[Burn, my favorite track in the whole game, hands down. It can get repetitive if you're actually playing the game, since it plays in almost every battle of this episode, but if you're just reading the LP, give it a listen.]
[At least our connection to the crow has deepened enough to get a new ability.]
Disappearance: It's fascinating, Dad, how one can so easily erase things. Without wanting it, without knowing it, we erase, we recreate. Without knowing, day after day, we lose.
Disappearance: You scare me. You terrify me. I don't want to think about you. Leave me alone. Let me go.
(Frida watches silently from the bridge as doubles of herself speak to the villagers, saying everything, every fear and unkind thought, that she kept bottled inside. They share their words with each other, and with the echoes of the villagers alike.)
[Despite the dramatic weight on Frida, this encounter was actually really easy. I just stood still on the bridge, since it's a choke point, and Repulsed anything that came at me instead of my Chaos doubles.]
Disappearance: Without you, what will I become? Without you, who am I? Will I end up like these human wrecks, like these human rejects that I pass by? Will I end up like one of these unspeakable mistakes? Does fate dictate that we all end up resembling someone else rather than ourselves?
Frida: Is that really how I sound?
Disappearance: Why am I so sad? Since I am fleeing away from you, why am I so attached to you? Why do I feel like I am losing? Why do I feel like I am losing something?
Disappearance: I have I lost you. I lost myself, purposefully. I was lost in the forest for a long time. I lost my way so I could never return to my own home/ I let myself get lost, because in the end, I like it. In the end, it is pleasant.
Disappearance: I am a loser.
(As Frida's voice fills the market, the faces of the people she used to know shift and distort, becoming the Nameless.)
Disappearance: You lost yourself.
(Frida awakens, repeating the words from her dream over and over. She quickly gathers her things, consults her map, and starts walking toward the next shelter. Her reluctant hosts do not say a word to her.)
[Actually, there are green tiles you can step on to shave the length down to 200, then 40, then 20, then 10 turns.]
(Frida sleeps in fits and starts, spending half the night seeing visions, and the other half collecting bits of wood to try to keep her dismal little fire going. Rocks make for poor pillows, and snow makes for a poor bedsheet. As soon as some energy has returned to her limbs, she resumes her long, exhausting march.)
(At last, she reaches something resembling civilization: an inn. She nearly stumbles as she steps up to the door, but she forces herself to stand tall as she opens it.)
The crow: Caaaaw!
Frida: It's my companion. It's rather discreet. Do you have a problem with that?
Olle Kylma: Hum. Make sure it doesn't raise hell in here. Come on, get inside. And close the door behind you, or we'll all catch our death.
Frida: Do you have any vacancy?
Olle Kylma: Of course. I don't remember ever seeing this place full. What brings you around here?
Frida: I am going to the Bay of Sapphire. I am trying, at least.
Olle Kylma: That's some trip... Alas, I am afraid the time is badly chosen. Here, talk to Päviö about it, who intended to go there as well, or Jarla, who was supposed to be his guide. They'll explain it to you. (He motions toward the other room.) [You can talk to the other characters here, and doing so gives you xp, but they don't have anything really important to say, and Frida is not in the mood anyway.]
Frida: I will. Thank you.
Frida: Hello Ma'am. Thank you. I am only stopping by briefly here.
Jarla: (Sighs.) I doubt it. Unless you wish to return where you come from.
Frida: What do you mean?
Jarla: The road is simply blocked. Trees have fallen during the storm over miles and miles, and there's absolutely no hope that it will be cleared, possibly for months. I am afraid you may have to put up with staying here for a while.
Frida: But that's impossible. I HAVE to leave. You must know the surroundings. Couldn't you help me pass through regardless?
Jarla: You can always try the North-West road, the one that climbs up the mountain, which means essentially a three week long detour without meeting a living soul. And I am not even talking about finding food. If you feel like it.
Frida: Hmm... I guess I don't have any other choice than that.
Jarla: It's up to you. Accept your destiny or fight... As far as I am concerned, I have made up my mind a long time ago.
Päviö Onnekas: It's a pleasure to meet you.
Frida: My pleasure. I am Frida. You are very elegantly dressed compared to the locals.
Emmi: Twenty-two, my sweet.
Päviö: Thank you darling. Twenty-two years that we trade in the region. We have seen the beginnings of the Monarchy, and the first discoveries, the first roads, the hope. But for lack of steady maintenance, the country is returning to the wilderness. And that's how we ended up stuck here.
Frida: Stuck here? What do you mean?
Päviö: I am afraid the road to the capital is blocked until the end of the winterif we get lucky. With all these fallen trees, there is no hope for months. It's one more blow for the commerce, which was already in shambles around here.
Frida: There must be a way to do something.
Päviö: I am afraid that won't be possible. You must not realize the costs of a road repair, compared to the trifling means Her Majesty provides to such a remote region. And the commerce is affected: the price of furs has never been so high in Sapphire Bay, and yet all this beautiful merchandise is rotting in this hellhole.
Emmi: The accommodation is satisfying, but...
Päviö: Come on, darling, we are talking about the nation's economy, not our personal discomfort. The marginal productivity explodes while the circulation of currency slows down; it's a glaring sign of under-development!
Emmi: Of course. Forgive me. I am just a little distraught at the thought of spending the winter here.
Päviö: I understand, I understand. In any case, miss, I am afraid your affairs will require a tremendous amount of patience. Unless, of course, you wish to take the old road through the mountain passes. But I doubt this would be a good choice.
Frida: But where does this road go?
Päviö: It goes to the river by crossing through the mountains. From there you would be able to let the current carry you to the capital. I did take it myself, eighteen years ago. At the time, it was still a relatively prosperous region, but since the last epidemic, I don't think there is a living soul left. It's certainly not a journey I would embark on nowadays, even less so for a woman traveling alone.
Frida: I am not traveling alone. (She smiles and scratches the crow's neck; it moves out of her reach.) In any case, I'll think about it. Thank you for your help.
Päviö and Emmi: Good luck!
(Frida takes a bed in the corner, burrows under the blankets, and promptly falls into a deep sleep. But while the inn shelters her body, her mind is still under assault.)
(She knows these shadows had names when she spoke to them, but here, they all look the same. They all wish her the same harm.)
(The common room is packed with them.)
(Pushing her enemies out of the way with her mental focus, Frida forces her way outside, where the air is cold but clear. Here, she can think.)
[Our next skill. Very useful if you get swarmed one unlucky turn.]
Allti: Swiftly, I roll down; swiftly, I make you flee, endlessly, to the bottom of your self. I come after you, young lady. Do not dare to rest, as I won't spare you a thing. At the slightest show of weakness on your part, at the first glance over your shoulder, I will eat you.
(Though enemies spring up seemingly behind every branch, Frida can make out a bright glow in the distance. She heads toward it with courage.)
Sygg: Ha! Comfort? (She sniggers.) Shelter? What a little princess! A courtesan even! Do you think all you have to do is walk in and be pretty? All I know is that you disgust me. You're a coward. You're lecherous. You're spoiled. You only got what you deserve.
Frida: I remember you well. Sygg, why do you seem to hate me so much more than all the other villagers? I do not understand.
Sygg: Stop looking at me with your empty, expressionless eyes. You're retarded! Stop looking at me with those whiny eyes. Nobody's waiting for you here. Come on! Get lost! You sleaze. You've got no business being here. I wouldn't even tell you my name.
V: Are you ready to walk alone, for so long, in the fog? Are you ready to exhaust yourself further? Are you ready to stop feeling the tips of your frozen limbs? You will learn a lot by coming to me. This path, it is your own defeat.
When, exhausted, famished, you will drag your feet, alone in the wind that sweeps across the tundra, I will wear you out. I will wear you out, slowly, delicately, like you finish off a wounded animal. I will finish you off, because it is the best you can hope for. By coming to me, young lady, you are going to die.
[I love these guys. They do this really weird quivering, bouncing animation when they move and attack. They're pretty dangerous though, so best to get back to Sygg quickly.]
Frida: I... I still do not know what to do. What should I choose?
Sygg: Get lost. Go back to your village. Go back to your endless suffering. I am not interested. Go hide and die somewhere. Go spend your escape somewhere else. My door is closed to you. My glance is not for you. Don't come back. You're a pariah. You're not from our world. You don't deserve us. You're just a bum.
[As you can probably see, there is a way through this maze of traps without stepping on one... but it's much quicker to just brute force it, unless the previous enemies (which have now disappeared) got your HP down too low.]
Frida: I see. I must take the path offered to me by the shadow, then. So be it.
V: Come and get lost, little woman. Come and get lost with me. I am your solution. In your long run against yourself, I am your only outcome. If you don't surpass yourself, you will never reach them.
I am another path. Don't be afraid of me, as I am all that you have left. Don't be scared of me. I am your future. I am Solitude.
(Frida awakens, sweating and disheveled, garnering strange looks from the other guests. She pays them no attention except to form the Uruz rune with her fingers, wishing themand herself strength, speed, and good health.)
...miles. This scar, which cuts through the tundra, which no one takes any more, which no one has taken for years. It is another path. The path of absurdity. It is a long journey ahead of you, a journey of many weeks, alone in the harshest cold, in a biting blizzard... Without food. Without shelter. It is a path no one dares to take any more, for fear of losing their life to it.
As you gaze at the horizon, barred by uprooted trees, this thought is strangely comforting. To disappear in the blizzard and walk, and walk, and walk, until you die... That makes sense. For the first time, something finally makes sense.
You know, Dad, I think that is the only way. I think that only when I feel the blizzard tearing my skin, when I fight the wolves to death, when I am not able to see the sky through the snowstorm, I think that finally... I will be able to scream.
And I don't want to die without having, at least once, screamed in the silence.
(As the days passed the weather worsened, becoming heavier. The snow, intermittent as you descended the mountain towards the resting place, fell more heavily. Now it is an almost constant flurry, falling fast and only stopping to give way to grey skies, barely pierced by the light of the sun.
You took a tenuous path, erased by snow and time. At times you get lost, then find your way. You know that there will come a moment when you cannot find it again. Beyond that there is nothing. You must choose a route and try to keep to it. Three possibilities offer themselves to you.
--You could follow the forest to the south. The landscape, less slippery, will give you shelter against the wind and the cold. On the other hand, the presence of wild animals will give you pause. The territory of the wolves and bears stretches far beyond the edge of the forest. Even if you keep a good distance from the forest, the risk of being eaten is great.
--You could go straight through the tundra to the base of the mountains. You will no doubt avoid all risk of meeting a wild animal, but you will be attacked by a constant and biting cold. In the heart of the tundra there will be no tree nor nook to help you escape from the blizzard. It is a short path with little danger, but it is grueling.
--Finally, you could bypass the tundra to the north. The landscape, being more hilly, offers little exposure to the wind while also being as barren and uninhabited as the tundra. It is, however, a long path. Very long. It will take you twice as long to reach your destination. Other than your rations which, already insufficient, will surely run out midway, it is above all the loneliness which you should fear.
The choice, however, remains open. Whether you go via the edge of the forest, the tundra, or the hills, your destination remains the same. You must reach the river.)
[So, readers, which path should Frida take? The forest, the tundra, or the hills? I'll leave this decision open for a while (72 hours maybe?), since it's pretty important. I also realize I should have left the vote on the crow open longer, since it actually has more effect on the game. I'm learning though ]