Part 33: No Words, Only Pictures
Act Three Chapter Two - Founder, Mother, Lover, Monster
This is the last piece. Everything should make sense from this point on.
: The voices... I understand it now. You and I... my mother... we're all parts of the same person - the same soul.
: My sweet daughter, you are all that was best in me. Everything that Akachi loved, and gave his soul to protect... lives in you.
: Of all the wicked things I have done to save him... you are innocent, blameless. You began as a part of me, Safiya... but now you are more.
Whut? When did we work this out?
I suppose Safiya does have like 22 Intelligence or so
: Yes, all in good time. There's someone you should meet...
We meet with the Founder only briefly, but the encounter is incredibly important. We can take everything the Founder says as the author's own truth; when she opens her mouth, Obsidian speaks with her voice.
: I must be hideous to you... to him. If Akachi was not... the thing that he is... he would turn away from me with loathing.
Damnit we just had this problem with Araman.
: Oh, I don't think you are him... not really.
: My Akachi is gone. Little remains of him but a mindless hunger, seething beneath your flesh.
The Founder... she was Akachi's lover. The one who died, and went to the Wall. The one who turned Man against the gods.
: So much lost, for one fool girl. My beloved launched a Crusade, and sacrificed all that he was.
: Better that he had left me to rot, perhaps, and found another pretty thing to distract him from his faith.
That would be nice to believe, I think.
: If he was here, I would tell him... I have never rested since that day. This Academy... all you've seen here... all this was for him.
: I know I cannot bring him back... but I can end his pain... and the punishment that he never deserved. You have given me that chance.
: You've manipulated me... used me for your own ends.
The Founder is the second villain of Mask of the Betrayer. But where Myrkul was an overtly malevolent force - a literal skull-and-crossbones - the Founder presents a softer image. And where Myrkul was largely ineffectual and irrelevant to the story, the Founder is the monster responsible for countless violations, hundreds of horrific experiments, and for feeding us to the spirit-eater curse at the start of the game.
: Safiya, I never lied to you. You didn't understand my words, then... but they were true, nonetheless.
: And you, stranger... who have suffered so much for a love you never knew... yes, you must think me a monster.
This line is at the heart of Mask of the Betrayer. Heed it well.
We've got a choice as to how we deal with the Founder. First, though, we have some questions.
First up is a plot thread that Obsidian sort of dropped back in Act One: Safiya's voices.
: Fragments, yes. If one of us was slain, the others would carry on. And Akachi would not be abandoned.
: And each of them had... talents... of her own. A mind, a soul... can be teased apart, its elements distilled.
: Every person has talents, weaknesses, obsessions. All but the strongest are drowned out in the clamour of the mind.
: Sever one aspect from the rest, and suddenly it is stronger, more focused, than it was as part of the whole.
: Nefris wanted you to know... she thought it practical to tell you. But I forbade it. If you'd shared in our secret... you'd have shared in our blame.
: Safiya said the voices were louder, at times. They kept her out of danger.
: We understood the connection... Lienna, Nefris and myself. We could hear each other's thoughts... when we chose to listen.
: And yes... we could speak to one another through our minds. But the bond became weaker with time, as each of us grew slowly apart... became her own woman.
: Lienna was the most difficult of all. Living in a foreign land, adopting their language and customs... that is why we created the portals, so that Nefris could visit her, to ensure that she did not... stray.
: I always heard you... low voices... a crowd of people in another room. But when I'd search for you-
: You could never find us. And you learned to ignore our voices over time. Just as we hoped, my sweet daughter.
Araman I understand, since he wanted to destroy all aspects of the Founder. But the wording implies some other threat to Safiya, doesn't it?
: What part of you was Lienna?
: She was all that imagines and questions... withholds judgment and sees all things anew.
: What better fragment to be my eyes in a foreign land... than one that could love that land, and its people, as an old Thayan never could?
: And Nefris, the headmistress? What part of you was she?
: Can you guess what part she was, daughter?
: Your resolve. The unyielding scholar. The dutiful mother. A woman that men wouldn't love, but that a daughter could... admire...
: ...not without sweetness to temper her. And that sweetness... I gave to another.
The character of the Founder sees the return of the Triple Goddess trope: the Maiden, the Mother, the Crone. Only there's four parts to the Founder, which messes things up. Is it: Safiya-Lienna-Nefris? Or Lienna-Nefris-Founder?
But I doubt our atheist Founder would appreciate being categorised in such a way.
: Let us speak of something else.
Calm yourself, woman. We still got questions.
Like: what the hell was your plan anyway?
: I never meant to leave you on your own. Lienna would have told you what you were... enough to understand your curse, but not to lay the blame on me.
: Lienna and Nefris... my hands in the world outside this sanctum. Araman slew them both.
: He had watched me... waiting for all my fragments to reveal themselves. He knew of Nefris already. When he found Lienna, he struck.
Also: if Araman was Akachi's brother, how could he become a Red Wizard without the Founder recognising him?
: You allowed Araman to join your Academy. Why?
: Understand... when I knew Araman, he was the pale-faced little brother. So silent, so shy... he hardly spoke a word.
: I thought him centuries dead, like all the rest. And the years had changed him... as much or more than me.
: I was not looking for him... so I did not see.
: And if Araman hadn't struck, what then?
: Why the deception? You're not willing to face the consequences of your own plots?
: I would face the Wall itself, once I knew that Akachi was at peace. But not before.
Okay, up until this point I thought the Founder vaguely sympathetic. This, though, is just brutal.
Which ironically enough makes her more sympathetic, that her love for Akachi could drive her to such lengths.
: Why use me? Why not someone else?
: Because you had the will to master the blade of Gith. And because, through the Sword... you are bound to my beloved, and to all the Sword-bearers.
So, actually... forget Myrkul, forget the Founder. We only got involved in this mess because we had a shard of the Sword of Gith stuck in our chest.
Which means the one to blame for all this is Ammon Jerro.
What a surprise.
: Then he lied. Your salvation is Akachi's, as well. The dead god told me as much, and I was not kind in my questioning.
: Wait. I have questions that need to be answered.
: Yes... I'll answer what I can.
There's a few additional questions we can ask the Founder before we pass judgement. For the most part, there's nothing we couldn't figure out ourselves, but it's good to hear confirmation nonetheless.
Okku's burrow: The Old Man, the spirit-eater immediately before us, struck a deal with Okku to safeguard the spirit-eater curse forever. Lienna was the one who taught him which spells to cast, which runes to draw to bind the curse in Okku's tomb-chamber. That way, the Founder wouldn't have to worry about Akachi's location when she finally came up with a plan - and all it cost was the sanity of Okku's clan-mates...
Ammon Jerro: Ammon came to Thay to study the ways of magic and trace the history of the Sword of Gith. Nefris remembered his face and overpowered him before he could interfere with the Founder's plan. Nefris actually wanted to kill him, but the Founder decided to remove his soul in an act of "mercy" - so that he could be restored later to help us lead our Crusade against the City of Judgement.
The Founder's death: It was her death, hundreds of years ago, that set the events of Mask into motion. As a Faithless soul, the Founder was cast onto the Wall to suffer for eternity - and from that came the Betrayer's Crusade and the spirit-eater curse. So how did she die? Apparently it was a simple spell misfire - the Founder's level of magical research was so advanced, so fundamental to the rules of magic, that a momentary lapse of concentration was enough to kill her. Of course, Araman described it as a test... and the Founder tells us that she barely remembers the accident at all, as though her mind was fogged by a god's touch at a critical moment, as a test of a high priest's faith.
The Founder's end goal: Akachi is the hunger of the Wall personified, so technically he doesn't even exist any more. He cannot be destroyed (because how can you destroy a void?) but by retrieving our soul from Akachi's place in the Wall, we can 'displace' him peacefully and disperse his remaining essence. The tiny fragments that remain would know peace at last. At least, that's what Myrkul told the Founder. However...
The masks: With possession of the masks from the dream-quests we had (at the Wells of Lurue, in Ashenwood and in the Sunken City) we can suggest to the Founder that perhaps Myrkul lied to her. The masks were gifts from Akachi's most deeply-buried memories; if they could be reformed into one, an alternative solution might present itself... but that would require an act of strength that, soulless as we are, we simply do not possess.
: I have no other questions.
We have two choices: kill the Founder or spare her.
There are excellent reasons to take vengeance. For Evil characters, the Founder harmed us directly by exposing us to the spirit-eater curse; for those that are Good, she has maimed and killed hundreds of test subjects as part of her research into her lover's condition, and will continue to do so until Akachi is released from the Wall.
On the other hand, she did what she did for love.
And in the end, it is pride that saves her. We just ended a god. When we're sitting in a bar, ten years from now, telling the story of how we killed the god of the dead, I don't want to say "And then I beat up an old woman and cut her throat! Oh, but she totally deserved it." It lacks panache.
So she lives... this time.
Oh, yeah, it does give a massive boost to Safiya's influence. You can bet that'd drop like a stone if we'd killed the Founder, though.
: I didn't think anyone could forgive such an act... the Founder was right to trust in you... as was I.
: I promise, you will be freed of this curse. Even if the gods themselves try to stop us, I will be by your side - you have my word.
* * *
Before we go, there's a few things to do first.
Number one is looting the Founder's vault for treasure.
Number two is saying goodbye to Ammon.
: My reach isn't what it used to be, but there are still those who are bound to aid me. I will seek out their help, and meet you in the city of the God of the Dead.
: He repays your loyalty with his own. There is more honor in the warlock than I might have guessed...
Next update: lots of words. I'm going to take Mask apart and try to put it back together again.