Part 43: Level Three: Everything Old Is New AgainLevel Three: Everything Old Is New Again
At last (and perhaps rather unceremoniously) we have reached the third level. We'll never see what happens with that whole Atarri revolution, I guess; it seems our quest lies elsewhere. What matter of madness awaits us in the first third level maze?
Huh. Well that seems... rather small, by most accounts. A single PoP lies just ahead of us and there's not a whole lot else to say. But what could await us? What mysteries, what twisted fantastical...
...Hold up. It's another sage, isn't it?
As you walk up the trail to the Sage's house, you hear a faint sound -- a hiss perhaps, or a -- a rattle. A snake strikes for your boot, but the Sword Valterre strikes more quickly, severing the snake's head before its fangs may enter your foot. The body twitches for a time. Somewhat shaken, you resume your approach.
Odds are this isn't the same sage as before. Let's confirm that first.
"Greetings, good Sage!" you hail the fellow. "Be you the Sage Tsoreen, or belike his brother, Tsorell?"
He opens the door a little wider. "Neither," he says, eyeing you carefully. "Do my brothers fare well?"
"Seemingly so," you report.
"Good, good," he mutters.
His name is Tsoriss. The game oddly does not tell us this depending on our conversation choices, and just leaves it assumed. So anyhow... not going to invite us in for some ale, I take it?
The door opens a little further. "Ale?" he says, licking his lips. "Do you have ale?"
"No, no, I thought perhaps you might..."
"Sorry," he says, "no charity here."
I guess we'll fall back on the standard and tell him of our quest, see if he'll help out.
We're not afraid to die. We do it two or three times an update.
"Good, good," says the Sage. "That's the spirit. If one is doomed, might as well go to one's death with elan, is it not so?"
I'm a little confused. I know we cut a bit of an odd figure here with our plate armor and magic sword and shaman's talisman and all that, but he seems oddly inhospitable. Maybe he'll tell us why.
"These are ill times," he says. There seems to be an almost gleeful tone to his voice. "One must be careful, ever careful. And here within the Mad One's realm -- there are snakes everywhere, spies, servants of the evil one. But come, come within." He ushers you into his house. "How may I help you?"
Before we go into that, what's up with these snakes?
He peers into the forest. "Are there some around?" he says worriedly. "I hardly dare venture from my house any longer." You tell him of your encounter. He shudders. "That I should see so evil a hour," he says. He studies you, and a glint of animation comes into his eyes. "Perhaps you may help."
I figured as much, but go on.
"The serpent spawned, and its issue were not immature versions of itself, but poisonous snakes of many varieties. They spread out across this place, slaying all the game animals that once provided my meat, and attacking the few travellers that come this way. If you should remove the monstrous serpent and its spawn, I will tell you what I know -- of this third realm of the MadMaze and of the strangeness that lies beyond."
Seems fair enough. Anything else you can tell us, Tsoriss-whose-name-we-shouldn't-know?
The Sage sighs. "I know nothing more about these vile wrigglers. But... perhaps the Forester may help you. He lives not far from here -- or once he did. He may have fallen victim to the belly-crawlers. But if he lives, surely he knows more than I of the habits of such creatures."
That's about all he has to tell us, so we'll pass his house to the east and approach that mysterious down arrow on the map.
Surprise! The down arrow is... a ladder going down. And what should lie below but another maze?
It's nighttime on the lower floor (as opposed to merely just dark), which is strange enough. This layout is a bit closer to what we've become used to, except that it's larger; mazes in the third level default to being around 9x9. Both PoPs here are mandatory, but based on what Tsoriss said the first should be...
Two for two on recycled art. I swear the third level has original stuff.
...Beg your pardon? Whoever this Rehnstrom guy is, it isn't us.
"I'm not Rehnstrom!" you shout.
The forester halts in the process of drawing his bow. He seems puzzled for a moment, then says, "Draw nearer, that I may escry your face." You move forward, until you are merely a few feet apart. He studies your face carefully, then mumbles, in a puzzled way, "Not Rehnstrom? Not?"
This guy's loony. That's too bad; if he were sane, perhaps he could help us. Unfortunately we're just a simple wandering knight with an intelligent magical sword and a fetish of unimaginable spiritual power, so we can't possibly help hi- hold on just a goddamn second.
What's going on around here, anyway? Snakes all over the place and a crazy woodsman.
"Ah, the snakes," he says. "Yes, of course. They are the spawn of the Dream Serpent, a creature that has taken up residence not far from here. They infest these woods, as they will continue to do until the Dream Serpent is destroyed."
Dream Serpent? Doesn't sound like any ordinary snake.
"It is a magical beast, beyond my understanding. How it spawns the snakes that infest this maze I cannot see; they are not of the same kind as the Dream Snake, but of multifarious species."
That at least means there won't be more than one of them. Why is it called the Dream Snake?
Is there any way to defeat it?
"I know not. I have tried to slay it with my bow, at a distance; but though I swear at least one of my quarrels hit its mark, the Dream Serpent seemed unaffected. Perhaps it can only be slain by magic means. I do know that the Serpent is susceptible to cold; but how this information might be used, I cannot say."
So where can I find it?
A worried look appears on the forester's face. "Umm, let's see. First, head east. When you have returned to the maze, you'll come to a three-way intersection. Or was that a two-way? Head right. Or... ahead? No, right, definitely... wrong, wrong! Left! Then..." He mumbles on in this wise for quite some time.
The correct path to the Dream Serpent is to go left, left, right, ahead, ahead, right, ahead, left, but hey, I get it, that's kind of hard to remember.
Three for three. Damnit.
"Ssso," it says. "Another dreamer comesss. Dreamsss of valor. Dreamsss of conquessst." It slithers toward you.
We've got a Dream Serpent to deal with here. What's the first thing we should do? And after that, what else should we do? We could be aggressive, cautious, or even friendly. We could be direct with the Serpent, or evasive. We could also attempt to kill it, but how?
There are multiple solutions to this one; I count at least three. Not all accomplish the Sage's task, but remember that a solution is successful so long as we live to get past it, so don't be afraid to ditch the plan. Just remember what we know about it: It has a hypnotic gaze, it doesn't like the cold, it seems invulnerable to normal weapons, and it appears to be intelligent and capable of speech.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
There's no way for Tsoriss to kill us, and no real way to even make him upset. The woodsman, on the other hand, can kill us every which way. First, we can try to kill him when we first meet:
Running from him is no better.
Should we calm him down a bit and ask about snakes while he's still a madman, it won't end well for us either.
Of course, once we declare ourselves to not be Rehnstrom, we have the advantage in the killing department.
Standing so close to the archer, you cannot fail. Valterre leaps from its sheath, and you fell the forester with a single blow. Where now?
But that doesn't actually help us in any way.
Once we have his mind fixed up by the Talisman, we can ask the question I'm sure we're all asking: Just who is Rehnstrom?
"Rehnstrom? REHNSTROM?" screams the forester. He draws his bow and notches an arrow. "Die, swine!" he yells.
We can attempt to use the Talisman again, but...
Once he's calmed and sane, we can also ask him about the maze, but nothing he says is especially interesting.
"The third level of the MadMaze?" says the forester. "Little enough, I fear. I have not travelled far from my native woods. About here lives a sage, and the Dream Serpent, accursed sending of the Mad One."
If we ask about the sage, he tells us nothing new.
"The Sage Tsoriss. He brews a good ale. I have not seen him of late." He draws a hand across his brow. "Perhaps 'tis just as well, since I was unfit to greet anyone kindly."
We can also ask the forester -- sane or insane -- if we may cross his woods.
"What?" he says in a confused voice. "Yes, of course. Do not slay any of the game and build no fires; but you may pass freely." You accede to the terms and voyage onward.