The temple made me uncomfortable. A lot of things in this game made me uncomfortable, but the temple was a whole new level.
First you had the pillars of binary to pass by, which highlighted how self-aware so many of these NPCs were. They heard the PCs talking about the real world, talking about how this was all a game. That managed to affect both their psychology and their belief system.
The effect wasn’t lessened when I stepped through the doorway. There was so much searing light in there. No artificial light, I noticed. More like spiritual light. You had the light coming from the alcove that players respawned from. Then you had the light coming from the priestess’s sun heads.
It gave the place a spooky glow. And of course the walls were covered with binary. I watched the priestesses take a PC out of the light.
“Come to us.”
“Come to us.”
“Come to us.”
The priestesses pulled a respawned PC out of the light. She was an elf, with the diamond hard skin. Had a look of confusion, making it obvious this was her first time.
Funny how quickly I’d gone from being new at respawning to being able to spot a newb when I saw one.
The elf stumbled out the temple door.
Hadn’t noticed it at first, but there were four priestesses in the temple, now. There were the three I recognized from before: two with normal-sized sun heads, one with a sun head even bigger than I remembered. The fourth priestess had a smaller head than the others.
The priestess with the big head was named Diana. At least that’s what the bartender said.
When Diana noticed me, I can’t say she looked sad. She didn’t have a face to make the facial expression. But still, the energy of her sun bubbled up, spitting out. Bursts of energy flying in unpredictable directions.
She looked dangerous. She looked like she had to go.
She walked towards me and said, “I’m ready.”
I nodded my head and led her outside. Couldn’t see how the other priestesses felt. All I could do was imagine.
Were they all going to end up like she did?
We walked through Charon, moving to get out of the city and away from the innocent.
“You don’t have to look so sad,” the priestess said, voice deep. “I knew this was happening. It happens to all of us.”
“Circle of life, I guess.” The priestess stopped speaking for a moment, while we passed through the gatehouse and walked into Meltdown Jungle. “Ambition, too.”
“Ambition?” I moved in front of the priestess, unsheathing my sword so as to cut the kaleidoscopic foliage that lay in our way.
“I take it you don’t know how priestesses become priestesses.”
“I don’t.” My sword worked through a dense cluster of purple vines.
“We study,” she said, “attempting to contain all the wisdom the Four Sages have produced. Attempting to become a Sage by accumulating all their knowledge.”
“Someone new can become a Sage?”
“Yes, but only one,” she said. “It’s not easy, and it has yet to be done. But it is said that someone can become a Sage. Someone needs to, to replace The Rose Sage.”
“So you wanted to be the new Rose Sage.”
“Yes. I didn’t make it.”
I wondered if that explained her head.
She answered my question before I asked it.
“The knowledge is too much to handle. If you’re not supposed to be a Sage, the knowledge overpowers you. It leaks out of your ears, encircles your head, growing and growing, getting more unstable until eventually it’s too much. We have to explode.”
I nodded my head. That sucked.
“Like I said, don’t look sad. I knew what I was doing. Knew what was coming. This is the life I chose. It’s been a good life.”
There was another question I wanted to ask, but I wasn’t sure if I should.
What sort of knowledge could affect someone’s head like that? What sort of knowledge could leak out your ears, build and built until it exploded?
“You want to know what I learned, don’t you?”
Her ability to tell what I was thinking was uncanny. It wasn’t like telepathy — more like wisdom.
Either she’d had these sorts of conversations over and over again, or she just knew Heroes really well.
“Yeah,” I said.
Her head was getting more volatile, energy whipping around.
“There’s so much I could tell — the miracles of this world, its purpose, its madness. But there’s only so much your head could handle, and there’s only one thing you need to know: your friend is alive. You have to find her, because she needs you.”
I had to take a step away from the priestess, moving behind a tree. The energy of her head was lashing out, rays of light whipping through the air.
“My friend?” I asked.
“You know,” the priestess said. The rays of light began slashing through foliage, slicing orange leaves and yellow branches off trees.
Her head expanded rapidly. Her feet lifted off the ground. The star began rising, and the priestess went along with it.
“You know.” Her voice seemed so small, compared to the magnitude of the moment. The ball of energy got so big and so wild, lashing out against all the foliage of Meltdown Jungle, making it rain down on the ground.
When it seemed like it couldn’t get any bigger, it dislodged from the priestess. It flew into the sky, going higher and higher until I couldn’t see it anymore.
The priestess’s body fell to the ground.
Her corpse lay there. Her head was gone.