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Ah, the Elven Forest with its clean air and peaceful solitude. I sink to my knees at the Pond of Life and take a few sips of the calming water. It's rather refreshing but tastes a bit funny. I notice a hollow in the tree and a few yellow eyes staring back at me. I decide to leave that passage alone for now. I have since used up all my Torches from the Crypt. I head next to the Forest Palace and notice a vine covered door and another hollow at the top of the tree. I try to pull the vines, chop the vines and lastly a bit of acid but nothing beats those pesky vines. They are on there tight and just won't budge. They are really strong for normal plants. I draw all of this on my map and continue on to the Tree Top. The only thing I notice here are a bunch of trees in the distance. I've learned my lesson about going forward.. I either get thrown back and run for miles without actually running for miles.
My last stop is the Dark Tower. It is just as Dark as it's name but it does have a Fireplace on the third floor. I warm myself by it and fall asleep in the chair next to it. You know for a Dark Tower it is oddly well lit. After a quick nap, I wake up and make my way to the Library and start pulling books from the shelves. I know one of them has to open a secret passage somewhere. I do hear a faint click but nothing opens. Perhaps the mechanism is stuck and needs to be oiled. I draw on my map where I heard the click come from. Sadly, I have to give up for the day. I only got more questions but I know one day some of these hidden passages will open up to me. Is one of them a black market where I can buy needed items to explore the Castle? Will I ever get behind the Source Gate to find the Dragon? I really miss that Dragon!
Ah well, the one thing I did learn today is that weapons crafted and keys earned do not open doors in the Castle or the surrounding areas. Hopefully, I have saved someone else from being thrown into the Crocodile Bush or a brush with the Kraken.
The Kraken and The Bow Figurine
After my long search for hidden passages I made my way over to the Tavern. I figured that the Innkeeper would have some stories to tell. Plus I was hungry and the water from the Pond of Life had me even more thirsty than I already was. I was surprised to find the Witch at dice table talking to Santa Claus. Yes, even I had to do a double take. I know the Castle likes to play tricks on us but come on! Santa at the dice table. I'll go with it because it is the Castle and I've seen a Kraken who can spew fire.
I wandered over and pulled up a chair. Their conversation was rather strange as it was about the Kraken or rather how to get rid of the Kraken. This perplexed me as I thought the Kraken had always been there. The Witch, is her name Arabelle, just sneered at me. Of course, she also said something along the lines of tourists know nothing. How can I be tourist? I've been here for a year! I haven't found the exit yet! Where is the exit? I guess that is question for another time. I was more concerned about the Kraken! Why was it put in Mirror Lake and more importantly why was is put on the Bow Figurine? I had my work cut out for me! I knew I couldn't ask the Kraken, it would just singe my hair again. I decided to start with the Innkeeper. I walked up to the Bar Counter and requested a pint. The Innkeeper just smiled and continued to wipe out a mug! Shouldn't that mug be gleaming by now? I asked about the Kraken but once again he just smiled and continued to wipe that blasted mug. Seriously, you are going to continue to wipe that mug when The Gaming Table has a Skeleton on it? Okay not just one Skeleton but several. Well keep on wiping that mug! I'm sure some one will answer my questions!
I decide to run over to the Dark Tower and ask Anabel. She was absolutely no help! She just kept going on and on about the Iron Knight. I knew the only thing for it was to search through every single book in the Castle. I started in the Library but that yielded no information. I made the long journey back to the Castle and the Forbidden Tower. Finally, in the Scroll Storage I found a passage in one of the scrolls. It referred to a chapter in the Healer's Folio. Yes, off I went gathering the materials to craft the blasted thing since I gave my last one to Lord Chamberlain (don't ask!).
Once I had all the materials in hand, I slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together.
I read the crafted verse front to back and was astounded. It sounded like a tale of some great myth or love story. I made my way down to Mirror Lake and visited the Bow Figurine. Sure, enough like the book said his eyes followed you where ever you went. It was creepy and slightly sad. Someone was actually trapped behind the wood!
It seems that long ago there were two people who were madly in love, Diarmuid the Leprechaun and Grainne of the Selkies. Of course, their love could not be because one was a land creature and the other water. Grainne prayed to the Keeper every night to make her love last forever and so the Keeper took pity on them. The Keeper turned Diarmuid into the Bow Figurine and Grainne into the Kraken. Now, they are bound together by the Banner of Loyalty (which keeps them together), Bear's Fury (which gives Grainne her fire) and the Seed of Life (which keeps both of their hearts beating). This was the only way the Keeper saw to be able to let them both be together in this life. Is this the Keeper of the Castle or is it another Keeper?
It is a sad tale that the only way the two could be together is for one to become wood and the other a monster. I know I will never look at either the same way! I will no longer grudgingly give up those items, knowing that it is what keeps them going. Are there more such myths sprinkled through out the Castle? Do all of them have such sad endings? Why do I always have more questions than answers? Does anyone have a tissue?
The Key Master's Shop
I cried my eyes out over The Stone Bowl after reading the Legend of Diarmuid and Grainne. I figured no one would hear me and it's not like that statue was going to talk. Was it? I guess any thing is possible in this Castle. I dried my eyes and used an Ice Key to relieve the puffiness. Hey, explorers don't have red rimmed eyes nor do they puff. I was still curious as to the passages that lead no where so I decided to go ask Trina. I knew it was a mistake when I entered the Key Master's Shop! I knew it.
"I can tell you anything for a price," she purred. Her eyes gleaming at the sight of the shards sticking out of my backpack. It took me two weeks to collect those two thousand some odd shards but her appetite was never satisfied. I yelled, I screamed, I pleaded with her to take anything else from my inventory. I offered a Pegasus egg, an Owl egg, I even offered a hard to find Snowman's egg (sorry, consortium) but she wouldn't bite. She just wanted those shards, those ever hard to find shards. I decided to take her quest in exchange for the master key she always holds in her hand.
I wandered down to the airship to see if I could get three hundred steering wheels but the offer on the table was two hundred sixty. I cursed my luck! I packed it full of Genie Lamps, Clay Tablets and Bronze Amphora sending it on its way. It paid me nicely and even dropped 3 Rare Stamps and a bag of Unique pet food. I collected my pay out and decided to wait the four hours for the next one. It is a long wait so I decided to give the Tavern another go. We all have vices and mine is dice. I sat down opposite of Santa (well his evil twin Canta Blaus) and tried my chances against the Iron Knight. He has been boosting that he was feeling lucky. Pfft, lucky! How long exactly was he in those in the Dark Tower? Iron Knight, my Aunt Patty!
We get to rolling and saw my first 150 go down the drain. I roll a 3, he rolls a four. Canta Blaus is helping him cheat, I'm sure of it. The next roll I get a 7 and he rolls a 10. My luck! He laughs and winks to Canta. I've had it by this time so I throw my dice and boom, just like a double sixes. (I've been waiting for that double six since the beginning of the event!) I gather up my 300 coins and walk away because all he could muster was snake eyes. This time I give Canta a wink as I decide to go try my luck on the Wheel of Fortune.
I get to the Wheel and to my dismay, there aren't any eggs to be had. My luck has run it's course with one throw of the dice. Look, wheel, I've only won 8 eggs off of you. It's time to put out a little! I need those eggs! Oh, my other vice is collecting pets! You'll learn as we go! I spin the blasted thing any way since it's free and STAR! So I spin again and STAR!! I spin again and yup, STAR! Three lovely stars in a row, jackpot! I'm over the moon until I spin again and it lands on the Chain of Blood Rubies! Seriously, wheel?!?! I hear Lord Chamberlain laughing his nasally laugh again. His voice either booms throughout the Castle or he is seriously using some Vampire mind control! It could even be that Mind Binds I gave him ages ago! He really is a piece of work, taking pleasure in some one elses pain. I glare at the Wheel of Torture, er Fortune, one last time, pick up my back pack and set out to visit the butterflies in Forest Palace. They do really beautiful dances when it gets close to dusk. I have time to kill so might as well do it somewhere serene.
I settle down onto a rock and pull a Forgotten Relic from my backpack. It's just something to study while I pass the time. As the time passes I forget about Trina's quest for all the shards I collect and relax. However, you can never relax for too long in or near the Castle. I hear a rustling in the trees and out swoops Owlsly, my pet owl. He gives one little hoot before dropping a silver chest... right on my foot. Great! He vanishes off into the night sky with another hoot and I swear I hear that nasally laughter again! It has to be the Mind Binds! I decide enough time has passed and make my way back to the airship. Wait! It's a sleigh now. Oh, this Castle! I try talking to the reindeer pulling the sleigh but they make an angry huff, drop 210 steering wheels and vanish! Yes, they just vanish! "Hey, you didn't give me all of my steering wheels," I scream after the sleigh but it was too late. I only got credit for the other 40 I needed. Great!
It wasn't a bad deal, I got what I needed and extra so I head back to Trina.
I enter Trina's lair and hand over 300 steering wheels but my hands tightened over the 200 shards. She just plucked them out of my hand like a I was a small child holding a lolly!
"Greedy woman," I muttered.
"I may be greedy but you need my keys, yes?"
"You only give ONE key," I yelled, "ONE tiny key for all those shards!"
"One key to rule them all," she snapped! She pointed her finger at me and her wolf pups came running.
I ran through the shop and up into the Belfry. I felt much safer with the crows and skeleton up there then with her. I poked around a bit and came up with a Polestar, I figured it would come in handy later. I had my newly minted key, it was still a bit hot actually, so I set out to try it on the doors of the Castle and the surrounding areas. Do you know what I found out? It opens, nothing! NOTHING! I had been had not by the Key Master but by the Shard Shark. My shards, my beautifully blue shards! If only I had a Drop of Time in my backpack, I would go back and undo it all. I headed back to the Key Master's Shop only to find the door locked. There was a sign on the door, "Rahia, thanks for the Shards! We open again at 7am, bring more shards!"
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I feel to my knees! I needed another box of tissues! I finally came to realize that it was not the Key Master's Shop but something more sinister. In that moment of clarity, I vowed never to do another quest for Trina...
The next morning....
"Trina! You lied!"
"Ah, my dear Rahia! I never said my keys would actually open the locked doors. You should read the fine print in our agreement. My keys only work in your private room!"
"But the doors.. the passages!" I knew as I said this that I was in a losing battle. She had sunk my battleship! I also knew that eventually one of her keys would open a door somewhere. I narrowed my eyes and said, "So, how many shards today?"
There are things that come over time and things we want to rush. We want to open every thing quickly but does that do us more harm than good? Are we so fixated on what we have that we don't realize what we could lose? Is this something that the Castle is trying to teach us through Trina? Nah, couldn't be! The Castle isn't some massive form of AI, it's just a castle. Right?!?! It's just a Castle!
The Man in the Cheap Suit
I strolled out of of Trina's shop, feeling just a little bit dirtier than when I walked in and stopped short. There leaning against the wall of the Belfry was a man in the most ridiculous suit I had ever seen. His hair was a wavy brown and his eyes burned blue like the hottest flames. He didn't look up as he waved me over. I don't know if it was something about how he leaned against the stones as if he owned the place or if it was the soft smirk on his lips that made me move. I just knew that before I blinked I was standing before him.
"So you are Rahia, huh? You don't look like much. I hear you are sneaking about the Castle trying to find hidden passages," he had a slow lazy drawl as he shook the coat of his brown suit.
"I'm just curious is all."
"Right, well maybe I can help you with that. Of course nothing is free in this world so I need a little help in return," he said as he pulled a card from his pocket, "You'll just need to find the items on this list and perhaps I can help you out."
"Perhaps! That isn't much motivation for me."
"No, I guess not but what are your alternatives?"
"Fine," I agreed, taking the card, "What's your name and how do I contact you?"
"The name is John and I'll contact you."
"Do you have a last name, John?"
"It's Just John," he said with a pleasant smile that made him look more like a cherub than a man.
"Okay, Just John!"
He nodded and walked off towards the Castle Vicinity. I thought about following for 2 seconds before I flipped the card over and read the list.
Plain Stamp, Links of Steel, Rare Food, Subdued Mind
I wondered what any one would want with a Subdued Mind, that was illegal or so I heard. However, if he could help opening passages who was I to judge? I had a new mission and luckily I had most of what he needed in my backpack. I just had to go see the Blacksmith, hopefully he would be awake!
The airship let me off at Cloud City at the Commercial District so I popped in to Power Mill to see if I could get another Blinding Disc. Those always come in handy when you need to redirect someone's line of sight. However, as luck would have it they were out so I picked up an extra Angel's Song instead. I decided to pass by the Book-Lover's Shop as they never had anything good for reading in and made my way into the Craftsman District. Unfortunately, the Blacksmith was once again snoring away at his anvil so I decided to help myself. I made the Subdued Mind and snagged a Whims of Fate on my way out of the door. I don't even know how he stays in business nor do I get how the Gnome Kitchen stays in business. Okay, at least the Blacksmith is a Gnome but the Chef for the Gnome Kitchen is a raccoon! He isn't a bad chef, just a well, the butter is always burnt when it should be nutty and he IS A RACCOON!! I can't explain the Castle, no one can!
I made my way to the Rune Garden as I wanted to make sure I drew all the Runes exactly as they appear. The Gnome in the Flying Boat caught me as I was sitting on the statue on the Gnome King. They really don't like that! He glared and starting yelling. Hey was it my fault their King turned to stone? No! They really do act like it! What can a girl do? I moved down closer to Mountain Heart, picking up a stray Lava Drop along the way. I even found a Candy Cane! Uhg, Squirrel Tail flavor. I really hate those! I spit out the offending piece of candy and decide to make my way home for the day. There isn't much to do when passages don't open themselves!
I sat in my overstuffed chair, threw the white teddy bear that occupied it before me across the room and opened the Book of Shadows. I don't know if I was hoping to find a spell or just a footnote about how to open the hidden passages, the only thing I do know is that it put me to sleep. I woke to a crashing sound and found Elle, my Snow Fairy, chasing Gnolio, my Christmas Gnome, around the tree.
"He pulled my wings, trying to take the snow sparkles for himself! He is a greedy, greedy gnome," Elle whined, flapping her wings in anger.
"It's pretty! I can't resist the pretty sparkled. You know this Rahia," Gnolio sniffed. I figured he must have also gotten into 'Kins, my pet pumpkin, seed patch. Gnolio is highly allergic to pumpkin seeds.
"Take it outside. You two have to settle things on your own. I may feed you and give you a roof but you have to get along inside the house!"
"Whatever," they both shouted like two teenagers instead of mythical beings thousands of years old.
It's not easy taking care of all I take care of. I pull Johns card out of my pocket and stuff the card along with the items into a pink box I found three days ago. I don't really like pink but it's the only box I had. I was just finishing when there was a knock at my door. The knob turned and in walked John, still wearing that ridiculous suit.
"Hope you don't mind but I really need those items. You are pretty fast! Maybe I should make it harder next time," he said flopping down into my one and only chair.
"You know most people wait to come in!"
"Most do, I don't. You have the items, right?"
"Good, good," he said, smiling but I noticed the smile did not reach his eyes. It was in this moment that I knew I had been had, again!
"You aren't going to tell me anything are you? You aren't even going to help me?"
"Dear Rahia, I have been helping you since you came to the Castle. I've been sending you things you needed and giving you small clues along the way. If you have been too blind to see them it is not my fault but your own," he answered while sweeping up the box of goodies and striding towards the door, "Open your eyes or you'll never be able to see what is right in front of you."
"What does that even mean?"
John didn't answer but instead walked out of the door and into the black of the moonless night sky.