Part 44: Level Three: A Different Sort Of Snake CharmerLevel Three: A Different Sort Of Snake Charmer
When last we left off, we were about to face down this lovely creature. And that's the last thing we should do, because facing the Dream Serpent is bad news. TooMuchAbstraction figured that out straight away, and it's a necessary first step.
You look away and close your eyes. "What courtesy is thisss?" says the Dream Serpent. "Am I not beautiful to look upon?"
Now then, what do we do? We can't see it, so it can't hypnotize us, but it could still attack us itself or with its poisonous spawn. Iunnrais suggested checking out whether our handy new Talisman can cast some kind of cold spells, and that seems like a good idea. What can the Talisman conjure up for us?
In your mind's eye, you somehow see the world around you. There is the Talisman, and you, its wielder; there is the Serpent of Dreams, a shadowy, snake-like figure. And you feel that the Talisman is asking you something, asking you how it should attack the Serpent...
Get used to this screen right here, for this details the nine abilities the Talisman will have in almost every encounter hereafter: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Lightning, Cold, Spirit, Mind, and Time. All tantalizing options, but we've already been told the Dream Serpent is weak to cold, so let's pick that.
Hey, can anybody hear us?
No one answers.
This is risky, but we have to trust in the Talisman to have done its job, so we'll peek now.
To your relief, the Dream Serpent has truly gone. And with him, seemingly, have gone the snakes.
He turns and stares off into the distance. "This third level of the Maze is far more complex than those you have traversed. You will find that you'll need to map. It is peopled largely by dragons, most malevolent, but a few who will render you assistance. They live in diverse environments; you will find dragon cities, dragon deserts, dragon tundra.
"At the center of it all stands the Crystal Palace, the gigantic quartz structure wherein resides the Mad One himself. 'Tis said that at the very center of the Palace is the Wizard Moraziel, somehow surviving, holding off the forces of Madness by his spells. To pass through the Palace, you will need to obtain the Hammer of Auric, an item of great power. But how you may find it, or how it may allow you entry to the palace, I cannot say."
This is starting to sound familiar.
You thank the Sage, and he turns aside. "Do not thank me," he mutters, "for your task is hopeless. You go to your death, without question." Strangely, you see a faint smile on his face as he turns and strides away.
Well alright then. I guess we won. But there sure were a lot of options in this PoP for something with a solution as simple as "close eyes, use Talisman." I wonder...
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
First and foremost, let's look at what happens when we attempt to do anything other than look away from the Dream Serpent as soon as we encounter it.
Attack: You draw Valterre and throw yourself toward the serpent. Your sword slices through it as if it were air. "I am the Dream Ssserpent," says the creature in an amused tone. "No weapon not of dreams may harm me." In anger, you look up at the being... and you are lost.
Speak: "Are you the creature they call the Dream Serpent?" you ask. It cranes its head around and toward you. "It is sso," says the Serpent. Your gaze catches its eyes.
Talisman: You take the Talisman from its place at your back... As you are about to enter the trance of concentration that brings forth its powers, you look up. And there, somehow inches from your face, is the head of the Dream Serpent. Its gaze catches your eyes, and you are lost.
Each of these will bring us to the generic hypnotism death, which I'll be referencing from here on out:
Righto. Let's look away, then try to kill the Dream Serpent with Valterre.
Opening our eyes just means the Dream Serpent will be right in front of us, so let's try the second option.
Yeah no surprise that plan didn't work. What if we just ignored the wound and kept fighting?
Let's go back to the Talisman (after looking away, naturally) and try out its other options to see how they work (or don't) against the Dream Serpent.
Fire: There is an explosion about the Dream Serpent; you raise your arm to shield your face from the heat. When the blast dissipates, an amused voice says, "Ahh. Thank you. I do love the warmth."
Earth: The earth rocks violently, so violently you fall to your belly and hug the ground. And then, the earthquake passes. "What, pray tell, was that?" says the Dream Serpent. "No matter."
Air: There is a clap of thunder no more than a dozen paces before you. It deafens you, but more than that, a sudden suction of air makes your ears pop. "How interesssting," says the Dream Serpent. "A magical attack I had not previousssly exssperienced."
Water: You hear a sudden, tremendous splash -- and then, you feel water running past your boots. The Dream Snake only chuckles.
Lightning: There is a thunderous crash that makes your ears ring -- and then, the smell of ozone. "Awesssome," says the Dream Serpent. "But how can sssuch a thing dessstroy a being made of dreamsss?"
Spirit: A deep, bass chanting fills your ears -- and you know that this time, it is not merely within your head, but can be heard by all the world. It ends abruptly. "How ssstrange," says the Dream Serpent. "Ssstrange, but pointless, I fear."
Mind: Within your mind, you feel the cool, subtle flow of reptilian thoughts. You control a snake as it squiggles across the earth... But you realize it is only the mind of a mundane snake you control, not that of the Dream Serpent.
Time: A strange odor assaults your senses -- the smell of rot and decay. "Disssgusssting," says the Dream Serpent. "But magic sssuch a thisss has no effect -- on the immortal."
Regardless of option, if a non-Cold element is chosen the Dream Snake won't give us the opportunity to try another.
We can also look away and try to flee, but that doesn't help either.
Blindly, you stumble across the countryside, tripping on boulders and roots. It is not long before you fall. And before you can rise, you feel a viper's fangs penetrate your hand and pump poison into your flesh.
Again we can open our eyes and die or try to struggle on and die. Not much of an option.
And thus, at long last, we come to the diplomatic option of looking away and then talking to the Dream Serpent. It's here that the alternate solutions present themselves, and they're rather interesting.
Let's begin with a direct, honest approach.
"I must kill you," you say.
"Why ssso?" says the serpent. "Have I offered you harm?"
"If I had opened my eyes, would you not have sucked forth my soul?"
"All creaturesss mussst eat," it says, "and sssuch is the fashion of my eating. Yet if you will go peacssefully from here and plague me no further, I give you my word I shall not injure you, now or forever."
"But I must pass through your domain to reach the next maze," you say.
"True," says the serpent. "I will show you..." It pauses, then chuckles. "I will lead you to that maze, while you remain close-eyed, if you will give your parole."
But if we do accept, won't the sage refuse to offer us aid?
"Ssso," says the serpent. "Tsssorisss has promisssed to aid you if you ssslay me? Interesssting. He would recsseive the better bargain, I fear."
"What you you mean?" you ask.
"Tsssorisss is a malevolent man," says the Dream Serpent. "I have no doubt he would ssspin you a passsel of lies."
Hrm. Well, the Dream Serpent's probably lying here. Let's accept the offer and get ourselves hilariously murdered.
"Very well," you say. "If you will conduct me through this place, I will agree not to harm you."
"Excsssellent," says the serpent. "Now, follow in the direction of my voicsse. Thisss way. That'sss right. Now thisss way..."
We can peek at this point and die, or use the Talisman to attempt to kill it, or try to kill it with Valterre to little avail, but if we actually do follow the Dream Serpent's instructions...
Soon, you come to the exit. The serpent bids you farewell, and you step through...
And we in fact end up in the next maze. Huh. So that's an alternate solution, though it doesn't get Tsoriss's little speech. Was the Dream Serpent telling the truth about the sage being malevolent? Doubtful, given that it's still a soul-sucking monster who drove the woodsman insane.
That's one alternate solution. Let's see if we can reach another by being indirect and lying.
"Ah," says the Dream Serpent. "I have not heard thisss tale. I believe it is sssuperssstitiousss nonsssenssse, but I am willing to make the tessst. Here, remove your gauntlet, and put your bare hand on the boulder to the left. I shall touch it with my tongue."
This plan is incredibly stupid, as is quickly made obvious.
Let's use the Talisman first to suck out the poison.
You hear a thrumming in your head -- and the wound closes. Although you still feel weak, the poison seems to be receding from your system.
The Talisman then gives us an opportunity to attack, as above. If we refuse to fall for the Dream Serpent's obvious trick, it just brings up the usual options to attack it blind, flee blind, use the Talisman, or open our eyes (and die). So lying to the Dream Serpent's a bust.
That leaves just one option: Changing the subject. Really? Changing the subject? What on earth could we talk to a giant magic snake about?
"Err -- lovely weather we've been having," you say.
"Yes, isn't it?" says the Dream Serpent. "Beautiful spring. I do so love the warm weather."
"You ought to move to the desert."
"The desert? What desert may that be?"
"Why, south of here," you say in surprise. "In the MadMaze's second realm. The land of the Atarri and Tercelidae. The sun shines all year, and it is always warm."
And should we peel open an eye, we will find that the Dream Serpent truly has gone. Yes, not only did this stupid option work, it worked so well that we didn't even have to kill anyone. Tsoriss even acknowledges the Dream Serpent is gone, and gives us the same information as he did when we killed it! I guess completely dodging the matter at hand works itself out sometimes.
Well, okay, it worked out this one time.