Part 23: The Traitor In The Wall
Act Two Chapter Fifteen - I Suppose This Makes Us The Eagles, Then
Look guys it's Gulk'aush! Hooray!
We mustn't be too angry at Gulk'aush. Yes, she has just subjected us to the most annoying dungeon known to mankind, but she's an important nexus of key themes and important symbolism in the game. Or whatever.
: That voice, it's... haunting... insane...
: This creature's laughter is what we heard throughout the Skein. Be careful - madness and power dance within her.
: So this is the source of that wretched squawking! I'll tear out her throat and silence her for good - just ask.
: There is something about her... beneath the mask she is wearing is a face I feel I have seen many times before, but...
I liked Okku's response best.
Is that a yes, or...?
Gulk'aush reintroduces a mechanic not seen since the original Neverwinter Nights. 'Fear' effects force you to lose control of your character as they attempt to run away from the Fearful creature. Naturally such a mechanic is hugely irritating.
Oh, but not as annoying as this one! Gulk'aush has just hit Near Death. A beam of energy pulses out... and Safiya is removed from the party?
Gulk'aush likes to possess party companions. I think it's random but I've only ever seen Safiya get possessed.
It's for the best. Would you rather Okku be possessed?
We beat Gulk'aush out of Safiya and thankfully there is no lasting damage.
To Safiya, that is. Lousy mind-affecting spells aside, Gulk'aush gets absolutely creamed in this fight.
Oh, come on. What is this, Final Fantasy?
: I do not wish to die, though it would bring an end to the punishment I've endured for my crimes, my crimes, ha ha ha.
: What were your crimes?
Okay, so it's obvious who Gulk'aush is by now. I won't say anything yet in case someone hasn't figured it out but you've only got a few lines to wait anyway sooo...
But it's not about the surprise or plot twists any more. Gulk'aush's worth has been obvious ever since we sat Gann down in Mulsantir and asked him about his parents. And there's another figure I want to compare Gulk'aush to as well.
: I kept this love hidden, told my sisters I was just toying with him - just toying a little longer. But I let him escape and fooled my sisters with the desiccated corpse of some other man.
: They remained ignorant of my terrible crime until I birthed the product of our love. Then they found my beloved and made me devour him alive in front of his son.
Surprise! Welcome home, Gann!
: You. You are my mother.
: So... my son has returned, and he has brought violence against me.
: Will you murder your mother? Is this the homecoming you have sought?
: What does a hag such as you know of love?
: More than you, I think, child. Have you not drifted from creature to creature, spirit to spirit, finding no dream that has touched you?
: Or have you done so at last with this one you follow? And perhaps... not yet realized it?
Of course Gulk'aush knows of love. Why do you think Gann is so handsome, unlike the other hagspawn?
: You speak as if your words are truth, but you know nothing - of me, of my life.
: I know you have dreamed of this city beneath the waves, and your travels have circled it all your life until now... until the time has come to destroy it.
: It was ordained we speak this one last time, my dear Gann. It is the one hope that has cradled me in this prison.
: You... you are a creature of lies, spawned from lies.
Let's think back to Sheva Whitefeather and the Wychlaran of Mulsantir. Remember the Maiden-Mother-Crone construct? Hags hit the Crone archetype pretty strongly - they're horrible old women who capture, use and discard young men for their own purposes.
Now, it turns out Gann's mother issues stem from the Slumbering Coven itself. Gulk'aush was exiled because she took a lover and had a child with him. Literally speaking, her crime was falling in love (more specifically, the Coven states that she "gave into appetites", which suggests that love is something that happens to hags quite often).
But if you wanted to be fanciful you could claim her crime was transcending her role as the Crone: as a Maiden she loved a man, as a Mother she birthed a child. She explored all aspects of her femininity (inasmuch as the Triple Goddess describes femininity) and was punished for it by the Coven.
: Do you wish to see the proof of my claims?
Gann's response to this question is... complicated. As a rule, Gann will agree with whatever you suggest, so long as you have Influence. If not, he'll demand the opposite of what you say. If you ask him directly, positive-Influence-Gann keeps the conversation going while negative-Influence-Gann just wants to kill Gulk'aush and move on.
: My words you should hear. There are others who deserve your hatred far more.
: The coven who sleep here. They must be awakened. And with violence.
: Send the Coven to join your father, who drifts in the rivers of the dead. Show them, at last, the horror that the love of a mother and her son can bring to their dreams.
When I compared Gulk'aush to Lucifer last update I wasn't just keeping a theme going with the "Skein = Hell" thing.
Maybe Lucifer is the wrong person. Prometheus is more appropriate.
Prometheus was a Titan, the predecessors of the Greek gods of Olympus. The Olympians won their authority over the world in a mighty struggle with the Titans, imprisoning or subjugating them all with the exception of Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus. Prometheus realised his kindred were going to lose the war, so he threw his lot in with the Olympians ("Prometheus" means "forethought"). Epimetheus was not as bright as his brother and survived only because he was too indecisive to choose a side ("Epimetheus" means "afterthought").
Unfortunately Prometheus didn't stay in Zeus' good graces for long. When humans offered up their oxen as sacrifice to the gods, Prometheus told them to separate them into two sacks, one for the gods and one for them. One sack would have all the best cuts of beef, hidden under the disgusting stomach lining; the other sack would have simple bones covered in appetising fat. Zeus chose the latter sack, thinking he got the best deal - and from then on humans would burn only the bones of an animal as sacrifice to the gods while keeping the best bits for themselves.
Zeus was not happy, and hid the secret of fire from humanity as punishment. Prometheus, rather famously, stole it back. This was the last straw for Zeus and cursed Prometheus to be chained to a rock and his liver eaten by an eagle every day for eternity.
Prometheus is but one of many Trickster-figures - clever and cunning gods or folk heroes who use wit and ingenuity to outsmart their foes. Sometimes they invent fire, or domesticate animals, or wrestle the sun into the sea. In certain traditions Satan/Lucifer is a Trickster, albeit one for nefarious purposes (though that depends on what holy book you're reading) - and in the framework of the Triple Goddess the Trickster is represented by the figure of the Crone.
But the real interesting thing is: why did Prometheus do all that crap with fire and the sacrifices? The answer? Because he loved humanity.
He had created them, after all.
: Use it in your travels, use it against the Coven.
: Now leave me. The escape you seek is ahead. I do not know how much longer I can maintain my sanity. The voices in my mind are a cacophony.
: Then hear my voice this last time, mother - where I walk, you shall be wait me until the end days. We shall be together again.
* * *
Dream Haunting is a handy little ability we picked up from Gann's mother. This allows us to resolve a few quests by entering other people's dreams - like those of the Sleeper, and of Anya, and the Slumbering Coven.
We'll test it out on the Sleeper first.
: [As you enter the Sleeper's dream, you feel you are spinning madly, though you are standing perfectly still...]
* * *
What an imaginative and evocative person the Sleeper must be.
There's not much to this dream, but there's 500xp for talking to the Sleeper - and she's got an interesting request to make.
: They come in many forms, many forms. All of them terrible, one and all.
: I'm not here to torment you.
: So you say, so you say, but I will wait cautiously and brace myself for your abuse!
: Just answer me this. How is my torment justified? What is my crime? What have I done, except walk in dreams of others?
: Rescue, hah! The Coven would never release me. Never! The only way to release me is to destroy the Coven, and that can never be.
: Why can't the Coven be destroyed?
: To end the Coven would be to destroy centuries of collected knowledge. Such great knowledge, even in the hands of the Coven, must be preserved!
Brave woman. She'd rather die than allow the collected wisdom of the Slumbering Coven to be lost.
Dumb, but brave.
* * *
We're done with the Skein, and almost done with Coveya Kurg'annis. Good, I was starting to get sick of the Imaskari tileset.
Luckily the next few updates will take us far and away from the Sunken City - in a manner of speaking. It's gonna be fun, trust me.