Part 19: I'd've Preferred A Three-Headed Dog
Act Two Chapter Eleven - The Red Woman
There's a big old rock sat square in the middle of the Immil Vale. Approach it and you get a conversation (and more).
: Ah, look at this.
: Perhaps a marker, perhaps a fragment of dream left behind, this stone is a signpost. Beneath its shadow, we may find that our dreams are sharpened like a blade - and ring more true than steel.
: You'd think something tied to dreams would be a little more imaginative.
: In such places as these, dreams are strong - as long as one rides the current and does not fight it, we may find ourselves at our intended destination.
: And what is our "intended" destination?
Like the Wells of Lurue, this is a place where the barrier between the waking world and the world of dreams is... thinner. Here, sleep will take us from false reality and into the deeper truth of imagination.
No, I don't get it either.
Lots of people miss out on this dream segment because there's no direct cue. In the Wells of Lurue, you could 'use' the pools to start a dialogue, which would initiate the dreaming process. Here you take a more direct action, which isn't always immediately obvious (to idiots at least, I got it first time through).
Last time we ended up in Okku's barrow. Let's see where we go this time, shall we?
* * *
Dreamscape - Ashenwood
: [It is as if you have intruded upon a forest in an impossibly distant past, before any living creature walked the world... when the gods themselves were strangers to snow and sky and land.]
: [Wisdom] [You realize that you have drifted deep into a forgotten place, a recess of your mind that has lain untouched for too long... but how long? And what has been hidden in its depths?]
This is where it all began. This is the root of our problems.
Pretty, isn't it?
But it couldn't last. Time for a boss fight.
: Careful, these four mean us harm.
: How did you find your way to this place? Tell us.
: I closed my eyes and went to sleep. How else does one enter a dream?
Oh don't start with that fucking butterfly nonsense
: Be quiet. She is another bearer of the Gift, nothing more. They arise, one after another, blazing bright and guttering out.
"Her" is that lady in the background. We can't quite make out her features from here.
: We are echoes of those who once bore the hunger - the Gift.
: You were spirit-eaters. Like me.
: Not like you. We worshipped the Gift and passed it amongst ourselves... each reveling in hunger for his alotted time, and then slain by his successor.
: Sweet Juraj was the first... gorging on the spirits of the wood, turning verdant green to withered black... until her time had passed. Then Koszik crushed her skull, and the Gift passed to him.
: Did I know the hunger? Oh yes.
: I sought to drink more deeply than any... I cast about for a soul that was vast enough to truly quench my hunger. My eyes turned always back to the forest.
: Go on.
So this is Shape of Fire's friend. Nice guy.
These are the four spirit-eaters mentioned in The Wisdom of Immith Yabog - a group of four who founded a cult in the Ashenwood and preyed on the forest, until they were forcibly broken up by the hathrans. And Zarakh is the one who fed upon the Wood Man and caused the genius loci to arise.
: If you have walked under the eaves of the great forest, you have touched the Wood Man's essence. Every creature that dies in his domain, every corpse that molders under rock or silent eave, is joined to him.
: To drink of such a spirit... to gorge on the soul of the living forest... is to embrace the Gift as no one else. And for a time, even our hunger would be sated.
: Then devouring the Wood Man would offer me a reprieve?
: For a time, yes. Some might use such a reprieve to strengthen their wills, but most would seek vainly for a 'cure.' Many would counsel you thus.
We first encountered the Red Woman (and the Boy) in the vision we had when we touched the binding runes of the spirit trap in Okku's barrow.
We also saw a wall of screaming souls, so I'm not looking forward to our next dream-quest.
: No. Whatever you saw was merely a reflection. There were many like her once, before the hunger took them all... many facets of a single dream, a single memory, now lost.
: Only she remains because she was always the strongest. Her garden - our garden - grew firm and strong around her.
And they attack.
There's four of them, all around Level 25, and one for each of the traditional PC archetypes: a warrior, a mage, a priest and a thief.
Well, if you want to be exact, they're a Barbarian/Frenzied Berserker, a Wizard/Eldritch Knight, a Spirit Shaman/Divine Champion and a Rogue/Shadowdancer/Assassin.
Whatever they are, we make short work of them. They can co-ordinate outfits but they sure as hell can't work as a team.
And that's what basically lets us win, outnumbered two-to-one: Gann acts as a big unarmoured distraction while I stab the shit out of everyone. We're a great team!
: She speaks - as if an echo, across a great distance. And a familar one. But...
: You look like Safiya, but... who are you?
: I am only a memory... a memory of love, lost but not forgotten.
: Another mask fragment. These are important indeed and are taking on a greater significance.
: We will not see one another again... not until you must draw on the memory of what once was. Know that I will be safe, while the mask is in your hands.
: Until I need you? When will that be?
Goddamnit, not again! I still had questions!
At least this time there's someone else I can ask.