Part 39: Ending II: She Fought The Reaper And Won
Act Three Chapter Eight - The Binding Of Isaac
Well, well, well. Look who finally decided to show up.
His voice should sound familiar. The VA's name is Roger Bumpass, and he also plays the narrator from the very start of the game. Or rather, he plays Kelemvor who is the Narrator as well. The whole time, it's been the god of the dead telling us the story of Mask of the Betrayer.
But at the moment he's here to stop the Crusade and have words with his former Doomguide.
: You are not welcome here, and your grandfather cannot intervene to save you a second time. Your presence is a reminder that I should not have been merciful.
Bold. Foolish, but bold.
: Do you understand what you risk? Bring down the Wall, and mortals will see that they cannot be held to account for their faith.
: On that day, mortals will put faith aside. And the gods will bring vengeance upon them all.
Oh boo bloody hoo. My soul is stuck in that fucking wall!
This is a question we raised earlier with Zoab: why didn't Kelemvor just erase us from existence the moment we stepped onto his home plane?
I think I know why Myrkul didn't just wish Akachi away during his Crusade: because Myrkul wanted Akachi to almost succeed, so he'd have an excuse to turn him into the spirit-eater and inflict some Myrkul-flavoured misery upon the Realms. That's not how Kelemvor plays, though - he's better than that.
Not much better, I admit.
: Even the gods are bound by laws, Kaelyn.
This marks the end of the Third Crusade. Now that Kelemvor's here, we have no chance of bringing down the Wall of the Faithless - he could just wish us away if he so chose. We have to compromise: to work with Kelemvor to end Akachi's curse. The Wall of the Faithless will remain.
More importantly, Obsidian didn't plan for an option where the player actually destroyed the Wall. They assumed that Wizards of the Coast would nix such a huge change to the Forgotten Realms setting, so they didn't even bother asking... although it turns Wizards got rid of the Wall in the change to 4th Edition anyway. I don't know if that's ironic, but I bet Myrkul would approve regardless.
: To end the curse... or to save your own soul? Myrkul has cast many a wager in you. And the greatest relies upon the selfishness of mortal souls.
Kelemvor is the third and most reluctant villain in Mask.
'Villain' is perhaps too strong - he's an antagonist, yes, and he represents the impersonal cruelty of cosmic justice, but he's not actually evil, whether it's big-e Evil like Myrkul or little-e evil like the Founder. He's just a god with a job to do, but his predecessor left a whole bunch of shit unresolved and now he has to deal with it all. In fact, for a god who has every reason to just drop us and let us rot, he's actually a decent person. Here, for example, he's basically dropping as many hints as he's allowed about the spirit-eater curse and what we have to do to resolve it.
Oh, by the way... look at what he's wearing on his face. Kelemvor was once a mortal man; even as a god he struggled to balance his duties with his personal beliefs. Eventually he chose to adopt a godly persona to rule the land of the dead without prejudice or favour - but he's been in our shoes before.
: You speak of sacrifice... and you leave something else unsaid.
: The Founder wanted too much to believe Akachi's curse could be undone. Myrkul told her what she wished to hear... and that was only a part of the truth.
* * *
Ammon shows up for the final battle of our Crusade. Like he said, he can't bring fiends within the City of Judgement, so he's absolutely useless. Zoab and Rammaq's minions aren't much better either, because honestly, how hard could fighting a wall be?
"Surprisingly so" is the answer, though not enough to trouble us. The Wall is not defenceless - guardian golems and spell-like abilities will attempt to stop us from cutting our soul free from the Wall.
I thought I should use the Silver Sword at this point. It seemed appropriate.
: [You extend your hand, brushing your fingers against your own face, expecting cold, damp flesh...]
: [...but instead, the flesh collapses at your touch, like brittle clay. The figure crumbles before your eyes, the mouth and face bursting apart in a rush of wind.]
: [You hear your foster father Daeghun, calling you as he did when you were a child, a note of fear in his voice... shouts and cries in West Harbor, as it burns... your old companions, screaming in warning...]
: [The shrieking rises to a deafening pitch, and the wind swirls faster. It is pulled through the pores of your skin, filling you up...]
: Something's not right... what's going on? Speak to me!
* * *
The Red Woman is back in our head. In our old castle, Crossroad Keep.
And Gann is here too. Wonderful.
: The Faceless Man... he is here.
: The Faceless Man... I've heard that name before.
: He is the presence you have felt, from the first moment in the barrow.
Oh, great. So by tearing our soul from the hunger of the Wall, we've given it over to Akachi's hunger instead.
: Myrkul lied. To you, and to the Founder. When you freed your soul from the Wall, the spirit-eater remained within you.
: But if you fight the Faceless Man, if your will can master his... you could end this. Perhaps forever.
: Why was Gann drawn here with me, but no one else?
: It is true. See, my love, my heart is a beacon to all who see us.
One companion accompanies us into our memories. The game chooses the companion with the highest influence - in case of a tie, picking in the order: Safiya, Gann, Okku, Kaelyn. Romantic interests trump everyone else.
: Very well. What must I do?
: You will see memories in this place, too. Faces you loved... or hated, perhaps.
: Just as I am a remnant of Akachi, they are expressions of your soul. Lose them, and a part of you dies.
And as soon as the Red Woman disappears, a whole bunch of Manifestations of Hunger spawn in. These Grim Reaper knockoffs are no threat in direct combat...
...but they're dangerous enough to pick off our old party from NWN2.
Yep, they're all here, or memories of them at any rate. Khelgar, Neeshka, Sand... the ones that are alive and the ones that we killed. Even Shandra's present.
No Construct though.
: They've run off already? I was just getting warmed up!
: Well, that was a lot of fun. They don't seem to carry any coin, though.
: I could sense nothing of those creatures. They were like voids - most unnatural.
: They burned easily enough. Let's hope more of them show up.
: Skeletons in robes and armed with scythes... why, that reminds me of the time...
: Those things were evil, yes, but desperate as well. You could sense it too, could you not?
: With all the enemies you have hounding your tracks, I'm surprised you're still alive.
: An attempted devouring by a horde of undead creatures - yes, one of the many "benefits" of your company.
: What is it about you that attracts so much trouble wherever you go?
: Know that those abominations were but mere shadows of your true enemy - be on your guard.
: They seem to be beaten - for now. Do not remain idle while your enemies regain their strength.
God, it's just like the real thing.
Each former companion that dies takes a chunk off your spirit meter - and Spirit Energy 0 equals death, even in our memories.
To progress, we confront - and defeat - the avatar of Akachi, the Faceless Man, outside the doors of our keep.
Through the doors is...
The loading screen tips for this sequence are kind of funny to read. "You might hate West Harbor and think it was really boring, but it's an important part of your personality so shut up and save your old friends from being eaten."
This time, we've only got Daeghun, Bevil, Amie, Cormick and Lorne (?!) to save from the Manifestations.
Again, Akachi appears, and again, we beat him handily. Unfortunately the easy ride stops here.
We have a problem.
We have a choice.
: No. A part of him survives, through Akachi's suffering, and yours. As long as Akachi hungers, then Myrkul's will persists, and he will always rise again.
: Drive the spirit-eater out of your soul, and it will find a new victim. Then another, and another. And Myrkul's soul will reform... and drift back to that barren rock, in the empty silver sky.
: No. Myrkul will answer for this. There must be a way.
We are the sacrifice.
: There is no future in this. I say we have carried the curse long enough - let another bear it for a time.
: So the only way to truly end this curse... is to take Akachi's place?
: You would be honored... counted among the heroes who guard the gates of Kelemvor's realm... but yes.
: If I made this sacrifice... Myrkul's life would finally end?
: If you ended the curse, his spark would gutter out. Forever.
: And no one else would fall victim to the spirit-eater? Akachi's suffering would end?
: Yes. His soul would sleep... dreamless and silent... within yours.
: And we'd sleep, too. We'd be gone from your dreams, and leave you in piece.
: Must I make my decision now?
Originally I was annoyed that I didn't have an option to finish the Crusade. Like lots of people, I considered the Wall injust and wanted to destroy it - so Kelemvor showing up and dismissing us without so much as a by-your-leave really rankled with me.
Now, though, I think it makes sense, despite George Ziets' and the others' intention to allow that option. I don't think that because I support the idea of the Wall, though I do now understand the arguments for preserving it. To be honest, it's simpler than that: I don't think the Wall is that important at all.
The Wall is death, right? An eternity of oblivion... but the story of Mask isn't the story of a man who tried to avoid oblivion, i.e. Torment; it's the story of a man who sacrificed everything for love. Akachi never chose to end death - his dilemma was which of his loves to obey. It's only fitting, then, that the final crisis of Mask is not some futile quest against the symbol of oblivion, but a question of love instead. Who do we love? Can we love the world enough to die for it?
This question is one I'm going to hand over to you. Should we:
- Sacrifice ourselves to end Akachi's suffering. The spirit-eater curse would be ended, but we'd be condemned to spend the rest of our immortal lives in the City of Judgement. We'd be hailed as heroes, live a life of eternal luxury, but we'd be trapped in the City and doomed to protect the Wall of the Faithless from future Crusades.
- Cast Akachi out of our soul. We'd be free but the spirit-eater curse would return to Rashemen. Hundreds of future innocents would feel the torment of the Wall - but we'd be able to live our own life, choose our own path. We'd owe no service to Kelemvor, or the Founder, or Zoab or anyone.
You can think of this as the official ending, or just one of the options leading up to the real official ending that I'll show in a bit. There are four possible outcomes to Mask and I think they're all good, although the two I'm showing in these upcoming updates are the 'less optimal' endings. Take that as you will.
: He hides in the depths of your soul, where he can harm you most. If he slays you there, or devours your spirit, you will be his.
: Use your own hunger against him, if you can. In that place, your powers will be without limit... and you may call upon them as often as you wish.