The Wizard and the Princess, Part 1: The Definition of Insanity

A Traveler's Journal

Day 1

Serenia... what a drag.  Empty streets, cacti, blazing sun, snakes, what a real drag.

My exile from the the Mystery House was unfortunate, but expected.  The girl couldn't just sit at the window and watch me forever, sooner or later she was bound to have her say.  And her say was that I should go.

So here I am, in a backwater "kingdom" with nothing but water, bread, a knife, and a blanket.  After days of dragging my sorry hide over rocks and sand, I'm faced with the first signs of civilization since I left the Mystery House.

But where is everyone?  Houses with doors the size of garages all line a single street, staring at each other as if expecting a parade.

Image of the town from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

But there's nothing.  In the window of one of the houses on the right, I swear I see a pair of cat's eyes staring at me from the darkness, but they're gone before I get a chance for a second look.

The road ends unceremoniously with a lone serpent, rattling away at my unwelcome incursion.  

Image of a rattling snake from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

Oddly enough, her company feels welcome.  Still, I suppose I'll need to get past her somehow.  The desert stretches for miles in either direction, so simply walking around her seems like an option.  But there's something about the way she's looking at that rock... like she wants one of her own.  

There's so much desert, and so many rocks, surely that can be arranged.  In fact, barely ten paces away, I find a rock just laying in the sand.  I walk towards it to pick it up, but ...

...the sun is starting to get to me, I swear I saw the rock move...

Image of a scorpion from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

...a scorpion.  Huh.  Like a little toxic cherub, it beckons me to join the landscape.  But no, there will be time for that later.  I must keep searching.

Further on, I find another rock by a very familiar-looking cactus.  Unfortunately, I also find another scorpion, which watches me attentively as I wander just a little too close for its comfort.

Apparently, even rocks are a valuable commodity in this wasteland.  But the snake still calls me from its perch at the end of town, I have to keep looking.

An animation of the search for the rock, from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

Another scorpion.  Then another.  Then another.

The carousel of scorpions continues spinning.  Rock after rock after rock... the maddening glare of the sun burns into my forehead and every scorpion calls to me like the soul of someone I killed.

Did I kill anyone?  I can't remember now... I need to drink water.  But someone who can't find a rock in the desert doesn't deserve water.

I kick a cactus in disgust, but it just bites me for my trouble.  Shouldn't I stop?  They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but why can't I find a rock in the desert?!

Day 2

I found it!  I found a rock.  Hours wandering in the desert have paid off and now I can bestow my gift upon the snake. 

An animation of the snake getting hit by a rock, based on images from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

Her gratitude overcomes her and she kneels before me.  Now I can reward myself with a swig from my flask of water.  So refreshing.  Hopefully the path ahead will have more water and fewer snakes.

I continue wandering through the desert.  I don't know where I'm going exactly, just that I'm walking toward the sun and getting further from the town.  Unfortunately, it's only a matter of minutes before another snake comes slithering towards me.

An animation of a snake dodging a rock, based on images from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

This snake is less appreciative of my rock than the last one, so I bid a hasty retreat.

In addition to the snakes, I've been finding a lot of items just lying on the ground, including a locket, a cracker, a note with cryptic writing in it, and a stick shaped like a "Y" -- the latter is only noteworthy because I haven't seen any trees in days.  It's a good sign.  There must have been people in this area recently.  Unfortunately, I also stumble across this:

An image of the trapped king of snakes, from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

Goddammit!  Another snake.  This one seems to have already received a gift from a previous wanderer, but I'll be damned if I'm going to tolerate this beneficence one-upsmanship.  In a fit of rage, I pick up the rock, but just at that moment, the scales on the snake's head begin growing.  Their sharp tips at first give me the impression of a shark's lower jaw, but soon I realize that the scales have come together to form the shape of a crown.  The snake looks at me and utters the following words,
I am King of the Snakes, and to repay you I will give you a magic word.  Hiss.
I huck the rock back at him, but he slithers away before it hits the ground.  His crown trick was amusing, but I don't believe that the King of the Snakes would be so easily trapped under a small rock.  You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me.

Day 3

Another day, another snake.  This time, he's hiding away in a hole, a hole that looks like it was dug by a shovel.  There might be something interesting in there, but I'll need to get rid of the snake somehow.  The intensity of the sun, beating down like a sledgehammer on my forehead, is making it hard to think.  Maybe if I just throw stuff at it.

An animation of tossing inventory at a snake in a hole, based on images from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

He looks a little annoyed, but isn't about to abandon his shelter from the sun.  And now my blanket is inaccessible.  Great.

Think, think... I've seen snakes in zoos, what did the handler's do with them?  Wait, I remember, they used pronged stick to trap the snake's head -- that way it couldn't reach them with its fangs.  If I can hold his head in place, I should be able to just pull his body from the hole.

With the stick gripped tightly in my right hand, I slowly walk up to the snake's hole.  Unfortunately, just as I'm about to lunge at the snake, I step on a small cactus and stumble forward.  The stick goes flying from my hand and hits the snake in the head.  This, combined with my unholy shrieks of pain, send the snake slithering into the distance.

An animation of scaring a snake from a hole, based on images from the 1980 Sierra adventure game The Wizard and the Princess.

Still reeling from stepping on the cactus and not entirely sure what I'm saying, I shout at the snake as it retreats,

"Hey, where's my magic word, asshole?!"

I must have blacked out after that, because I don't remember anything until the next day.

The adventure continues...