Part 25: Level Two: Temple Of The Mad OneLevel Two: Temple Of The Mad One
We chose to come here, and after a great many mazes here we are! That PoP in the middle-center is the Twisted Temple; don't worry about the other one for now. Still, it's a bit strange that this map is 7x8 instead of the usual 7x7, isn't it? Wonder why...
In the desert lies a temple, a temple of strange and twisted form. Atarri and Tercelidae alike come here from leagues around; a constant flow of worshippers passes through the ornate doors. The exterior of the temple is covered with bizarre carvings of monkeys, buffalo, elephants, and humans. Something about the carvings gives you a headache if you stare at them too long; you have the uneasy feeling that they are malevolently alive.
At this point we may enter the temple boldly, enter it in disguise, or question a worshipper. Let's question someone first, before we make any rash decisions.
You greet one of the Atarri pilgrims. "I would you speak to me of this temple, good sir," you say.
"Ah, you are curious, to be sure. Go, and see for yourself," says the nomad.
"I... regret to say that, though I would forbid no man the manner of his worship, neither am I an adherent of the Mad One."
"It is of no account," says the Atarri. "Infidels are permitted entry to the Twisted Temple."
So it looks like that disguise won't be necessary. Let's get one anyway.
Perfect. Even more perfect: Whether we are disguised never comes up even one time in this PoP.
Hmmm. Well, when in Rome, or the second level, as it were. May as well make a showing to whatever the hell this idol is.
You fall on your belly before the idol. Its eyes glow briefly green. The tongue unfurls and touches your forehead. You feel very strange, then the sensation is gone. The light has vanished from the idol's eyes.
See? Nothing to it. Let's see what that message says now.
There are messages in many languages. The one in your native tongue says: Welcome to the Twisted Temple. Prayer is in progress; visitors are asked to be silent. Donations are welcomed. Thank you, signed, Ayatollah Useau. Below the message board is a box with a hole in it.
I do love supporting worthy causes, so...
Now then, we should probably actually do something in here to further our quest to thwart the Mad One. But, you know, quiet-like. Looks like there's two hallways, so let's start by going east.
You are in a corridor leading from the foyer to the main temple chamber. An open doorway off the corridor leads into a large room.
Let's check the main chamber first, see what's going on in there. Probably just some prayer and contemplation or somesuch.
Some kind of ceremony, huh? Let's get a closer look.
Worshippers bow before the altar. A priest of the Mad One lifts a knife above his head... A human is bound to the altar. Clearly a human sacrifice is in progress.
We could intervene or leave, but for the moment let's just watch.
The priest plunges his knife into the breast of the person bound to the altar... It's quite ghastly. Dazed, you wander away, realizing just how nasty the Mad One really is.
Perhaps we should investigate the side rooms. The first one looks relatively benign:
This large chamber is filled with glass cases and tables bearing strange artifacts. All are labelled; gold, jewels, and silk are everywhere, encrusting every object. Atarri and Tercelid worshippers move from place to place, bowing to the objects and murmuring prayers. You examine an item. It is a human thighbone, set with jewels and gold leaf. You realize that these are religious relics, commemorating the lives of saints holy to the Mad One.
Could be worse I guess. What's in the other room?
This is a large chamber. There are several dozen people here; many act very strange. They caper, gibber, sit in a corner and drool; slowly, you realize that they are all quite mad. White-clad Atarri move among the madmen, cleaning them, feeding them, speaking to them softly.
"What is this place?" you ask one of the Atarri.
"We care for the mad here," he replies. "They are holy to the Mad One."
"That is good of you."
He nods. "We serve the mad ones, until it is time for them to serve the Mad One."
"How do they do this?" you wonder.
"By giving their lives on the Mad One's altar," he says.
...How about we step out of the main chamber and into that room across the hall, just to clear our heads a bit?
The colors... the colors... the colors... You feel yourself being mesmerized... You look up at the stained glass. Instantly, you feel fierce panic strike through you like a bolt of steel. The things this glass depicts -- monstrous forms, things the mind cannot hold; shifting, shifting, as if made of more dimensions than the eye can see... Your equilibrium shatters, and you feel your mind disintegrating...
You know what? I think my head's not going to get a whole lot clearer in here. Probably not a good idea to study anything. Let's return to the foyer and try the west hallway instead.
Whatever that sign says, it can't be any worse than that stained glass room.
I was wrong.
Disgusted by the notion of human sacrifice, you whip out the Sword Valterre and kill the shopkeeper as the sacriligeous panderer that he is. No one else is in the shop, so you are safe for the nonce. Hurriedly, you wipe your sword on the shopkeeper's robe.
Now go, poor creatures! You are free!
Well that all got us nowhere. I feel like we're going in circles, and none of the circles are at all pleasant to the eye or mind. Wait though, wasn't there a stairway leading down from the main chamber? Let's head back in (staying well clear of the altar this time) and go down there.
The stairway leads down to a small chamber. The walls are covered with holy symbols, holy to the Mad One and the other gods as well. Against the far wall is an ornate door, covered with gold inscriptions and embossings. Before it stands a djinn, scimitar at the ready.
"What is this place?" you ask.
"Within lies the secret of the Dreaded Al-Gibra," says the djinn. "None may pass but who speak the words to command me." You open your mouth, but... "Beware, for I am charged to slay all those who attempt entry in ignorance of the proper words."
Wait a second. What words? We don't know any words. We explored this PoP quite thoroughly -- and every other PoP so far, at that -- and didn't learn any words except the dawn shall wash the sands in red, which is prrrrrobably not the phrase that commands the djinn here in the depths of a temple to the Mad One. Back upstairs, and we'll do the only thing we can do now...
...We'll leave, and I guess head north to that next PoP. I'm out of ideas at this point.
Inside the yurt, the air is close. An open fire lies at its center; the wood is aromatic, and smells strangely. The shaman leans over it, breathing deep of the smoke. He seems almost in a trance, then: "Wayfarer. Is your spirit troubled?"
I suppose you could say that, yes.
He stands and takes a pouch from his belt. He bows in each of the four cardinal directions, chanting, tossing sand from the pouch on the ground each time he bows. "You seek the Talisman of Chugotai," he says in a singsong voice, "to defeat the Mad One."
"Yes. How do you..."
"I will help you," he says. "Know that the Talisman of Chugotai, the shamanistic ward of power that the Conqueror used to seize these lands, is held far beneath the palace of Osmet Khan, that renegade! He has spurned the ancestor spirits for worship of He Whose Name Is Not Spoken. To succeed in your quest, you must obtain the Talisman, for only with it in hand can you hope to brave the perils of the Third Level."
So we were told, yes. But that's all we know about it.
"It is guarded by three tests. The final test is a fiendish one, devised by the evil Vizier Aboud; it is known as the Dreaded Al-Gibra. I do not know how to pass it; but a clue to its solution is held within the twisted temple. The clue is guarded by a djinn; to pass the djinn, one must recite a verse."
I'm well aware. I was just there, and-
"And I know this verse."
I suppose we shouldn't turn down an offered pipe, although we'll probably feel this one in the morning.
You puff deeply. You feel very strange. Colors flit about your head. You squint and concentrate. "How do I get there?"
The shaman shrugs and takes a puff from the pipe. "If I knew, I would go there myself."
"Once I obtain the water, I return to you with it?"
The shaman smiles. You notice that the smoke inside the yurt seems far thicker than it was before. The yurt begins to sway strangely in your vision. The smoke is affecting you somehow, making it very difficult to concentrate. You hear the shaman's voice as the whole world begins to dissolve into shards of colored light: "If you obtain the water of Flame, chant 'A Fimbator Baragon,' and you shall be transported to my yurt."
I think I may need a few minutes to figure out what the hell just happened here.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
Basically every alternate outcome in the Twisted Temple ends the same way, but let's examine a few ways we didn't quite get to. First, if we try to intervene during the sacrifice:
Or if we try to free the lunatics in their chamber:
Next, if we try to speak to the djinn without the proper passphrase:
And finally, had we remained in the stained glass room and studied the colors, that act and all of these lead to the following:
Like a stained glass window shattering, your mind breaks into a million multi-colored pieces. You throw off your clothes, cast the Sword Valterre aside, and caper and dance madly. Soon, grave Atarri come and take you to another chamber, where others of your sort -- madmen -- gibber and scream.
Some days later, you are led to an altar of the Twisted Temple. The priest raises the knife high and, in your madness, you do not object. The knife plunges into your breast, and your heart is cut from you. Your last vision is of the priest holding your heart aloft, holding it to the image of the Mad One. And so you die, a sacrifice to the very evil being you vowed to fight.
Say, what could we buy in the gift shop again?
For some reason capitalism just isn't making me feel any better right now. The outcome for purchasing something depends on whether or not it's alive:
Inorganic: How nice. You collect your purchase and leave.
Organic: You agree on a price with the shopkeeper and give him gold from the purse King Carlon gave you. Shortly after you leave the room, your purchase bites you viciously in the thumb and flees. You cannot find it again.
Lastly, attempting to threaten or kill the shaman is of no use, for he is prepared for such a thing. Prepared, with drugs.
The yurt begns to sway strangely in your vision. The smoke is affecting you somehow, making it very difficult to concentrate. You hear the shaman's voice as the whole world begins to dissolve into shards of colored light. "No, wayfarer. You are powerless against me."