Frida: Maybe I would have preferred not to sleep...
Inkeri: Did you dream?
Frida. Yes. It was... gloomy. I remember a permanent feeling of oppression. I think I saw my father. He said something about a door. And there was a child... Already the images are slipping away, but that is what I remember. [I changed this line a little, as the game has you almost completely forget, regardless of your memory stat and class. I called bullshit on that.]
Inkeri: (She looks saddened.) Do you feel a little more free though?
Frida: To be honest, the mere sight of the house outside makes me sick.
Inkeri: (She sighs.) I don't know what to advise you anymore.
Frida: It won't be necessary. I have already decided. I will bring my father's ashes to Sapphire Bay. He supposedly left his last wishes there.
Inkeri: My sweet, this is madness. I can't let you go on the road alone like this. Your position of Volva wouldn't be of any use if you... (she stops herself.) And what will you do when a bear attacks you? Poems are not of much help in situations like that. I don't want to find you half-dead at the foot of a tree...
Frida: I will go from shelter to shelter until the river. After that, I'll figure it out.
Inkeri: You're trying to flee, once again. There will come a day when you won't be able to flee any longer, do you know that?
Frida: Do you think I am a coward, Inkeri?
Inkeri: (She sighs.) I am getting old. Wait for me. I'll go get a few things that will come in handy along your journey.
Frida: Thank you, Inkeri.
Inkeri: Well then. Now you can just leave the old Inkeri alone, and go prepare your departure. Be courageous. It is the last time you will see your house. Your father's ashes have been brought to his bedroom. Veikko took care of it all last night. As for the rest... I would recommend you follow the river down south. The western path is covered in snow this morning.
I wish you safe travels. And I hope to see you again some day... with a smile.
Frida: Thank you for everything, Inkeri. I will be back one day, I think. When I feel better, and when time has passed.
Inkeri: (The old woman stares at you, her mouth slightly opened. For a moment, it looks as if she is going to cry. Then she speaks to you, softly.) Don't make the same mistake your mom made, sweetheart. She left nothing to her daughter.
(Frida stares back, a strange mixture of dread and curiosity bubbling in her stomach.)
(On these strange and sad words, the old lady gently runs her hand through your hair, then turns away and enters her home. The door closes with a creaking sound, leaving you alone with your parcel, your feet planted in the snow, and a strange sadness, as strange as it is elusive.)
(As soon as Frida begins the ascent to the hill where her house stands, she experiences a subtly lurching sensation. Then she is no longer on the hill, but... elsewhere.)
Shadow of Descent: Inside your house, it's smaller. It's warmer. How did you get here? If there are footsteps in the snow, you see none of them. It's strange, don't you think? Walking all this way, making all these efforts, just to come back behind your own house, your own house made of straw. All this way to be a prisoner of your own yard.
Beware, beware, Frida. Don't step just anywhere. Be careful, be careful, Frida. It is dangerous. It is not for little girls, ho no. It isn't. Not for little girls. Be careful, Frida. It's so steep.
Frida: I thank you for the warning, whatever you are. Now let me pass.
(Again, Frida is in a different place, with no memory of how she got there, no footsteps in the snow to prove she got there at all. More voices speak.)
Entrance Shadow: You were waiting for me? Well, ladies, as I am invited in my own abode, I am coming inside. Allow me, again, to smell the sweet smell of the dead wood in the hearth.
Entrance Shadow: Allow me, maybe for the last time, to gently stroke the stones my father brought, with his hard and calloused hands, day after day, year after year. Allow me to indulge myself in this sweet moment one last time.
Entrance Shadow: Confide, confide. Push the door of your own house. Only you can say what's still inside.
(Frida walks toward her house, but stumbles and falls. She falls a long way, far farther than it would take to reach the ground, farther even than it would take to reach the bottom of the hill. A formless being whispers next to her ear.)
Cave Shadow: It is not like you. Where are you? Who are you? You do not recognize this place. Does it remind you of something? A dream... Yes, this is it! A dream!
Cave Shadow: A dream, it reminds me of a dream... Is it still a dream? Am I still dreaming? Or is it just the mirror, the mirror of my dark and bottomless soul?
Frida: We shall see soon enough.
(She stands and starts walking the path before her.)
Cave Shadow: Am I that ugly? Am I that warped? That hideous? This moss creaking under my step... This echo coming back to me, from each and every one of my words... Is this the real me?
Cave Shadow: Are you afraid, Frida? Are you afraid? Have you lost your home?
Frida: That, and much more. But there is still one more thing I must lose.
(Frida deliberately steps on the ground where the memories dwell, recalling more of her dream with each cut they inflict on her, until she can take no more and passes out from pain. For a moment, she is absolutely nothing, a part of oblivion. Then her body reforms. Different.)
[The goal of this encounter is to get yourself to zero HP and die. If you reach your father before you do, you'll be plopped back at the beginning of the tunnel and have to do it all over again. It's possible to eventually win by doing this over and over and get a Steam achievement for it, but it's a tedious pain in the ass.]
Cave Shadow: Never again will you have the comfy and warm house; never again will you feel the calloused and soft hands of this gruff man. You have to grow up; this is how things go... There is nothing else to say. Ain't that wonderful, though? Isn't it pretty for us to slowly erode, never to end, until we are slow and clumsy...
Cave Shadow: Time flies and never turns back. Time flies, you know?
Cave Shadow: Do you know? He will not come back. That is how it is. He can't, he can't. You will not see him again. You will not hear him again. His eyes have gone bloated, his eyes have been put out, his eyes have disappeared deep inside himself. He does not look at you anymore.
Frida: I know. I no longer require him to look at me.
(Frida stares into her father's eyes, and feels her strange new body being sucked into their near-whiteness. Unafraid, she clears her mind and allows the vision to continue. Soon she is standing in a white snowscape that feels at once familiar and unknown.)
Blizzard Shadow: You are lost. All torn with consequences, you don't understand, you can't understand yet the scope of your misery. You are lost, young woman. You are alone, alone with your sorrow. Awoken from your drowsiness, wandering in a moonless night, you are alone?
Frida: Do all spirits seek to scare me like this? I have always been alone! All that has changed is that I know that now. Taunting me with the truth will not frighten me any further.
(As Frida takes the faint remnant of a path before her, it seems as though she is climbing higher, somehow. Much higher.)
[This is mainly an endurance test, as you have to get through quite a few Torments to reach the end. The traps are tougher to spot too, so keep using Detection as you move. It also requires some thoughtful use of Repulsion where the way is blocked.]
Fall Shadow: It twists and turns, a long path of slippery rocks and of stone stacks, towards flatter grounds, towards greyer suns...
Fall Shadow: Despair turns our faces hollow, regrets turn our gaze. At times, we seem to search, to search for so long for something... Life, slowly, fades away. It is a sloping path, which helps us day after day to become friends with Death.
Fall Shadow: To avoid losing our gaze over the steep cliff, we fabricate pipe dreams, to each his own, to each his solitude... And we share them. We believe we are eternal.
Eventually, tired, our years give birth to decades in our back; the plain replaces the abyss. In the salt deserts, we stare at our lassitudes.
A little more harmless each day, a little calmer each day, and that makes us sad, so sad. Where will you be, little woman, the day that even the grey sun won't make you fall?
Frida: Who can say? All I know is that it will not be here.
Shadow of Descent: Walk, walk along your ordeal. Walk, walk until I devour you. If you stop, they will be the ones eating you alive.
Guardian Shadow: Are you ready? Are you ready to see the door of your old home open? Here, little woman. Here is all that is left.
Anonymous Shadow: Come, young woman. See by yourself, since you came from that far away. See your work.
Frida: I know you.
Dusk Shadow: We were waiting for you. We knew you would eventually come to the foot of this old bed, in search for your own solitude.
A body. That is all that is left. A cold body, which crumbles into ash. A body that has been gnawed, disintegrated; an empty shell. That is all that is left.
He watched, until the end, eyes fixed on a diffused sun. His eyes were tired, tired of scanning the horizon, but he scanned still, as if he was looking for nothing, as if he took solace in nothing, as if it was enough to simply look. He observed until the end of light. And now he is dead.
All the light is gone. He is gone, and took all the light with him. He is gone. Do you remember now?
The little girl is also gone... You didn't know how to protect her. She ran away, one weary evening; she disappeared in the fog, and you never talked about her again, and she was never seen again.
In her eyes, as dark as a night of avalanche, no one was looking anymore. No one would have found her.
So who are you crying for, in the silence? If the little girl ran away, if there is nothing left, why do you hear a voice, far away, under the snow, now that everything is quiet?
Scattered, fragmented, his voice is barely audible. A murmur, a lonely voice in the shadow of winter. If it isn't dead, it will die today.
(The flames light as Frida approaches them, one by one.)
[One by one, the Dusk Shadows start moving and attacking you as you step on the white tiles to light the flames. They have much higher movement than anything else so far and can do a lot of damage, so use every trick you have learned so far to keep them away and their damage down.]
Frida: Enough! Two can play this game of copies, shadow! There was in times of old, where Ymir dwelt, nor sand nor sea, nor gelid waves; earth existed not, nor heaven above, 'twas a chaotic chasm, and grass nowhere...
(The last line of the poem is spoken not be one voice, but five. Four mirror images of Frida form out of the nothingness, and the Dusk Shadows move to attack them all.)
[I love this spell so much. Summoned creatures, like these doubles, are almost always targeted for attacks before the main character. And unlike most summons, these ones will move and reduce the mana of anything they come across. Of course, sometimes that will mean you, or each other, but that's part of the crazy charm.]
[You can use Repulsion on them like anything else, though, to get them into a better position.]
Dusk Shadow: Where will you find a high enough grave that you will consent to abandon them? Across how many countries will you need to travel?
Frida: (In five unified voices) All of them, if we must.
Dusk Shadow: Safe travel, young lady.
Now, you can cry.
(Everything fades away slowly as a draft blows in from the window. The flakes of snow wipe away the shadows, the doubles, the flames, the strange landscape, everything except Frida's body and the ashes of her father. Tears fall unbidden down her cheeks as she takes up the urn and leaves the house.
She takes the path least likely to bring her in contact with other villagers. Indeed, the only person she sees is Jesper Lisakki, who notices her pack, the urn, and her tears, with mute shock. He makes no move to stop her.)
A crow: Caaaw!
[Here is our first recruitable NPC! Yes, that's right, it's a crow, because of course it is. Shall we take it with us? The only mechanical reason not to is if you want the Steam achievement for getting through the game with no friends, but narratively... do we trust crows? Granted, this one doesn't look like the one that appears to watch over all our hallucinations, but it could be disguised or something...
So here's our first vote in a long while!
1. Do we recruit the crow?
2. If we do recruit it, how should we treat it in general?
b. Being abusive to it, and/or ignoring it.
c. Joking about it, usually with references to eating it.
I'll keep the vote open for 24 hours, since it isn't super important. Feel free to vote either as you think Frida would do, or simply what you want to see. It's cool either way.]