Part 74: Level Four: The Stuff Of Madness, Never Meet Your HeroesLevel Four: The Stuff Of Madness, Never Meet Your Heroes
We stand before a barrier to the green, looking at a strange tree covered in fruits. We smell banana and strawberry, which prompts Iggy to advise...
"Jeez, it's obvious, isn't it? Pick a banana, then a strawberry. Right?"
But we're not going to do that, because Iggy is super duper wrong. What does the Talisman say?
You close your eyes and concentrate. In your mind's eye, you see yourself reaching toward the tree, and plucking first one object and then another. And then, the black sheet disappears. Beyond is a beautiful green meadow. But you cannot for the life of you see WHICH two objects you picked.
So we'll pick two fruits from the tree, and...
Instantly, the black sheet disappears. Before you is a pleasant green meadow.
"I don't get it. How come it wasn't a banana and a strawberry, like the smell?"
We're now given the intriguing choice to explain it to Iggy or not. Of course we're not going to miss a chance to be smug about this.
"But consider -- we have six objects. 'Vile fruit, base six' -- perhaps we are dealing with an arithmetic problem, in BASE SIX -- and each of the fruits represents a number. We are told 'Nothing is not a fruit.' Well, we have one non-fruit, the ham bone. It represents zero, that is to say, nothing."
"But that's 13, of course, in base six, in which the 'tens' digit is actually the 'sixes' digit. We need two fruits that add up to 6 plus 3, or 9. Well, the only two fruits which add to a total of 9 are 4 and 5 -- peach and lime. And there you are. You don't even need any algebra."
Iggy shakes his head in bemusement.
I suppose if we've gotten this far, it does prove our protagonist is quite a bit smarter than he lets on. Incidentally, so is Zandar, who got this exact answer:
Even figured out the base six addition into a base six two-digit number. Easy, right?
Zandar posted:Okay, let's see what we can do with these clues.
The "base six" clue implies that each fruit corresponds to a number from 0-5, and "nothing is not a fruit" implies that the bone is 0. I don't recall any other hints to do with ordering fruit, but hopefully the fact that they're "in a definite order" means that we can just assign them from left to right - ham bone = 0, banana = 1, apple = 2, strawberry = 3, peach = 4, and lime = 5.
If we add the alternating fruits we get 4, but that would just be a peach and we're selecting two fruits. The fact that the first fruit is 1 makes me suspect that we're instead meant to take it as a two-digit number - banana-strawberry = 13 (base 6), or 9 in decimal.
There are several ways to add two numbers to get 9, but just one which uses only single-digit base 6 numbers - 4 + 5. Any other sum would use 6 or above. So hopefully all we need to do is take the peach and lime.
It is pleasant in the meadow. You walk across it, Iggy with you. The grass is soft beneath your feet. A gentle, spring-like breeze blows. The twitter of songbirds can be heard. Not far away, a small temple arises from the meadow.
Don't see any other landmarks of note. The temple must be our destination.
The temple is a simple stone structure with a portico, Corinthian columns, and an open altar. Atop the altar lies...
Here we go! The Staff of the Lady! And a dial, of all things. I'm getting an idea of what to do here, but just in case, the Talisman can remind us of something.
You close your eyes and concentrate... You see another time and place. It is dim, peaceful -- you recognize a silver glade, a place in the first level of the maze, where the Lady manifested herself to you. You see her face filling the sky, and her mouth mouthing words... But what were they? The Talisman does not say.
This is it, folks: The single longest payoff between a clue and its puzzle in this entire game. There's no trick here, no curveball. That thing the Lady's been telling us since the first level of the maze finally, finally comes into play here.
Nine for the Gods who rule in Heaven...
Somewhere in the distance, a gentle gong sounds.
Next is the mystic number seven...
Again, the gong sounds. But still, the invisible barrier remains.
Last is the solitary one...
A third time, the gong sounds. And then, the barrier is gone. There lies the Lady's Staff, granted you by her grace. Lovingly, you pick it up. It is simple in form, but of profound importance, you know. Now what?
Anything else to find out here in the green?
It is green all about you, and you forge ever onward into the green, but nothing changes. Seemingly, greenness extends off ahead of you into infinity.
That's to be expected. We'd best return to the colors, now equipped with the Lady's Staff!
And what can the Lady's Staff do? For the most part, it prevents us from dying to the other colors by activating and repelling us back to multi-color space, but that's not all that it can do. If we use the staff at the colors...
You feel the Lady's comforting presence.
Awwwww. Not terribly useful, but nice to have all the same. At any rate, the clear next step is to visit the red to see if we can't gain an audience with Moraziel.
So let's go back to the purple. Ha ha! I did it twice in a row for no apparent reason!
The Mad One's Archpriest in truth. "Greetings, messenger of Weith," he says. "You have a message for me." And he holds out one gauntleted hand. Energy coruscates from his knuckles.
For you? No. I have a message for Moraziel. This isn't going to be a twist where you actually are Moraziel, right?
...This is somehow not much better than that twist.
"He lies to the red," says the Archpriest. "And now, you may go."
I know that, but he has all these magical defenses, and-
The Archpriest throws back his cowl and maniacal laughter sounds about you. "If you cannot penetrate his defenses with all the magic you carry, then truly you are unfit to join us."
Right. Back to the colors, and this time to the red. We had no way to breach Moraziel's defenses with the Talisman alone, but we're carrying something much more powerful now.
Taking the staff, you see a sphere of blue energy before you, where there was nothing before. You sense that you have been circumnavigating the sphere, unable to penetrate it or move beyond. You hold forth the staff, and at your command, the sphere peels open, sections falling away like the skin of an orange.
"What must I say?"
"There is a spell," the salamander whispers, its voice like a house falling into flames.
"And if I do not know it?" you ask.
The salamander seems to lick fiery lips with a flame-like tongue. "This one sayeth not," it says with a sardonic crackle.
I know what we need to do here, but just for giggles let's consult our pal Iggy and our pile of magical items.
"These things have no free will," Iggy whispers. "They just do what they're told. If it was told to burn us if we don't have the right spell, it'll do that."
"What do you suggest?" you say.
Thanks a bunch, Iggy. But this is somehow more valuable information than the Talisman provides.
The Talisman makes no response.
How about the Lady's Staff?
You hold forth the Staff -- instantly, it catches flame. Fire runs up and down its length, its leaves curl and burn. In moments, you are holding a shaft of charred wood.
And then, it is whole again. But you realize that the Lady has no power over flame.
Whew. It seems the Lady's Staff is a resilient piece of godly magic, and will restore itself to full strength as long as it isn't utterly destroyed. Worth nothing, I suppose. Anyhow, time to tell the salamander the words it wants to hear: The poem from that book on Moraziel. It is not fantasy's hot fire...
The salamander seems to raise an eyebrow.
Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly...
The salamander sighs, a sound like the wind up a flue. "Go on," it whispers.
It liveth not in fierce desire / With dead desire, it doth not die.
Instantly, the salamander and ball of flame are gone. Before you is an irregularly-shaped patch of land floating in red chaos. On the land stands a handsome mansion; and around it, pleasant gardens lie. You and Iggy spiral down through the red, down toward the garden. At last, you alight. Standing there, staring into a red sky is...
But Moraziel is anything but glad to see you. "Fool," he mutters worriedly. "My defenses against the Mad One are undone."
You make to speak, but he urgently motions you to silence. He brings forth his staff, which is bathed in red light. The glow expands to englobe both of you. "Tell me, o knight; why do you invade my realm?"
Holy crap, we've been waiting an awful long time to actually accomplish our mission!
"Many perils have I faced and many dangers have I overcome, to bring to you a message from Elder Wellan of my village."
You hold forth the envelope, with Wellan's red wax seal plainly showing.
Somehow, this poor little envelope has survived a heck of a journey undamaged. Now Moraziel will take it, open it, and...
Moraziel sighs heavily. "So it does," he says. "But regardless of what you have been told, it is not for me."
"For whom is it intended then?"
Moraziel looks away from you and mutters, shame-facedly, "For the Mad One's Archpriest."
Why won't you just take the message?
"How much of an explanation do you need?" says Moraziel wearily. "I tell you the message is not for me. Your village has its reasons for sending likely young lads and lasses into the MadMaze, no doubt. And doubtless the Mad One's Archpriest has his reasons for permitting such messengers to reach the Moon of Madness. And as for this weary old wizard, he does what he must to survive. Go now, and take your message to its intended reader, for he is not I."
But the Archpriest...
"Well," says Moraziel, "no use longing for the impossible. The Archpriest aims at world conquest, but he is willing to permit others to live, if they serve or at least do not oppose him. It has been hard, hard to survive here."
I mean, aren't you opposing him? You... you are, right?
A weary smile plays across Moraziel's face. "That, I'm afraid, is a fanciful elaboration on the true state of affairs. I can keep this place safe and, after a fashion, Weith Village. But that is because we have reached a -- call it a stalemate."
A stalemate. Come on man, you're the greatest wizard in the world!
"Surely there are great magics yet untried," you insist, though your heart is sinking. Iggy has turned a sickly shade of green.
"I've had centuries to try. Only madness restrains the Mad One from conquest."
Now that I'm here though, maybe we can team up and-
"Well, yes, to be sure. But -- that would be dangerous. And the Archpriest and I have an -- an understanding. So long as I do not threaten him directly... You understand. I am willing to aid you, but to risk all I have here -- no, no. It is too much."
An understanding? An understanding!? The greatest wizard in all the world is also, it seems, its biggest bitch.
"Knave!" you shout. "Coward! Poltroon! 'Only by Moraziel's power is the Mad One stopped from wreaking his evil will...' What a lie! What foul villainy! You have surrendered! You have betrayed us!"
"Why, no, no," says Moraziel weakly, "I have merely done what I had to do. When you are older you will understand these things."
Fine. I'll defeat the Archpriest myself then. How about that, old man?
There is a pregnant silence. Moraziel seems in the grip of conflicting emotions; he appears caught between hope and fear.
"Defeat the Archpriest?" he says, looking at you nervously. "Why, ah, it is impossible. Yes, truly impossible. You would need the power of a god."
...I have that.
"And too," he says, "the staff will merely lend you her power; the source of the rebirth of life in the spring. If you were a mighty mage, you could channel that power, but I fear..." He shrugs.
"You take it, then," you say, proferring the staff. "You are a mighty mage. What is important is that the Archpriest be defeated, not that I do the defeating."
Moraziel is visibly flustered. "What -- I? No, no, I could never..."
"But you say that a mighty wizard is needed. And you are such. Moraziel! You must! The world's sanity rests on your shoulders..."
Those shoulders slump. "No, no," he says weakly. "Look to your companion. Is he not a wizard?"
"Hey! Leave me outta this! You want me to face the Archpriest eyeball to -- um, whatever? No dice! Forget it! He's a bad dude. I don't got the mojo to take him."
"We'll do it together," you tell Iggy.
"If you say so, chief," the wizard says dubiously.
And it looks like we're going to have to do it together, because this old asshole isn't going to be any help. Let's get back to the purple, where the real heroes have a date with destiny.
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
If we pick the wrong fruit, or turn the dial in the temple to the wrong number, we'll experience the following:
Suddenly, the lights go out. Everything is black around you. You see nothing, sense nothing, hear nothing... Except for Iggy. "Guess that was the wrong choice, huh, chief?" And then, there is nothing at all.
We can also choose to linger in the meadow.
The meadow is very pleasant. You pick and eat an apple from a tree. You drink some water from a stream. You enjoy the birdsong. The temple is still sitting there.
Now we have the option to "retire here," which sounds great to me!
You live here in peace and contentment all of your days. Meanwhile, your home village is pillaged by the servants of the Mad One. But it's very nice here in the meadow.
Admittedly, that probably isn't the right thing to do at this point in our journey. No sense giving up so close to the end!
The salamander can, of course, kill us for getting the poem wrong:
The salamander gives a slight smile. And then, he rushes forth from the sphere of flame, almost faster than the eye can follow. At least your death is swift.
If we're truly disappointed with Moraziel, we can attack him with one of our artifacts.
Valterre: You draw Valterre and lunge toward the wizard -- He makes a short, sharp cutting motion with his hand, and your blade recoils. "Fool," he mutters, "I am not your enemy. Nor do I think you will defeat the Archpriest with Valterre. Depart from my domain! Your destiny is elsewhere.
Talisman: Moraziel raises a hand; your own snaps to your side. You cannot use your own Talisman -- Moraziel's magic prevents it. "Would you use the Talisman of Chugotai against me?" he says angrily. "Have I offered you harm?"
Staff: You raise the Staff of the Lady... But nothing happens. "Don't be foolish," says Moraziel. "I have no quarrel with the Lady, nor she with me. Besides, she is no warrior to strike down a foe; she is a goddess of peace and tranquility."
Additionally, we can try to return to Moraziel after leaving him.
You move toward the red, until the color begins to crowd out all others. There is Moraziel's garden below you. He makes a "shooing" motion, as if to say, "Go away."
Attacking him, as before, is of no use:
Moraziel raises his staff as you stride forward. You are bathed in a lambent red glow, seized by an unseen force, and hurtled back to the multi-color space.