So I’m in the bandit hideout. For some reason, I’ve been allowed in to see Amdir.
The guard has somehow received word from bandit leader Skunkwood (hee hee) that I’m to be allowed in to see the prisoner. Amdir is being guarded by a couple of guards who are one good “BOO!” away from pissing themselves. I manage to resist the urge.
The past few weeks have not been kind to Amdir. Aside from looking pale, withered, and incredibly evil, he seems to be suffering from a mild case of transparency. He’s obviously being tormented and warped by the powers of the Nazgul.
I’ll bet the Nazgul aren’t enjoying this either. Trying to break Amdir’s mind is going to be like trying to shatter a wet noodle.
He recognizes me, which is a bad thing. Suddenly he starts jabbering on about voices and all sorts of creepy dark-tower type stuff. The lights dim and it feels like the Dark Lord himself is trying to get to second base with me.
I can’t really get to Amdir through the bars so I don’t have any way of making him stop radiating evil mojo. The guards and I are all stunned or frozen with fear.
He lets out a deathly cry. Suddenly his cell door swings open, and the guards collapse. Then he legs it, raving like a madman. So I guess he was able to escape at will, and was just waiting until an old friend showed up to give him the boost of confidence? Or something like that?
The fear abates and I come back to my senses. Now that Amdir has run off, I see that he had a cell-mate.
An old woman. Why would they kidnap and imprison an old woman?
Sara Oakheart sees me through the open cell door and immediately brightens up. “Thank you so much for coming to rescue me!” she says in a creaky voice.
“Right. Rescue you. That’s why I’m here. Because people on the outside totally know about you being in here. And care.”
“I have been held captive here for such a long time!”
“I can see that. Are these… Is this your pile of skulls? What have they been feeding you?”
“I’ve seen many terrible things here.”
“More terrible than a hundred skulls?”
“If you will help me escape, I’ll be happy to tell you what I’ve seen.”
“I’d be even happier if you didn’t. At any rate, I did help you escape. The door’s open.”
She cocks her head to one side and gives me an innocent smile.
“Sooooo…” I continue. “Good luck on the way out. Let me know how it goes.”
Her innocent and slightly creepy smile continues.
“You’re expecting an escort, aren’t you?” I ask with dread.
Her lips part into an even boarder smile, giving me a view of her gray sinking teeth.
This is going to hurt, but I see I don’t have any choice, “Fine. Let’s get this over with.”
Looking around, I see that all of the guards are dead. Great. Looks like turning evil also transformed Amdir into a room-clearing badass.
No wait. They weren’t dead, just sleeping.
Amdir knocked out all the bad guys on his way out, so they’re all face-down on the floor. Sara walks very, very slowly. You have to follow her as she painstakingly creeps through the cavern. There’s plenty of time for you to run ahead of Sara and finish off the guys while they’re passed out, but the game won’t let you. You can go and stand on top of their bodies while you wait for Sara to catch up, but you can’t target or attack them until they wake up. And they don’t wake up until Sara gets close so they can jump up and attack the old woman.
It’s about a twenty second walk from her cage to the exit, but following her the trip takes, no kidding, six minutes. Six minutes of this:
Bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL Etc.
The Sara Oakheart quests are the very lowest point of the game, fun-wise. Yes, quests. Plural. She appears multiple times in the game as part of a lame, unfair, and nonsensical escort quest. I think the quests are intended to be funny, but the joke wears out its welcome after the first ambush, much less on your 4th attempt to complete her 3rd escort quest.
I’ve just followed Sara across the room and down the tunnel, a process which took about eleven days. Suddenly she stops heading for the door and starts going for a side-tunnel.
“No, this way,” I tell her. “The front door is over here.”
“I simply can’t leave without my walking stick.”
“No! Stop. This is going to take forever as it is! Look, it’s a stupid stick. I’ve got a staff right here. You can have it. My treat.”
“No? How about this handful of silver? Use it to buy yourself ten sticks! No? Ok, how about you head for the door and I get the stick for you? Or I promise to come back for it once you’re safe? Ok,you stay here and I’ll run ahead and grab the stick for you?”
I sigh, “No? How about we risk life and limb gradually shuffling from one band of killers to the next in order to recover your walking stick?”
She gives me another one of those creepy smiles.
Some ages of the world later, we’ve reached the bandit storage room where they keep all the sticks they take from old people. Sara is overjoyed.
And that’s not even counting…
“Ah. Hello again, Bill,” I say with transparently thin cheer.
He draws his sword.
“Easy there Skunkworks,” I tell him, “I know this looks bad, but I’m just escorting this crazy old woman out of the cave. And really, that’s no skin off your nose, right? I mean, what was she aside from a mouth to feed? It’s not like she’s got military secrets – or anything else – floating around in her head, right?”
“Is that why the two of you raided the armory?”
“All we took was a stick! You’re blowing this totally out of proportion!”
“What about letting Amdir go?”
“Hey now, he did that on his own. You should talk to your guards about that one.”
“Oh? Fine. I’ll see what they have to say about it. Where are they?”
“Okay. You got me there. I might have killed those guys a bit.”
“And?” Skunkwood says, raising his eyebrows.
“Sigh. And a few other guys here and there.”
“And what about this report I got a couple of weeks ago, telling me that a Hobbit minstrel had butchered her way through our ranks to steal a handkerchief from one of our men?”
“I suppose it would be asking a lot for you to believe it was some other Hobbit minstrel?”
“That’s understandable I guess.”
“And so now I’m going to feed you to my pack of dogs.”
I point at the snarling dogs on either side of him, “Your ‘pack’ of dogs? You’ve only got two there.”
“The rest were all poisoned. But I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
“Okay, but before we do this, I just want to tell you one thing.”
“You have a stupid name.”
I should say that Skunkweed’s dogs are something of a handful compared to the fights I’ve been having. This either speaks of the excellent quality of his dogs, or the awful quality of his men. There are several minutes of stabbing and fur and swearing, and at the end of it Skunksack is dead and Ms. Oakheart has walked nearly three paces.
He’s dead, and I feel like I need to mark the occasion by saying something witty. Are there any more puns I could make with his name? Or maybe a joke where I work in calling him “roadkill” somehow? I’m still standing there trying to work out what I want to say when I realize Sara has moved on and his now creeping inexorably towards the door.
At long last we reach the entrance, where Amdir is facing off against Toradan.
Toradan seems to be lamenting that Amdir has turned evil. Not wanting to waste an obvious opportunity, I offer Toradan some advice, “Hey! Less talking, more stabbing.”
“All of you stay back! It’s too late for him!” Toradan says.
Impatiently I add, “He’s wide open. Stab him.“
Toradan shakes his head, “I am sorry, my friend, but I must end this.”
“STAB HIM!” I shout.
Amdir stabs Toradan.
“Not you!” I say, exasperated.
Amdir strolls away, leaving Toradan to die.
“Tordan?” I say as a sit down beside him.
“Yes young Hobbit?” he groans.
“You guys totally suck, you know that, right?”
Toradan winces as he tries to staunch the flow of blood, “Yes. I know.”
Turning evil seems to have done wonders for Amdir’s combat prowess. Maybe this is just his calling in life?
“He is lost to us,” says Toradan.
“I did tell you to stab him.”
He nods and draws in another nasty gurgling breath to speak again, “Find my brethren! Warn them!” And with that he dies.
And so I’m left with Sara. True to her word, she tells me everything she knows, “I got my stick back! I’d have been lost without it.”
And with that she takes off sprinting for the front door. I actually couldn’t catch her if I wanted.
So, another ranger is dead, Amdir is running free in the service of the Evil That Wussies Do Not Name, and a senile old woman has her stick. I guess I should… head back to town now?
Next time: How am I supposed to explain this mess?
Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.