Part 42: My Name Is Calliope And I'm A Spiritaholic
Act Three Chapter Eleven - Ending III: And Love Overcomes, As It Always MustWe've spoken a lot about the 'message' of Mask of the Betrayer: its themes, its purpose. Love brings people together and splits gods and priests apart. Love almost drives the universe to its knees, and then lifts it back up again. Everything has been done for love, in one way or another. But there's an unspoken idea at work here - a subconscious belief that maybe Obsidian didn't even know they had.
Return again to the idea of duality: two identities in one person. Now, my perception is that this is perfectly normal, and in fact incredibly common. The person I am to my friends is different to the person I am to my parents, or my colleagues, or acquaintances or strangers. There are common personality traits but the way I act and behave differs considerably - quiet and respectful to some, loud and annoying to others. In a sense, I'm a different person to every individual I meet, and I think the same is true of almost everyone.
Obsidian doesn't agree. Time and time again, they've argued against this - that a man cannot be both a lover and a priest, because sooner or later one will clash with the other. Akachi could not be both high priest and devoted lover; Okku could not serve Rashemen and serve his clan at the same time; Gulk'aush could not be a mother, a lover and a hag; Kaelyn could not be a dutiful granddaughter and a merciful angel; so on so forth.
Obsidian's belief is that multiple identities inevitably collide and annihilate one another in some great cataclysm (see: Akachi's and Kaelyn's Crusades, the telthor dream-madness, Gann's exile). It's an unusually stark and absolute idea from a developer that otherwise enjoys dark, ambiguous settings and dilemmas.
* * *
I have shown you the two suboptimal endings to Mask of the Betrayer. In these endings, we are forced to make a choice between sacrificing ourselves to save Akachi, or loosing the spirit-eater curse upon the world to save ourselves.
There are two other endings, though: the 'optimal' endings. These are unlocked through specific actions taken throughout the main campaign, and both of them offer a way around Myrkul's selfish wager.
: No, spirit-eater... tearing your soul from the Wall will not be enough. Myrkul's cruelties are not so easily undone.
: Speak plainly. How can that be done?
: Take back what is yours from the Wall. And then return to Akachi what is his.
: All that you need... you have already found in dreams.
The first optimal ending is considered the 'nicest', which isn't the same as best but it is close. We achieve this ending by acquiring all three pieces of the dream-mask from the Boy, the Red Woman and the Wall - from the three visions we had at the Wells of Lurue, Ashenwood and the Sunken City.
I know we apparently did all these in the playthrough, but it turns out I lied and only did two. Sorry!
: Akachi's essence was scattered, not destroyed. If he had been utterly lost, nothing would remain to hunger.
: Myrkul was so enamored of his own cruelty that he couldn't see its flaws.
: Then stand aside, god of the dead, and let me finish this.
: Know this, spirit-eater. I will not stand in your way now, but my memory is long, and all must come before me in the end. On that day, the debts of your Crusade will come due.
: The Wall cannot persist, and even should we fail, the acts done here will serve as a beacon to others.
Much of the endgame remains the same, but the dialogue has been altered. We've just seen how the confrontation with Kelemvor has changed.
The Red Woman's dialogue changes as well.
: Each fragment is an essence... mine or the Boy's. And the final fragment, the one you found in the Wall... that fragment is his. As long as you possess all three, he will fear you.
: His hunger is scattered, feeding at will... manifested in this dream as hooded mockeries of the priest he once was.
: You must destroy them, and chase down the Faceless Man. Corner him, in a place where he cannot run. And we will be there at the end... to make him whole again.
: Very well. We finish this, together.
* * *
: You have cornered the Faceless Man... in the deepest recess of your soul. He has nowhere left to run.
: We are all that survives of him. And we have tried... to help you, to guide you... when we could. Though we know that we have done little, in truth.
: Ah. There was an echo in these dreams, but I did not realize their source... they all spring from Akachi, or once did.
: But just as a single recollection can spark a far greater memory... so we can restore most of what he was.
: You'll help me restore Akachi to what he was... and end this curse?
: [As the Boy speaks, you realize that his words are true. The fragmented mask has somehow joined together into one - a single mask, that contains all that the Betrayer once was.]
: Just as the fragments have been made whole... so must his scattered pieces. We are willing, but the Faceless Man is not.
: He's waiting for you... beyond the portal. In the darkest recess of your soul. If you can defeat him there, make him yield... then you can make him remember what he was.
: The Faceless Man will try to slay you, or devour your spirit. If you wear the mask, it will provide some protection from his hunger.
: Use your own hunger against him, if you can. In the depths of your soul, your powers will be without limit... and you may call upon them as often as you wish.
The plan has changed. No longer do we have to imprison ourselves to imprison Akachi, or unleash him on an unsuspecting Rashemen. Our dual identities can part ways peacefully - through the memory of his brother and the Founder.
It's an interesting subversion of the idea of Betrayal (as the game interprets it, in Akachi and Kaelyn and Gulk'aush) - while love is the catalyst for these conflicts, it's also the solution.
Who knew Obsidian were such huge romantics?
* * *
The eponymous Mask grants us immunity to Death effects and Level and Ability Drain. Not especially fancy in most cases, but for this fight it's quite handy. Akachi's Devour Spirit only drains our energy meter, not our health as well, and he no longer inflicts additional Negative Energy damage with his scythe.
Plus it looks cool and was on the front cover of the game. What more could you possibly ask?
: [Broken and bound, you can see the Faceless Man for what he is... empty and confused... enslaved to a hunger that he does not understand, yet cannot deny.]
You can still choose the bad ending here, if you like, and cast Akachi out of your soul. Not that there's any reason to do this, unless you particularly dislike Rashemen (understandable).
: [You focus your will upon the mask, seeking those memories which are not yours, allowing them to drift into your conscious mind...]
: You have pursued us, Faceless Man, and we have hidden. In your hunger and pain, you have forgotten what you are, but we remember. We always remembered.
: You are Akachi, my brother, who gave me my name...
: You are Akachi, my beloved, who kindled love in a heart that held none...
* * *
: You have restored his soul... done what gods thought beyond their power.
: His torment is ended, and as for Myrkul... the dark god's soul will fade, and pass into oblivion, as he deserves.
: Can the Founder join Akachi, wherever he has gone?
: She knew from the beginning that her lover was lost to her... even if she saved him. Where Akachi has gone, the Founder cannot follow.
: Upon her death, the Founder's soul will pass to Safiya, as will her knowledge. Through the innocence of her daughter's soul, she will find redemption... though the woman she once was will cease to be.
: The chaos you sowed in my city will win you few friends amongst the gods. Deities of order will cast their eyes upon you, as a symbol of all they oppose.
: For my part... I will pass no judgment upon you. I see in your Crusade the hand of a dead god, and the desperation of a forsaken soul, trying to save the one she loved.
: And the good you have done redeems much...
We've reconciled Akachi to himself, and our souls part peacefully. The curse is ended without payment, without sacrifice. And as a bonus...
: It's not yet time to return to the Academy - I've grown far too fond of traveling with you... and we have countless journeys ahead of us.
: What do you mean?
: My love, I am saddened because I am not certain what journey we can undertake now that can surpass the one we have just travelled.
: You have met my mother in a sunken city beneath the waves, walked the Plane of Shadows, danced in dreams... oh, and we have gone to the realm of the dead and back.
: Wherever can a poor hagspawn take you to impress you after such things?
: I can manage that... for a short time, I think. But it must be your lips that silence me, I demand nothing less.
: The Crusade - your Crusade - is a great victory. It may seem a symbol, but symbols, like Akachi and the First Crusade - such symbols lend strength to others. It has given me strength.
: You have shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this Wall can be ended, removed from the planes. And I shall live to see it fall.
: You have reminded me what it's like to be alive - to struggler, and feel the call of wanderlust... where are we headed next, little one?
...everyone goes home happy.
* * *
Much of the epilogue here is the same as the previous two endings - picking out the best endings for everyone. Instead of being forced to decide between Safiya and Okku/Kaelyn and fifth companion, we get to please everybody.
For the sake of completion:
: In the tales of your journeys, Safiya had parts yet to play - the able counsellor, the devoted ally - before returning at last to the Academy that she had loved, only to find it in the hands of rival wizards.
: Safiya rallied those who had been loyal to her mother - and many yet remained. With the magic of the Founder at her call, she drove her rivals from the Academy and took her mother's place as headmistress.
: The Academy of Shapers and Binders remains an anomaly amongst the Red Wizards - a school where magic is studied for its own sake... where those who plot against their fellow wizards are cast out, and slavery has no place.
: It is a quiet but increasingly powerful force for change in the nation of Thay.
: Gann had made his peace with his parents and his past, and though he never pledged himself to the gods, he found another sort of faith - not in religion and ritual, but in love... friendship... and trust.
: Yet even with the success of your Crusade, Kaelyn never grew into the leader that Akachi - or you - had been. Perhaps it was her unyielding sense of purpose... or her brazen defiance of the gods... that drove her followers away.
: Still, Kaelyn and her siblings did not abandon the cause. They staged assaults upon my city, tearing a few souls from the Wall at a time, and escaping before my followers could pursue.
: To this day, she persists, defying the gods and the planes. And though it is said that her wings have grown dark with the passing of years, she remains a beacon of hope for those bound in the Wall... her name whispered as a prayer by those who knew no faith in life.
: You never saw him again... though the Rashemi believe that he slumbers peacefully in his barrow.
: And years later, when a host of Thayans crossed the River Mulsantir to invade southern Rashemen, it is said that a great bear spirit led an army of beasts against them.
: The invading Thayans were crushed, and not a drop of Rashemi blood was spilled.
: As for the bear, he vanished soon after, leaving no proof of his passage... save for the ravaged corpses of gnolls and Red Wizards.
: And what of your fate?
: It was there, upon the village green where your adventures began, that you and Gann were married, in the presence of those old friends who yet lived.
: Khelgar Ironfist, the wizard Sand, Bevil Starling... these and many others stood in respectful silence as you spoke the words that would join the two of you together.
Really? Is that so?
That's not the story we're interested in. We want to know the truth.
We want to know what really happened.