The Wizard and the Princess, The Final Chapter: Kafka's Revenge

It's not for lack of trying that I'm driven to this.  There is just nothing else I can do; the bars are solid and the room is empty but for the cell door.  I don't even have a place to go to the bathroom if I needed to.

And besides, magic got me here, so it stands to reason that magic will get me out.  It's just... there are no rivers here that I can use to wash myself off in.  Ugh...

*Takes a deep breath*

"Hiss."

Once again, my body undergoes a grotesque series of contortions, turning my previously substantial torso into a serpentine coil on the floor.  Having by now had several experiences in a snake body, I slither through the cell bars with ease, letting out a sigh as I do so.  The sigh comes out as a hissing sound.  I now have an entirely new perspective on the meaning of snake vocalizations.

An animation based on images from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows a snake escaping from a prison cell.

The room outside the jail cell is decorated with a charming pair of manacles which coupled with the cell door, neatly accentuates the room's nouveau gaol aesthetic.  I don't fancy spending much time here.

Exiting the room, I return to the maze, which is a bit more difficult to navigate in my snake form.  This is frustrating, and when I finally morph back into a human, I decide to make note of the passageways, on the off-chance that I am forced into any future magical excursions into the castle underbelly.  Starting from the foyer, I chart out a 14-corridor path to the empty room with the locked door.

An animation of images from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows a player following a path through the castle maze.

Now that I've explored the entire ground floor, I begin to wonder if there might be some way through that locked door.  My inventory is full of items, but very few of them hold even the faintest hope of helping me open a door.  Let's see, I could bang it with a rock, slip a note under it (scandalous), attack it with a shovel, or hope it opens with a horn blow.  

That last one actually sounds worth trying, so I blow the horn, but only succeed in giving myself a headache.  

What about the knife?  Maybe if I jiggle it around in here a bit...

VOILA!

I broke the knife.  Throwing down the handle, I bellow angrily and stomp on the floor.  Fortunately, the knife must have partially moved the lock's cylinder before it broke, because the door pops open after a few seconds of stomping.

I enter the door with a feigned air of nonchalance, on the off-chance that I run into someone who didn't see what just happened.  Fortunately, the next room is empty, save for a stairwell and another doorway.


I start with the opposite door leads, which leads into a room with an unusual occupant.

Image from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows a frog in an otherwise empty room, staring into space.

Sitting in the middle of the room is a frog.  The frog and I exchange uncomfortable glances, though the frog's looks a good bit more uncomfortable than mine.  It's clearly alive, but gives no indication that it is aware of my presence.  After a few more moments of eyeball tag, I begin stepping slowly backwards.  The frog just keeps staring.

Returning to the previous room, I decide to try the stairs.  They are long and winding, and lead up one of the castle towers.

Image from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows an empty tower room, with a window in it.

At the top of the tower is a room with an open window.  The window looks out on the vast surrounding landscape and a breeze blows gently into the room, sending a shiver through me.  

Something is here.

But after wandering around the room for several minutes, nothing reveals itself, so I go back down the stairs.  

Not wishing to enter into another staring contest with the frog, I begin wandering the castle corridors aimlessly.  In some ways, I feel like I've been inside this castle ever since I ventured into Serenia.  There's a presence that seems to be guiding every event, and even molding the world around me.  When I touch the castle walls, I sense a certain anxiety in them, as if they are wondering about me.

Finding nothing else in the castle, I eventually make my way back to the tower staircase.  I climb it a second time, but when I reach the top, I'm surprised to see a bird fluttering around the room.

Image from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows a bird (the wizard) flying around by a tower window.

Something tells me, however, that this is no ordinary bird.  The presence I felt here before is now stronger, and the walls almost seem to move in response to the bird's flaps.  Unfortunately, it's just out of my reach.

There's only one item left in my inventory that I haven't made use of in Serenia -- the ring I found under the tree.  I have heard too many stories about rings with magical powers to doubt its potential, but how can I activate it?  I try waving it around, talking to it, hitting it, opening it, sitting on it, singing to it, licking it, shaking it, banging it against the wall, throwing it, and then finally...

The moment I rub it with my finger, hair begins sprouting from every part of my body and my fingernails sharpen considerably.  Large fangs sprout from my upper jaw.  I can hear the ghost of Kafka laughing from deepest corners of my subconscious, enjoying a joke many times more cruel than even nature could have dreamed up.  The room gradually fades to a blurry gray.

Magical adventures are for suckers.

When my transformation is complete, there's no time to think or act of my own accord, because my new cat form begins reacting on instinct.  I leap into the air and snatch the bird in my mouth, skewering its body with my fangs.  When I return to the ground, I drop the now-helpless avian and chew greedily, savoring a strangely delicious meal.

Unfortunately, the cat form only lasts a matter of of seconds and I transform immediately back into a human.  My stomach turns violently as I'm left kneeling on the tower floor, my mouth filled with feathers and bird intestines.  I lurch forward and retch.  Clumps of cat hair and snakeskin cascade from my back as I vomit the bird's remain onto the floor.

Having emptied my stomach, I crawl slowly on my hands and knees down to the room with the frog.  The seemingly endless string of animal transformations have ravaged my will to such an extent that the humiliating act I'm about to perform seems almost banal by comparison.  I pucker up my lips, which are still stained with bird blood, and plant a kiss on the cheek of the bug-eyed frog.

An animation based on images from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows a frog being transformed into a princess, with a flash of light.

The kiss has its desired effect, immediately turning the frog into a princess.  I clamber slowly to my feet and execute an awkward bow.  

There is no response, and after a minute or two in that position, I peek up at her out of the corner of my eye.  She is still staring blankly ahead, just as she was in frog form, but now with an odd, off-kilter smile.  

"Hello," I say cautiously.

No response.  It must be that spending so much time as a frog has left her brain in a vegetative state.  I reach to grab hold of her arm, but she pulls back.  Perhaps she has enough wherewithal to follow me after all.  

Leaving the room, I am about to lead her out of the castle when I notice an unexplored room across the hallway.  Inside it, I find a closet that contains a single pair of shoes.  On inspection, there is a word carved into the sole:

Image from the 1980 Apple II game, The Wizard and the Princess.  It shows the sole of a shoe with the word "Whoosh" written on it.

Noooooo... not another another magic word.  I can't take anymore of this, I just can't.  I drop the shoes on the floor and break into a child-like tantrum, stomping around the room and ramming my fist into my forehead.  

It's the last burst of free will that I can muster.  20 minutes later, having completely exhausted myself, I curl up in a fetal posture.  From my position on the floor, I can see the princess, who is still staring blankly at the wall and giving no indication that she's aware of anything going on around her.  I feel my mind slowly descending into the same form of docile stupor that grips hers.

With weak and trembling arms, I reach out for the shoes and place them on my feet.  Closing my eyes, I mutter in a feeble voice, 

"Whoosh"...


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