Cave Shadow: It gently leads us, from one wound to another towards what brings us to life. In our intimate garden, it helps us understand, and learn. It leads us on a long path of slippery rocks and insolent mosses, towards the unseen. It leads us to the light.
Cave Shadow: It is a strange path, which leads us back tirelessly deep inside ourselves. It is as if we turned in circles, around and around, as if we flickered by the candle light; and yet we always return, one day, one morning, to our intimate world.
Cave Shadow: Are you afraid, young woman? You, who have slept for so long in the shadow of the ships. You, who have grown so much, as the roses grow... And you, who wilted before you could ever blossom.
Cave Shadow: Are you afraid? Are you cold? Do you really want to know the taste of your roots?
Frida: That is why I am here. I will know the truth, no matter the cost.
Cave Shadow: Do you really want to learn what the dead have learnt? The truth is the dead have not learnt much...
Cave Shadow: Like a child, whose eyes would have been torn, you run. You run, trembling, panting, seeking a little comfort to appease you, to render you less somber, less swarming, swarming with unpleasant things.
Cave Shadow: You know nothing. You want nothing. You search for orphan answers.
(Unlike in the realm of mortals, here, Frida's powers manifest before her eyes, not just in the eye of her mind. When she raises her hand to push away the shadows, a wave of swirling white force ripples out and slams into them. When she anticipates their actions, her skin becomes hard and dark, like the rock of the tunnel, and their cuts do not go as deep.) [None of this is actually true in-game; powers still consist of the protagonist raising her arms, and then a small effect happening. But we're a Volva in the spirit world! I figured I needed to kick things up a notch.]
(Literally shoving the doubt and fear aside, Frida reaches the center of the tunnel.)
Cave Shadow: A danger, a mountain, a threat. A strange bear with long canines, whose long claws which curve like Gallic sails, seem to tear the sky apart. Seem to tear you apart entirely.
Cave Shadow: Who is he? Do you know it, little orphan, little lonesome girl, when you sail from one ocean to another, in search of your own estuary?
Frida: Do you know? I beseech you, tell me!
(When Frida briefly casts the enemies into oblivion, it feels as if they are well and truly gone, but she can still sense them. It is a rush of power she has never experienced before.)
Cave Shadow: He is coming. Can you hear the sound of his breath whistling on the stalactites? Can you feel his accusing gaze gently bending you over, and his hands gently breaking, peacefully breaking your weakling face? Are you crying? Are you fleeing? You are fleeing again! Look at him, now. Now that he's dead.
(When Frida betrays herself and changes her form to that of the shadows, she begins to think like them. She feels their persistence, their love, their hate. They are all part of her. Now more than ever, she knows that she herself is the enemy.)
[A level up, and our first upgrade skill. There are a lot of these, usually requiring two nearby points on the skill snowflake. In general, the best strategy is to start out taking three or four active skills, and then passive skills that improve them and/or the four you start with. Probably the best thing about Deconstructor is reducing the cost to cast Repulsion, which, as you may have noticed, is the workhorse skill of this game.]
Frida: And now the spirits take the form of my father. You must be powerful indeed, to assume such a shape.
The Father: All of this, all of this is your kingdom, my daughter. Lonely princess in a doomed world, you wait, useless, at the gates of your own edifice, at the entrance of your own castle. I have the keys to this strange and humid hallway, to this hallway as wet and tight as the throat of a wounded animal.
Frida: I know I am not yet free, spirit. I know. That is why I have come for the keys.
(Flaming shadows spring into being next to Frida's father and move toward him menacingly. He makes no attempt to move. He does not even seem to notice them. His cold blue eyes continue to stare directly at Frida. She pushes him out of the way with her power before the shadows can slice into him.)
[Step one in this battle: push dad to a more defensible position, like one of the squares to the right where he can only be surrounded on two sides. If you then occupy one of those sides with yourself or something from a summon skill (none of which we have yet), you can reduce damage to him by a lot. Just make sure you get out of the way when you need to recover, since dear old dad has a lot of HP.]
The Father: Does anyone really deserve to be a father? One does what one can. One does what one ought to. Is there a good way or a bad way to raise someone, to love, to protect... Are you a good, or a bad keeper of the Gates, solely on the good faith of a stranger? Exile or Hunger... What would you have done in my place?
Frida: (As the form of a memory, floating next to the shape of her father.) I have forgotten much. But I will remember. They will not take you before I do.
(The transformation fades shortly.)
The Father: You know, nothing is as precarious as living. Nothing as transient as being. It's almost as... melting like frost. We do what we can, what we know, and then, we go. That is the truth. Nothing more. Today, I am going. Watch them devour my cadaver. What will be left for you? They will take away my body, my face, and my eyes. They will cover up my soul. Will you let them? Will you let them take away all that is left? Will you forget me? Will you keep a place for me somewhere inside of you?
(More shadows come into being, and larger ones as well. But both Frida and the father are holding.)
Frida: Hmm... Two female spirits as well... Is the third coming? If I am right, I am honored by your presence here, holy ones. (She bows her head to them, but they continue speaking to each other.)
The Father: What would you have done in my place? All the choices I made, were they so easy they were inexcusable? Who are you, Stranger, to judge the value of this matter, judge this deep matter that lives on within us through time and through writing, that makes us of the same tear, of the same smile, of the same sorrow, and this, for a quarter of a century already? What do you make of this?
[If there are invisible enemies around, whether they made themselves that way or you did, you can use targeted abilities to figure out where they are. Normally, Repulsion goes in a straight line for 10 tiles. But here, it stops. By clicking on the tile where the enemy is, you can affect it with abilities even though you can't see it. Not terribly useful here, since most invisible enemies at this point in the game are ones I've used Minor Oblivion on, but it's still a handy trick to know.]
The Father: You are alone against your kingdom. You are alone in front of this strange cave, that was carved into memory. You will see soon enough that I am not your last remaining grief. It is a long, oh so long, hallway which leads us deep within ourselves.
Whatever you do, you are free. Free to go, free to live, free to live for me. Free to travel. Travelling is not an escape. The only escape there is, is that which makes us run away from ourselves.
[Full 25 turns, first try. ]
(Frida smiles triumphantly as her enemies melt away, but the smile fades when everything else begins to melt away as well.)
Frida: No! Norns, I beg you, do not leave me!
Cave Shadow: Is this world still yours? Who replaced you, my Queen? Who took over your place? Are you the culprit in this long regency, in the long regency of this deformed thing, who lives within your walls, and sits on your throne? Would you like to see it? Would you like to hear it?
(Frida must suffer the intense burning sensation of walking through a shadow to reach the door, but it is the only way to move on. She cries out in pain, but forces her way through.) [This enemy is more like a trap, in that it's invisible and can't be Repulsed.]
Cave Shadow: Here she is. She's coming. Can you hear the sound of her raucous breath, her raucous breath like the one of a sick bear, whose fangs and claws are so long and powerful that they seem to tear the earth, that they seem to gash your guts apart, to lacerate you entirely...
Frida: By the stars... What manner of spirits are these? I have never seen their like. (She attempts to study them, but even looking at the darker ones is like looking at the sun. She must look away, lest they burn out her eyes.)
[These enemies have decent range, and can push you around as well as damage you. Make sure you step to the right or left immediately, so they don't push you back into all those traps.]
[Speaking of the traps, that's why the game says there is no worse defeat than running away: you won't automatically lose, but you will have to deal with a pile of traps that can do at least as much damage as the Torments.]
[Another level, and with it, a very interesting skill. This is one of a few that reduces your base attributes, but generally provides powerful benefits. The boost to Minor Oblivion is incredibly useful, and pushing enemies one tile farther with Repulsion is awesome (except for a few battles much later in the game where solving the encounter puzzle requires exact positioning... but we'll get to that later; for now, this is amazing, since every enemy does less damage the farther away they are, if they can even reach you.)]
(Frida can feel that this journey is already affecting her mind and her perceptions. She wishes she had put something to write with next to her bed.)
Cave Shadow: Welcome, my Queen. Welcome inside yourself.
[You don't actually have to prevent the enemies from doing anything. This is just a standard survive ten turns battle. Blocking the choke point in the middle is an effective strategy though.]
Frida: No! My kingdom will suffer the presence of dark spirits no longer! Begone!
(Frida holds out long enough, at great cost to her psyche, for the assault to relent. She breathes a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks, then moves farther down the hallway.)
Frida: Who is this...?
Cave Shadow: It is time, get up. It is time for the wedding.
Cave Shadow: It is time, get up.
Cave Shadow: It's time, it's time!
Cave Shadow: It is time for the wedding.
Cave Shadow: Are you scared, little answer? Are you frightened, little orphan answer? You don't want it? You don't want this wedding?
Cave Shadow: It is your king. It's your king, little orphan! It is your prince who awaits.
Cave Shadow: You are scared, you are scared, my little orphan? He's your prince, he's your prince!
Cave Shadow: I don't want it. I am not interested. I have no interest in princes. I have no interest in kings.
Cave Shadow: Not interested? Is that true? Is that the truth?
Cave Shadow: Isn't it rather because you're trembling with fear? Isn't it rather because you are disgusted, utterly disgusted? Isn't it rather because you don't believe in the kingdom any longer, of which you see the ditches before you see its towers?
Cave Shadow: No, no, I am not scared, I am not afraid... I am not disgusted...
Frida: Thank you, goddesses, for returning to my aid. I am ever in your debt. I... I am not certain I can do this alone.
(The man walks slowly, but with menacing purpose. Even his gaze feels like a fist being driven into Frida's gut. There is nothing in her power to fight back. Whatever this spirit is, she cannot defeat it. At least, not by herself.)