next maze.
Looks like two mandatory stops, one right in front of us.
Oh hey, look who it is.
Once again, you come across a merchant, wandering the desert with his caravan of wares. He bids you enter a sumptuous tent to partake of coffee and sweets.
We could just pass by, but no reason to be rude.
Note that this is carefully written such that if we did not agree to perform a service for the merchant before, we're not technically being treated as if we did. Heck, we're not even technically to consider this the same merchant, should we have killed the other one. Regardless, let's agree to his task.
"Not far from here," says the merchant, "is a mighty mountain range. There lives a goshawk. It is no simple falcon, but a magical bird, the very symbol of the Tercelid dynasty of Chugotai Khan. It would fetch a pretty price at the court of Osmet. I desire to capture it."
"Why do you not?" you say.
"Ah, I do not know how. But nearby, the Crone Matilda lives. 'Tis said that she knows how the deed may be accomplished."
Matilda? Wait a second, she's...
"I know of her," you say. "But I thought she lived far away, in Carlon's domain."
The merchant shrugs. "She has a three-legged house, and moves it with the seasons. Just now, she is not far off."
"Why do you not treat with her yourself?" you ask.
The merchant pales. "I am but a simple businessman, not a great hero such as yourself. To deal with witches of great power... no, this is not a task for such as I. Is it agreed then?"
Sure, whatever. I'm sure Matilda will totally be cool with our asking.
Speaking of which, I have a funny feeling I know what the next PoP is going to be.
The door opens a crack, and a hideous crone looks forth. There is a prominent wart on her nose and her chin is covered with wayward hairs. "A knight in armor," she cackles. "Come in, come in; it's just time for supper."
I'm going to regret this, but we need her assistance again, so...
Jeez, we've got a lot to bring up. The goshawk is what we're here for, but let's ask some other things first.
The Goshawk: "The goshawk?" she says suspiciously. "What do you know of that?" "Err... ah... only that it is a magical bird," you say. "You bet your buns," says the crone thoughtfully. "The symbol of the Tercelid dynasty. What sympathetic magic I could wreak with that! Well. Maybe I won't eat you. Though I do love knight in the shell," she says regretfully.
The Palace: "Osmet?" she says. "Dreadful child." She sniffs and turns the coals. "Yes," you say, "but it is to his palace I am bound. Would you know of anything that might help..." "It hardly matters, dearie," she cackles. "You'll never see the place."
Our Quest: The crone peers at you. "Haven't we met before? Yes!" She shrieks with laughter. "You're the dumpling! Well, well, dearie. It seems one may have one's manflesh and eat it too!"
Her Tricks: She laughs uproariously. "Is that so, oh great and mighty knight? Is that so? And how do you propose to stop me?" You draw Valterre. "By the strength of mine arm and the purity of my quest!" you declare.
Matilda cackles. "Not so fast, dearie," she says. She shouts something that sounds like "Asdfghjkl!" and Valterre flies from your hand to clang against a hearthstone. She then shouts something that sounds like "Zxcvbnm!" and you levitate from the bench. Flailing helplessly, you float across the hut to a massive spit over the coals. Glowing green coils lash you to the spit. It begins to turn, and you with it. You're facing the coals; now you aren't; now you're facing them again. It is becoming uncomfortably warm.
"You harridan!" you shout. "You cannibal! Release me instantly, or..." "Or what?" she cackles. She's right. What can you do?
Well, we can plead for our lives, which just leads us to the same point as asking her about the goshawk to begin with.
"My lady, I beg of you... is there nothing I may do that would induce you to refrain from making me your next repast?"
"So it's my lady now, is it?" asks the crone nastily. "Well now, I just may have a use for a hero." She says something that sounds like "Qwertyuiop!" and the green coils fall away. You float back to the bench, where you sit, sweating and listening avidly to the crone. "There's this bird, see. A goshawk. Flies around in the mountains. I'd like it."
Bargaining with Matilda isn't wise, and doesn't work, unsurprisingly.
"What do you take me for?" howls the crone. "Some money-grubbing merchant? Take it or leave it, dearie. I suggest you take it, unless you want to become part of my larder."
I suppose we're taking it then!
"Good," says the crone, rubbing her gnarled hands together in glee. She hands you a cage made of small tree branches woven together. "This will hold the silly bird. Now, you must climb the highest peak of the mountains found in the maze to our north. When you reach the top, you must sing 'Does My Maggie Cry.' The goshawk is a sucker for love songs."
Oh, right. I don't know that song.
"Don't you know?" says the crone crossly. "This younger generation. Why, when I was a lass, every bard in the land... oh, never mind." In a high, thin soprano, she croons the words and teaches you the song. "That's quite enough. Now begone, or I'll find use for my charcoal!"
Well, the good news is we've managed to tangle with Matilda a second time and come out of it alive. The bad news is we might have just agreed to recover the goshawk for two different people, both of whom will be expecting us once we return from the mountains, and one of whom is a cannibal witch.
This might have been a bad thing to get mixed up in, is what I'm saying.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
Of course, we could have jumped:
Bravely, you leap far out into the air. You fall. You fall. You fall. You catch a glimpse of the guru. He seems to be waving goodbye. You hit something. You die.
Moving on to the merchant, we could try killing him again, but it won't work out quite so well for us:
You draw your sword and slay the merchant. The guards and drovers of his caravan are aghast at this foul act. Swiftly, they draw their own weapons and beset you. You slay several of them. As you do so, the drovers whip the camels into a frenzy. The caravan disappears into the desert. The bodies of the guards lie all about you.
Should the caravan then be pursued...
We can also do something a little less violent with the merchant: Hold out and negotiate with him for a better reward.
Asking for even more...
You settle on six talents and a large sapphire the merchant shows you. "Ah, bitter it is that I should be robbed in such fashion, and by an infidel at that. But is it agreed?"
At Matilda, it takes quite a lot of effort to die, either by trying to kill her after talking about the goshawk (if you try before, you can still get out of it with that), or by rejecting her offer of heroism:
Note that selecting to die just unceremoniously kicks you out of the game to the death screen, which is honestly funnier than having any text for it.