How can one possibly defeat an invincible knight? That was the question I was asking myself as I faced off against the Black Knight in Conquests of Camelot. The infamous knight had given me the chance to walk away, but doing so would condemn my fellow knight Gawaine to certain death. To keep my honour intact, I had no choice but to agree to his jousting challenge. As I did so, my view shifted to one I’d not experienced in the game so far. To the left of the screen I could see an image of the Black Knight, while I could see myself to the right. In between these images I had a first person view of the jousting field. I quickly noted that I was able to move my shield by using the E,S,D and F keys, and that I could move my lance by using the 8, 4, 2, 6 and 5 keys. Suddenly the Black Knight charged at me, moving his lance to his right as he did. I pressed the S key to move my lance to my left, assuming this would block his attack, only to find myself on my ass a second later! “The Black Knight has unhorsed you for the first time, Arthur. Make it the last!” I decided to master blocking his attacks before even attempting to move my lance, but found myself knocked off my horse repeatedly. “Alas! All Camelot will grieve to hear that valiant King Arthur was slain by the Black Knight.” I restored, grit my teeth, and prepared to try again.
Looks awesome doesn't it!
It's not! There were even times when we both went down but it was marked as only a loss to me.
I’ll cut to the chase here and say that this section of the game was all but impossible to play as it was designed. I don’t know if it has anything to do with DOSBox or whether it was always this hard, but I found it very frustrating indeed. I eventually figured out that I could knock the Black Knight down easily enough, by simply moving my lance to the left of screen just as he was nearing me, but actually blocking his lance intentionally was just blind luck. Eventually I pretty much ignored my shield and concentrated on knocking him off. A few well timed blows combined with a couple of very lucky blocks resulted in victory, but I didn’t feel good about it at all. “You have vanquished the Black Knight, King Arthur!” The companion comments I’ve read seem to suggest I’m not alone in my dislike for this mini-game, so I’d be very interested to hear from anyone that actually mastered jousting. Once it was over, the Black Knight’s body simply vanished, “as is to be expected with such a supernatural being”, so I left the field of battle to venture deeper into the Forest. On the next screen I found Gawaine, tied to a tree and dying! “King... Arthur... I knew... you would come.” I cut his shackles with my sword, and as he slumped to the ground, Gawaine told me to “Beware... the Mad Monk... of Glastonbury. I believe he has... the Grail.”
Ah yes, very realistic!
When a hero is needed, I can't help but respond!
I tried to talk to Gawaine, but he seemed unresponsive. I tried to help him in various ways, but the game kept telling me that he would die of his injuries if I didn’t get him to Camelot soon. Eventually I tried picking him up and putting him on my horse, and it worked! “Your horse will carry him safely back to Camelot. Even if you must go on foot, you must continue your search without delay, but be assured that this noble sacrifice brings blessings upon you.” I was losing animals left, right and centre now, but I continued on to the right of screen on foot. The next screen really caught my attention! I’d entered a circle of large upright stones, and in the centre of it stood an old hag on top of a pedestal! Merlin clearly sensed danger: “Beware, Arthur! I like not the look of this old hag who stands upon the pedestal.” What was particularly worrying was that investigating the smaller stones within the circle revealed that they were once men, clearly having been turned to stone by some sort of evil magic. As I approached her, the hag spoke the following words: “Halt! Ye shall not pass me unhindered, king though ye be. And if ye give me not what I desire, a stone ye shall be. And what may this be that I desire, ye wonder? Hah! If ye be so cunning a knight, ye shall know.”
Just for clarity, which god are you talking about in this instance?
Smurfette was going through her rebellious stage!
What could she possibly want? I hardly had anything in my inventory! It was then that I noticed the “magickal” sleeve that I’d picked up in the forest, and decided it was worth a shot. “Aye! Aye! That is what I most desire! Bring it here at once!” I tried to think of why she might want the sleeve, but couldn’t come up with anything. Figuring it must be from some story I wasn’t aware of, I walked up and gave it to her. Before my eyes, the hag transformed into a much more aesthetically pleasing woman! “Bless you, valiant knight! I am the Lady Elayne, transformed into the forest witch by a hideous spell cast upon me by the Black Knight. Only this sleeve, which I gave to my true love, could set me free. And if my sleeve is here, my beloved cannot be far away. I must find him at once! Fare thee well!” The Lady Elayne then ran off in the direction I’d just come from, and presumably would come across the bones of her lover soon enough. With the hag out of the way, I was now able to read the runes on the pedestal she’d been standing on. “Five poets bold did come astray. Five standing stones now bar the way. Of limbs bereft, yet voice I left. To pass through the middle, you must ask for...” The writing faded away at this point, so I was not able to read what the final line was supposed to say. It seemed obvious to me what it was supposed to say though, as "middle" rhymes with "riddle"!
"My darling...as a sign of my true love for you...RRRIIIPPP...I want you to have this sleeve!"
...a fiddle? Um...
I walked through the arch to the left of screen, and was surprised to find my mule eating grass. “You have reached the base of Glastonbury Tor on the edge of the Forest Perilous.” OK, so the slope leading upwards behind my mule must take me to the ruins where this Mad Monk resides. I tried to walk in that direction, but suddenly was thrown backwards by an invisible force! “You were thrown back by a sorcerous barrier of great power. Yet there must be a way to pass it.” It was only then that I noticed the five stones, and remembered the riddle I’d just read on the pedestal. “Five poets bold did come astray. Five standing stones now bar the way. Of limbs bereft, yet voice I left. To pass through the middle, you must ask for the riddle.” I typed “ask for riddle”, but that didn’t work. I tried “read riddle”, but was told that “The only riddle to read here is that there is no riddle here to read.” Hmmm…what about these poets? I walked up to one of the stones and typed “talk to poet”. The stone responded!!!! “You can see nothing else when you look in my face, I will look you in the eye and I will never lie. What am I?” Given my experience with creating riddles for the blog, I felt confident I could figure this out, and any other riddles the poets could throw my way. After a few moments thought, I typed “mirror”. The stone lit up with a purple light, and I received a message telling me that I’d solved its riddle. One down, four to go!
Whatever you do, don't whiz on the electric fence!
The Riddling Stones demanded satisfaction...sorry, that was the best I could do
The second riddle I was given was: “To unravel me you need a simple key, no key that was made by locksmith’s hand, but a key that only I will understand. What am I?” Hey, that’s easy I thought! It’s a…um…aahhh…hmmmm…a code? No? My expectations that I would breeze through these riddles were shattered, and things didn’t get any better when I read the other three riddles. The third riddle was “When I am filled I can point the way. When I am empty nothing moves me, I have two skins, one without and one within. What am I?” The fourth riddle was “You heard me before, yet you hear me again, then I die, ‘til you call me again. What am I?” Finally, the fifth riddle was “I go around in circles but always straight ahead, never complain no matter where I am led. What am I?” I put a little bit of thought into each of these riddles, but couldn’t come up with an obvious answer for any of them. I left the game to have dinner with my wife and daughter, and it must have been very apparent to them that my mind was elsewhere. Each of the riddles (well, the three that I could remember anyway) were going around and around in my head while I sat silently and unconsciously chewed my food. By the end of that meal, I’d solved two of them! The third riddle was obviously a piece of clothing, probably a glove, while the answer to the fifth one just had to be a lodestone!
I imagine anyone that missed the lodestone earlier in the game would struggle to solve this riddle
I excused myself from the table and rushed back to my laptop, desperate to try out both answers. To my delight, they were both correct! Three down, two to go! It took me a couple more minutes of thinking to figure out that the answer to the second riddle was in fact “riddle”, but I was really stuck on the fourth one! I tried to think of things that made sound intermittently, but it was only when I focussed on the “til you call me again” bit that I had a eureka moment! I pictured someone calling out and the word “echo” came to me. I knew it was right as soon as I thought of it, but I was still hugely excited when the fifth and final stone lit up! I was now able to walk between the stones, but as soon as I did, I simply disappeared! Merlin panicked, asking “Arthur? Arthur! Where are you?”, but soon calmed down when I reappeared in the ruins of Glastonbury Tor. “Ah, there you are! That was not my doing. You have been brought by another power to the center of the ruins of Glastonbury Tor.” I was able to leave this screen in all four directions, so I just had to pick one. I went south, and found myself standing near a well. There was a man sitting nearby, and from his clothes I had to assume he was the Mad Monk I’d been warned about!
Medieval rest rooms didn't offer the privacy we take for granted these days
Strangely, I wasn’t able to right click on the monk to get information about him, so I decided to focus on the well before approaching him. “The well lid is iron, with a solid iron bar and a lock holding it in place.” I tried a few things to get the lid open, but it clearly wasn’t going to happen without a key. When I right clicked on the tree to the right of the well, I was unexpectedly given a heap of information about it. “The legend of Joseph of Arimathea has it that when he hid the Grail, he also stuck his staff into the ground and from that place a thorn tree grew.” As with Old Father Tree in the Forest Perilous, I didn’t seem to be able to interact further with the thorn tree, so I had to assume it was one of the “extras” I spoke about earlier. It was time to deal with this monk, so I typed “look at monk”. “This Monk seems calm enough. Perhaps he is not the one they call the Mad Monk. We shall see.” I walked towards him, and to my surprise, he simply stood up and quickly walked away to the west. I decided not to chase him and to instead concentrate on exploring the environment. With that in mind I continued south, reappearing on a screen containing a large altar in its centre. “It is an extremely ancient altar, of a most peculiar configuration. Its three parts may hint at the worship of a trinity of some sort.” Hmmmm, interesting! What could the altar be used for?!
I hope I wasn't supposed to do something with this tree...because I didn't!
A fair amount of attention was given to making all the shadows consistent in each section of the game
I soon discovered that continuing south brought me back to the starting point, and walking in the east and west directions took me through pretty much empty screens of ruins before also looping back. The monk appeared repeatedly throughout this exploration, and ran away whenever I got too close. If I talked to him, he would respond with “As you can see, I am but an old, poor helpless monk seeking enlightenment through solitude. I am amazed you have passed the riddle stones, for your own face betrays no great intelligence.” His condescending words convinced me that he was indeed the Mad Monk, but what was I supposed to be doing on this strange hilltop? Eventually I thought I would try asking him about the Grail, at which point he became very agitated! “Thief! Robber! You come seeking treasure, but you will find only death! The power is mine! Mine! I will never share it!” He then ran away again, but this time I followed him. I wasn’t prepared for what I found on the next screen! There were now three Mad Monks running around swinging clubs! “Those glazed, fanatical eyes filled with hatred, those snarling lips flecked with foam! The Monk truly is a madman!” Luckily the monks moved with little purpose, so I was able to regain my wits and draw my sword. As each of them came towards me, I thrust my sword in their general direction (farting didn’t seem a likely solution). All three went down with a single blow, and somehow I managed to avoid all of their wild swings!
The monk cried out “Arrghh... in vino veritas...” as he died, and then disappeared, just as the Black Knight had done. However, in his place appeared three glowing orbs with tentacle-like appendages! “We are the Old Ones and you have killed the monk, our servant, the only servant we have had for centuries. You must take his place. You will never leave here, unless you can appease us for this loss.” Having made this statement, the Old Ones faded away, leaving me to wonder exactly how I was supposed to “appease” them. I still wasn’t able to get into the well or do anything with the tree, which left the altar. Since the altar had three parts, hinting that it was used to worship a trinity of sorts, I tried standing in front of it and praying to the Old Ones. They reappeared behind the altar and proclaimed that “Copper is for the lowest spirits of the earth. Gold is for the young gods. You cannot appease us with those metals. We three are the eldest servants of the mother-moon. We love most dearly the metal that gleams cold and pure like hardened moonlight.” Clearly they wanted silver, so I placed a single silver coin on the altar. “We need more silver to appease us.” I placed another coin, and another, and another, until there were five silver coins on the altar. “Glorious silver! How pure and perfect it is! Having silver is better than having a servant! We release you from our service and leave you a gift.”
Turning to the bottle will not solve your problems you mad bastard!
Hey, so this is what happened to The Young Ones!
Just imagine how excited they'd be about the Silver Surfer!
In place of the silver coins lay an iron key, which I eagerly picked up. I walked up one screen to the well, and used the key on it to unlock it. Inside was...water! I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but it was certainly more than water. I tried getting into the well, but wasn’t able to. I then tried drinking it, and found that I could, but apart from being told that the water was ice-cold, nothing happened. After a few more failed attempts, I typed “put hand in water”, and watched as Arthur fished around for something. “So THIS is the Mad Monk’s treasure! A beautiful, glittering crystal heart. How cold it is to the touch! Alas, Arthur, this is the object of power that created the Spell of Circular Entrapment.” I would now be able to leave Glastonbury Tor, but where would I go next? The game had made a real point of mentioning how cold the crystal heart was, so perhaps it was the item that the Lady of the Lake wanted brought to her?! There was only one way to find out, and that would involve navigating my way back to the Lady’s ice palace. Regardless of the outcome, I was making some serious progress, and thoroughly enjoying the experience too. Conquests of Camelot hasn’t been overly difficult so far, but I have had to use my brain on a few occasions. I just have to hope that future action mini-games aren’t as clunky as the Black Knight sequence. Join me in a few days to find out!
Yes! I knew it! Oh...hang on!
I think I know someone that will REALLY like this!
Session Time: 1 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 00 minutes
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!