Part 37: MOONSHADE - The Rat Woman & The Automaton Commune
The Rat Woman & The Automaton Commune
"Curse this Imbalance which veils my mind..."
"Guys, a snake is talking to me again."
"Do you... want us to do something about it?"
"You know, it feels as if there's something missing in town lately."
"I cannot put my finger on it..."
"Steve, did you have anything to do with this?"
"Whatever it is you did?"
"...now if I only knew what it was."
"Enough of that. Hey, Captain Hawk!"
"Aye, lass, 'tis good to see thee again. What can Captain Hawk do for ya?"
"We wanna leave, this place is getting stupid."
"So ye're still trying ta leave this island? Well, I didn't want ta mention it before, but there are caves in the southern mountains. Legend says they lead ta the mainland, if thou canst find the right path... But none who ventured there have ever returned!"
"Isn't it possible they never returned because they made it through, and thus had no reason to come back?"
"Aye, I... suppose that's possible. I wager that Julia doth have possession of a key that would let thee in down there, but I would think twice if I were thee before I made such a journey!"
"I don't need to think."
Off to the Rangers' place!
"So, thou hast learned of the catacombs, hast thou?"
"Mayhap we hast."
"I hope thou hast not ventured to those ruins south of town, they are dangerous! I do not care what thou art after, but I'll tell thee that thou wilt throw thy life away down there. The depths belong to the Rat-Men, not to mention the burning heat. That is why the gate must always be locked."
"Oh come on. Rat-Men?"
"Oh yes! There are too many Rat-Men to eliminate, so it is my duty to see that the gate remains closed. All that I and the other Rangers can do to keep them pacified is to toss scraps of food through the gate. Of course, my job is to keep any of those creatures from getting into the city, Avatar, but I might be able to forget that I saw anyone going down there, if the price was good enough..."
"I somehow saw that coming."
"But I doubt even thou would survive the heat down there. Though the Rat-Men thrive on it, the temperatures down there would most certianly boil thee in thine own flesh."
"Is it truly that bad?"
"Only once did I ever venture into the catacombs, with twenty strong Rangers at my back. And before we had gone far, half of our party had fallen to the heat alone... It felt like we were walking into a smith's forge! We had to turn back, and no one hath gone in there since. A sword may protect thee from the Rat-Men, but only magic can save thee from the fearsome heat."
"Well, that won't be an issue, I don't think. Now do you want your bribe or not?"
"I heard thou hast magic to protect thyself from the heat in the catacombs. I hope thou hast thought to take enough reagents, not that thou will survive the Rat-Men..."
"Oh that won't happen."
"I will 'loan' thou this key for say... 40 guilders? Is it worth that much to adventure in the catacombs?"
"No, but I'd rather not kill or Vibrate you over it, and it isn't like we don't have plenty of this worthless crap money."
"Well enough! Take this blue key. It will open the gate to the catacombs for thee."
Before we go, though, we'll need something to deal with the Rat-Men. Well, okay, we could just kill the Rat-Men. It doesn't affect anything. But there's a semi-sidequest tied to it, so why not go for it?
"Incidentally, Avatar, all of the automatons in the city have gone missing. What became of them?"
"Ha ha! Now who will organize your fancy dressers and serve you fish, mages of Moonshade!"
"So what's the next phase?"
"Actually, that was pretty much it."
"What, childishly breaking all the servants? That was the extent of your grand revenge on Moonshade?"
"I also made Flindo smell a dirty diaper."
"That's... really not all that impressive, Steve."
"Yeah, I was kind of hoping for something else."
"Alright fine! I just thought of an even better idea."
"No one has seen Filbercio since that little 'incident,' leading me to believe he has fled in terror of me. Or he's out scoring. In either case, the stage is set for a change."
"A change in government. A coup!"
"We don't really have time to rule this city, Steve."
"Not me you idiots. Them!"
"You can't mean..."
"Behold! A government by the automatons, for the automatons, and of the automatons! The first Automaton Parliament is now in session!"
"Sucks that the first decree of the Automaton Parliament was that we had to leave the city as soon as possible."
"Yeah, and half of them went back to work anyway. The wage negotiations were most interesting, though!"
"I knew I should've made Robo-Dupre their king."
"You really think I'm up to that?"
"No, but a robot of you is. You have a very commanding mustache."
"Why thank you!"
"Hey guys, look, a hobo!"
"So what'rt thou looking at, eh?"
"Who are you?"
"What's it to ye? Some call me the Rat Woman, but I'll have ye know that my rightful name is Mosh."
"Aye, Mosh... and I am linked by fate to Columna, the Green Enchantress! She is my very own sister."
"You, Columna's sister? That seems rather unlikely, ma'am!"
"Oh yeah that's real sensitive there Iolo."
"I tell thee that I have a twin. Yet wert thou to see us together, any similarity would be gone. It is she who possesses the youth and beauty I held dear not long ago. But ask whether love passes between us and I will tell thee nay."
"And now you're a rat woman."
"Snigger not at me! I have company enough -- more guests in mine house than thou couldst have in thine. I was a powerful enchantress, in my prime. Before I was cheated of my powers."
"What 'house' are we talking about here?"
"'Tis not a bad place to live."
"The sewers not bad? Art thou daft?"
"Scowl not at Mosh. Thou knowest nothing of what thou sayest. Each one of us makes of life what we can, whether by fate or the treachery of others. Dost thou see me judging ye? The rats are my friends. Dost thou not like my companions?"
"They're okay, I guess."
"Good! Then with time, perhaps, we could learn to like thee."
"So if you were a powerful mage, how did you wind up in this state?"
"I was once a beautiful young woman, and not so many years ago as thou mightest believe! There was a young mage who wanted mine hand -- Trulacci, whose ill-fated son now languishes in the depths of the Mountains of Freedom."
I'm not sure who she's talking about here. He could be one of the mages who was sent for Stoneheart, although I suspect it might be Stefano (however, this dialogue doesn't change when he gets out). If it was Stefano, this might suggest he is Columna's son, which makes the whole love triangle thing and theft of the stockings a bit more interesting. Ultimately it doesn't matter, because...
"It was Columna who stole him from my love, by using her magics on him. Yet she never loved him... he was simply a toy to her. And I shall never forgive her for that!"
"Well, I don't think we've heard of this guy."
"Where hath he gone? Bah, I know not. Nor, for that matter, do I care!"
"Ah, but I can see that thou dost still care, madam."
"Rubbish! 'Tis long gone, and I am an old woman now. Let me be honest with thee. My powers have dwindled to nothingness. I can teach thee no spell worth knowing!"
"That's too bad. All because Columna stole your man?"
"It is as nothing compared to the greater swindles which she practices. She doth conspire against Nature itself, didst thou know? She doth possess a Magic Comb, stolen from the City of Beauty. 'Tis an enchanted object which she used to make herself appear young and beautiful. Without it, she would be exactly like me! I know not where she keeps it. But I am certain it is in a well hidden spot."
Because I never go without getting both sides of a story, Columna outright denies any such association with Mosh, calling her a preposterous liar.
But perhaps, just perhaps, there's some truth to what Mosh says? There seems to be a secret switch on the back wall of her home.
"Oh, I get it now, the old and rotted trees are symbolic of the ugliness inside Columna!"
"It could also be because their gardener is now the head of the Finance Committee."
Concealed in the bushes is a chest we can pick open. Ignore Stefano, I have no idea why he's wandering around here.
"Behold! The Comb of Beauty! Any who possess it shall become beautiful."
"It doesn't seem to be working for you, Steve."
"I think it seeks out the most beautiful features of the people near it and enhances them."
"Then that would mean..."
"Hot damn, I didn't think my mustache could get any more amazing!"
"It looks like Mosh was right after all, you're a total skanky old hag."
"And let me tell you something, that 80s hair is no longer doing you any favors, lady."
"Wait! Sir! Y-your mustache..."
"Sorry, no fat or old chicks. Not with a mustache like this."
"So thou hast spoken to that hag! Tell me now -- dost thou believe me, or she?"
"Well, we did find the whole Comb of Beauty exactly where you said it was, and then she turned into a fat ugly bitch exactly like you. No offense or anything fatass."
"Thou dost truly believe me now... ah, I see that thou dost. Thou art truly one I can say is my friend. If thou art ever in need, come to me. I shall give thee anything I possess. Thou dost see, I have a good heart. And if thou dost ever have something that I could use, please bring it. Nothing large. Perhaps a morsel of food."
"Maybe this fish? It's slightly less rotten than everything else Shamino's carting around."
"I thank ye, Avatar. Thou art indeed a kind one. I knew the moment I saw ye I could call ye friend. And know that my little ones call ye friend as well, as do their larger cousins."
"Larger cousins? The Rat-Men?"
"Aye, my friend. Beneath the very ground upon which thou dost walk rest many twisting tunnels. They are known as the catacombs, and the lovelies who call them home are the ratmen. But how will they recognize ye as my friend? I know! I will give ye mine harp. Shouldst thou ever find thyself in the complex below, strum it for them. The sweet tunes from mine instrument will pacify them, for in younger days I did play it for them as they laid themselves down to sleep. Here, please take this for thy kindness."
"I'll just hold onto tha-"
"It's not a lute!"
"I'm extending the ban to all stringed instruments."
"Now, if we're going into a really hot place, we might need some extra water. Maybe six buckets or so?"
"That's certainly an odd number, but at least you're thinking ahead this time."
"Oh oops I dropped one of the buckets of water on this strange altar in Gustacio's basement for no reason."
"Was there a point to all that?"
"Perhaps so! Something has happened!"
"That looks like some considerably more tolerant water than usual."
"Yes, your average bucket of water is not nearly as tolerant as that one is now."
Three guesses where Mortegro went, now.
One of the rangers is on patrol outside the tunnel entrance. He warns us about going in but screw him.
"Ahhh, feels good to be out of that damn town at last. Now we just have to go through some perfectly nondescript tunnels that won't turn into any strange ancient ruins, and we'll be fine!"
"Yes, I am quite certain we will experience nothing out of the ordinary down here."
"Argh, rats! The harp, it does nothing!"
It turns out the harp doesn't work on small rats. So much for them being our friends, huh Mosh?
"How adorable, they've cobbled together their own little society down here."
"It's like Eurodisney on a Saturday! And much like Eurodisney, a shriveled little man is attempting to rob us."
"Luckily, the harp actually worked this time."
"Were we even threatened by these things in the first place?"
"Yeah, I'm not sure why any of this was especially needed."
There's a little hideout here full of mutant guys. It has an underground water pump and everything. I'm not sure what it's for. It almost looks like some ranger has been down here training or something. I figured maybe it was Ernesto, the other named ranger, but I can't imagine what he'd be doing down here.
"Oh boy, Ophidian stairs! I know where this is going!"
This one is seriously minor, but I guess it kind of counts as a secret area.
The Rat-Men have barricaded off an area with anything they can find. Looking past into the room suggests they were ambushed by something. Let's clear out some junk enough to walk over or through...
...or hackmove, but clearing the crap out also works. A crypt! Full of zombies! And a Sword of Defense, which brings the grand total of Swords of Defense I own now to something like 16 (no joke).
Back at the rear of the crypt is some molten lava and a lava man who spams fireballs. This is annoying if you don't have a bunch of ranged guys, which I fortunately do. You sometimes see these guys elsewhere in Furnace, but they seem rather rare. There's actually not a whole lot of combat in the next part.