The Let's Play Archive

Mother 3

by Maple Leaf

Part 8: Chapter 7

Writing dungeon crawling is hard to make interesting

It took him a moment to gather up his courage to step into Osohe castle. He was used to sneaking into places during the dead of night, when most people were still asleep, but he was a little unnerved from the zombies wandering around in the cemetery just a stone's throw from the very place he was standing.

Still, he wasn't going to get much done otherwise. Taking a breath, he stepped into the castle through its single open door, his footfalls reverberating down the cracked corridor he emerged into.

The painting of the nameless woman in front of him managed to pass the test of time: it had been uncared for the whole time the castle had been sealed up, and it still looked fairly pristine.

Her eyes were a little creepy, though, so Duster didn't stare at it longer than he needed to. He decided to take the left path first; he could see two decorative suits of armour seemingly guard a single set of blue doors, so he hoped that that would point him in a decent direction to start with.

It was just an empty corridor, though, and from the rubble lying in the centre of the room, the walls weren't holding together as well as the painting. There wasn't anything in this room for him, so he began to turn back around, when he heard a faint noise.

As if something, or someone, was wailing off in the distance. He nearly looked over his shoulder on reflex, but after the cemetery, he decided against it, opting to go with the 'if he didn't see it' school of thought.

The other end of the first corridor had nothing to it. Just a single statue of a man carrying an enormous iron ball on his shoulders.

The flooring near the statue was cracked, and the iron ball looked a little loose. If there was no other path for him to take, then he might as well try making his own - and he didn't have to worry about noise, since Nippolyte was the only person close enough to hear it, and his hearing was going anyway.

He gave the statue a mighty shove, and the ball resting on the man's shoulders fell away easily. It rolled its hands, and with a mighty crash, it hit the ground and fell through the floor to the bottom in one swift motion.

It was a one storey drop, but Duster was trained to handle falls like this one well enough, even with his bad knee. With little hesitation, he leapt down the new hole in the floor, opening the ground floor of the castle to him.

Right away, he scaled back up the wall, using his familiar Wall Staples to make himself a ladder. In case he ever needed to get back up, and fast. It was one of the bigger rules of being a successful thief: always have an escape plan.

He was getting pretty good at this, thankfully enough. He proceeded forward, silently creeping around the corners. The light in the castle was poor, but there were lots of windows, so he could see with the moonlight enough to make out objects and obstacles. What he could make out, though, that this place was a huge wreck. Vermin and critters had eroded this place down over the years, and the decay was showing pretty clearly in the carpets and the banisters.

Just one room over, he found himself in the foyer of the castle's ground floor. To his left was the large castle gate, its massive wooden doors standing steadfast, their large iron locks rusted, but still in place. In the centre of the room was a large, intricate emblem marked into the stone as a sort of greeting to anyone who would walk through the castle's gates.

He could see straight ahead that the next room was likely a waiting room of sorts. It was small and unfurnished, as he could see through the door's frame, but while the larger door to his right seemed more promising, he couldn't leave any area unsearched for his 'shiny, valuable item'.

The room over had very little to it. A fireplace; some debris from the room above collected in a corner; a hole in the ground with some steam rising up from it, and a single painting still hanging on the wall.

He could have sworn he saw a painting like this before somewhere.

The room below gave off an enormous amount of heat, and judging from the steam rising up from it, it was probably the castle's hot spring just below him. Taking a rest was an inviting idea - his shoulder still ached from that bite - but he couldn't afford to waste the time.

Well, he reconsidered, weighing his options. Still gotta look everywhere. So he began down the ladder, and briskly searched the room for any sign of his item.

After convincing himself that it wasn't anywhere under the milky white waters of the spring, he resumed his search aboveground.

Heading farther into the castle, he heard that strange wailing noise again. It was much louder this time, and it sounded like there was more than one. Before he had a chance to pick up the pace, he got personal with the things making the noise.

Osohe castle was apparently haunted. Duster wasn't so totally surprised by the fact - his suspension of disbelief was gone when the zombies just clawed their way out of the dirt.

His kicks and hits seemed to pass straight through the ghosts, typically, but they still seemed to reel from the damage. His body passing through theirs diffused their surreal bodies as he moved, effectively splitting them apart by rushing the air around them. They smelt terrible, weirdly, but he could handle a little stink while he fought, at the very least.

The main hall seemed to be docile now that the two ghosts had gone - for the moment, anyway. He doubled his efforts on finding this thing, figuring that the sooner he found it, the sooner he would be done with ghosts and zombies and creepy crawlies.

There were three rooms directly in front of him, and a staircase leading upstairs to his left. He chose the door on his right:

A pantry, it looked like.

Heavily infested with some of the largest arachnids he had ever seen, with some unwashed dishes lying in the far sinks and some rotten foods and grains strewn about the floors. There wasn't anything particularly interesting in this room, but it had another ladder heading down into the cellars. He had to leave no nook or cranny unsearched, so he followed it.

There wasn't much to find there, either, although the wine barrels were likely treasures in and of themselves with their likely age. He wouldn't mind a drink to know for sure, but he was a busy man at the moment. Maybe next time, during the day.

The cellar had its own little stream going under its floor, with a simple concrete bridge connecting the two halves of the room. He proceeded forward, keeping an eye out for any sign of something shiny among the caskets of wine.

He wasn't expecting to find what he found the next room over: a simple, small hallway with a bunch of hieroglyphics scrawled on the walls, followed by a massive stone sculpture of an angry face staring straight back at him. The drawings were of people: each of them were placed into some kind of form or position, like it was trying to spell out words with the human body, or perhaps as some kind of ritual, like a dance.

He couldn't make heads or tails of what they were trying to convey, though, so he figured that this direction was a bust. He made his way back to the main hall and tried his luck with the middle door.

Inside the middle room was another ghost. Duster's first reaction was to leave the room and shut the door quickly behind him, but the ghost called out to him before he did. "Hold on!" it shouted, in a plain, not-very-creepy tone. It sounded almost downright friendly. "I promise I won't bite. You're the first human customer I've had in ages."

Every nerve in Duster's legs were telling him to run, but ultimately, his curiosity got the best of him. Ghosts were myths; he was given an opportunity to speak to a living (in a sense of the word) wives tale. "Customer?" he asked wearily, getting up the courage to turn back around.

"Yeah, customer!" it said happily once Duster reconsidered. "I don't sell very much, but I got some things here you might be interested in!

He makes for a good pet, but above that, he can turn into a jump rope, or a clothesline, or anything rope-like at the drop of a hat! Living people still like rope, right?"

Duster looked down at the long, red snake coiled onto the blanket in front of him. "Does it bite?"

"Not you, it won't. They've been domesticated for generations, and they won't bite anything that moves. It makes it kind of tough to feed them, actually, but they're very loyal and useful for everyday chores that require rope."

Duster kept his eyes on the snake. He couldn't even understand why he was 'shopping' at a stall manned by a ghost to begin with. And a long, red snake that he didn't know for certain was domesticated didn't exactly seem like a smart thing to carry around. But some rope was, whether he was an archaeologist or a thief.

Before he could decline, though, the snake immediately crawled up his left pant leg and wiggled its way up his leg, emerging out the waist of his pants and coiling itself firmly, but not painfully, around himself, like a belt, clamping onto its own tail for security. He froze in place, afraid that any sudden movements would panic the thing and cause it to attack, but it didn't make a move. He could hardly even feel it squeeze around his waist. "I think it likes you," the ghost laughed.

Duster was uncertain. He gripped the snake lightly by the head, and tried to pry it off, but it held fast. "Like I said, they've been bred to be loyal pets," the ghost continued. "If it thinks it belongs to you, you're not getting away from it."

He sighed. He supposed that he was stuck with this thing. "Do you want anything for it?" he asked.

"Us ghosts don't have a lot of need for material things, so, nah, you probably don't have anything I want. And you're stuck with it anyway, so just go ahead and take it."

Duster said his thanks, and left the odd shop in the middle of the castle. This was probably not what Wess had in mind, but at least we won't be walking away from the castle empty-handed.

One last room to check on this floor. He found a hot spring, a cellar with some kind of tribal door at the end, and a shop run by a very friendly and generous spirit. What could this last door hold in store for him? Vampires? Maybe aliens?

Awfully little, it turned out. The room looked like it was some kind of study in the past. He gave a quick search through the bookshelves, looking for, say, a hidden switch or lever that might swing the shelves open and show him to a hidden room. There was nothing like that, boringly. But at least there wasn't anything as weird as the last room.

With that out of the way, he proceeded to go up the stairs and farther into Osohe castle. The night was young, and he had only just begun, but he would still like to be finished with this as soon as he could.

So far, so creepy.

The next hallway wasn't particularly well furnished. It contained six decorative suits of armour, three lining either wall, facing in. He chuckled nervously to himself - with the way Osohe castle had been acting so far, maybe one of these things would come to life, too?

He checked in the room closest to him first. It was practically just a closet - it had a grandfather clock in the corner (its pendulum still swinging, but the hands on its face were broken), another of those strangely familiar paintings, and a fireplace in the other corner. There was no place to hide anything in this room.

The painting, however, flew off its hook on the wall at the prospect of finally being admired for the first time in so long.

It was very vocal for a bunch of colours on a canvas.

A swift foot through its frame was enough to silence it.

He left the room after checking the clock for anything that might be important, and continued down the corridor, paying little heed to the suits of armour on his sides.

He cursed at himself.

They were difficult to shove off - the haunted suits of armour were largely aggressive.

And, with them being suits made of steel, they were difficult to dent with just his feet. But, like the zombies, they lacked willpower to stay awake from his pendulum, so waving it in front of each of them a few times stopped them were they stood, like they should.

The only room at the end of the corridor led into what appeared to be the parlour of the castle. There was a piano, a large, fancy table with a spread of rotten food on it, some burnt-out candles lining the walls and the table, and an open bottle of some of that aged wine resting upright on the floor. But there were also some dishes and dishware strewn about the place, saying that whatever happened here last was not without violence.

When he entered the room, the most frightening thing was that the piano was still playing, after generations of being unused. And it played perfectly. And nobody was sitting at the chair.

And at the table, there was a fancy, if dusty, wine glass simply floating in the air, its contents occasionally flicked and swirled about. On the other corner of the table was a plate of rotten food that was sometimes picked up and simply dropped back down onto the floor.

"Hey! We got a visitor!" he suddenly heard, followed by some faint whispers and murmurs. Then each ghost - about seven of them in total - seemed to simply melt into existence, drawing themselves visible to Duster's mortal eye. Having met the shopkeeper just a floor below, he kept on his guard in case these ones weren't as friendly.

"Uh," Duster replied dumbly, not sure how to react to the question or to who was doing the asking. "Yes?"

The ghost gave him one hard look. It floated right up to Duster's face and, almost comically, began to stare as wide-eyed as it could in Duster's, trying to figure him out with just a glance. Duster was a little unnerved, to say the least. "I guess I could buy that," it said finally, relaxing and putting a more casual distance between them. "You're the first ordinary person we've had for many years. What brings you to Osohe?"

"I'm," he began, then hesitated, considering his words. There didn't really seem to be a good answer to give it; it would probably see right through him. "I'm looking for something."

"Lots to find in our castle, here," it said casually. "The way up ahead has been collapsed for years now, but all the best stuff is a floor or two above us, if you can find a way up."

Duster looked around the ceiling, spotting a hole just over the table that he could climb through if he could reach. The wall right alongside it seemed soft and empty enough for his Wall Staples to work. "Thanks for the tip," he said, feeling a little weird about the whole conversation.

The others weren't as helpful, but they were still very friendly and unassuming. He gathered that they were having a party, which explained the food and the wine and the piano playing, but none of them seemed to remember when the party began, or if it ever stopped at one point.

At least one of them has gotten tired of it.

Duster looked over the food on the table. The meat was green, the apples were brown, and the deserts were mouldy. "No thanks, I ate before I got here," he lied. The ghost simply shrugged and went back to his eating.

Before checking the hole in the ceiling and pressing on through the castle, Duster decided to at least check the rooms adjacent to the parlour. He had to be thorough, of course. The room just south was the kitchen, holding a number of stained and rusted pots and pans stacked high in their sinks.

It was pretty overrun, too, with some of the most massive cockroaches he had ever seen. In the corner, the stove was running, and on top of it was a pot broiling with some kind of stinking liquid that he didn't exactly find palatable.

It was being stirred with a ladle, and of course, a ghost was gripping its handle, somehow.

It turned to face Duster, a smile on its awkward mouth. "I still haven't learned the lyrics quite yet, but it's just so catchy!" And it resumed its work without a second thought.


He couldn't make it out of the room without being attacked by something that had no business being possessed.

The door on the end of the parlour led out onto the staircase, where, just as the ghost had said, the area was in disrepair. There was no way he could continue on from this direction, so he had to turn back and resort to his Wall Staples.

It seemed a little weird, using his technique indoors, even for the second time. Probably because he had people - that weren't exactly people anymore - watching him again. But whatever worked, ultimately.

The floor above had a single door in front of him that just led back down to the parlour, if it hadn't been caved in. The only other option was down the corridor he had crawled himself into, but there was a gap in the floor too large for him to cross. The hole was likely just from natural degradation over time.

There was a candle fastened to the wall just over the pit, however. He had no Thief Tools to help him go across, but the moment he thought of attaching something to the candle, he thought of a rope, which lead him to think about his new belt.

"Uh," he stuttered, not sure how to word exactly what he wanted. And the fact that he was talking to a snake fastened around his waist. "I need a rope," he said.

The snake was listening, and at the sound of Duster's plight, it understood the words exactly and unfastened itself from around him, quickly traveling up his shirt and down his left arm, coiling around his forearm. As weird as it was, Duster was beginning to see the merits of having a sentient rope.

"I need you to be a hook," he said to it, "to cross this gap. You need to latch onto that candle on the wall..." He paused, lifting his arm up and pointing it at the candle, so the snake could follow along. "And you need to hold there while I swing across. Got it?" In response, the snake began shifting and slithering its way around his arm, positioning itself perfectly so Duster could grip it by the tail and so that it could see the candle from where it was.

Counting down from three, Duster flung his arm forward, catapulting the snake into the air.

Awesomely, it went without a hitch. He managed to swing across the gap with no problems, just like those heroes in his childhood stories. The snake quickly travelled back up his arm and down his stomach, wrapping itself back around his waist, waiting for whenever it's needed again.

Taking a few exploratory steps forward, Duster felt his foot crunch under something in the carpet.

It crunched back, but with just a few stomps, it was subdued.

He continued on through the castle, making his way up the floors. Just beyond the next door and up the partition, however, he suddenly fell back, keeping his back to the wall and his breathing low. He kept his eyes on the stairs, watching for anything - any sign of movement or rustling or anything.

He heard footsteps up ahead.

Thankfully, they began to dash off in the opposite direction, completely oblivious that he was there. He detached himself warily from the wall, in case it was a trick, and peeked up from under the banister to see if he was indeed alone. He was, and he spied something glittering just in the doorway up ahead as well - whoever was just here and dropped something in their haste.

He didn't think this was what his father wanted him to get, but he kept it anyway, just in case that second person was a rival thief or something. That was a concept he was unfamiliar with: directly competing for the treasures of whatever he was looking for. At least if this thing was actually it, he just got himself a big lead on his new rival.

There being no other direction to go but forward, he followed behind the other person, pressing farther into the castle. The next hallway was adorned with several clean mirrors, still dusty but otherwise fine. He could see himself, and the sweat building on his brow in the glass just fine.

Among some other things he would have cared not to see.

The castle seemed to go on forever; the next corridor contained four more doors for him to explore. He only just emerged from the one farthest to the left, so that narrowed his possibilities, at least. A suit of armour stood guard between each door - taking necessary precautions, he knocked the helmets off each of them, knowing for certain whether or not they were going to attack.

He got to work as usual, reaching for the door closest to the one he came from, ready to explore the room behind for any sign of a hiding spot for that item he was searching for. But just as he reached for the knob, it began to turn itself. At first he thought it was his new rival coming from the other side, but before he could react in time, the door flung open, and inside was another haunted object ready to attack him.

Possessing a whole room. That was new. Rather than try to fight it, he simply slammed the door shut again.

He skipped the second door, trying to second-guess the ghosts in the house, predicting that it too was haunted. He went straight for the door on the very end, cautiously opening it, relieved when he had to turn the knob himself.

In the next room, his ears were assaulted by a single, low, windy note that never seemed to stop. The furniture all around the sides of the room were shaking violently, rustling in a cycle of wind that circled the middle of the room. He felt a tug on his clothes and on the rope snake, which clung to itself tighter at the sensation. In the centre of the room was a single ghost, different from the others, wearing a simple black lapel and curly 'hair' atop its ghostly head. It swung a baton in its right hand and led patterns with its left.

Above them both was a small tornado of three objects: two candlesticks, and a single, frightened mouse. The objects seemed to swing and wave with the ghostly conductor's motions, weaving and bobbing in the small area with every toss of the baton.

This wasn't the first time that night that Duster had seem ghosts manipulate objects - that strawberry desert in the kitchen put up quite a fight - and zombies were far scarier than some conductor waving a few objects around. Still, not fearlessly, he approached the ghost, and it seemed to sense that it was not alone. Its head spun around on the spot several times, before finally coming to rest looking directly at him.

"I am Mr. Passion," it said, barely loud enough to hear over the whistling of the wind he was making.

"It sounds like just some wind, to me," Duster replied, knowing it would probably provoke the ghost. He had a feeling that what he was looking for was just beyond that door that Passion was blocking with his 'music'.

Passion responded negatively.

With the ghost gone, the music ceased almost immediately, and the object circling the air dropped to the ground with a hard thud. The candles lay motionless, and the mouse quickly scurried away, shaken but apparently uninjured as it hid under the couch in the corner.

With nothing left between Duster and the door, he kept going, his arms and legs tired from all the adventuring he'd had for one night. He hoped whatever Wess wanted him to get was nearby; there wasn't a lot of other places left to look in the castle.

In the back of the next room, there were more of those weird hieroglyphics written on the walls, and another scary tribal face etched into the stone. But more importantly was an urn sitting simply on the centre of the floor. Unlike everything else in the castle, the urn was spotless, its lustrous shine sparkling in what little light the room had to offer. He could see himself in its reflection very clearly.

There was no question about it. He could feel a slight tingle in his fingers - a telltale sign his body gave him when he knew he found what he was looking for. This urn was definitely shiny, it was definitely valuable, and it sure looked important, especially if something like Passion was protecting it. This must have been when Wess wanted him to get.

He wasn't looking forward to trudging his way back through the castle to the front gates, but at least now he could finally put this castle behind him.