The first episode, Prologue to the Legend, used the cliché of the abandoned dwarven tunnels as a shortcut.
In the interests of balance this episode uses the cliché of a short cut through the cursed elven Forest of No Return*. The short cut is needed to get ahead of the advancing Marmo army which is crushing the kingdoms of Kannon and Alania** without raising a sweat.
The nature of the curse in this case is a reaction to strong emotions, and the ability to present illusions...or visions. When she explains this, and how to get through the Forest safely, Deedlit gets a brilliantly snarky line about dwarves not being capable of strong enough emotions to be at risk.
Thus once they're in the forest the
Inevitably though it is Ghim who, despite Deedlit's snark, really does have something that he's deeply emotional about. Leylia, the daughter of the high priestess, who went missing whilst her mother tended to Ghim's injuries from a mining accident. Ghim is questing to find Leylia and he gets a vision connecting her to Karla.
Our heroes manage to escape the forest, presumably on the right side, and recuperate from their ordeal.
Conveniently enough**** they emerge from the Forest next to the road from Valis to Alania down which Princess Fianna and her escort are fleeing from Karla the Grey Witch. Naturally Parn gives chase.
Actually, the Princess' escort is mostly being used for target practice by Karla whilst she has a most interesting chat with Fianna in the carriage. In seems that Karla can multitask with remotely targeted fireballs.
And her motivation for abducting Fianna would damage the chances of Marmo's invasion succeeding by stiffening the resistance offered by Valis. OK, what the hell is Karla up to?
With Slayn's assistance Parn confronts Karla and proves that at this point his willpower is inversely proportional to his skills. He may not be capable of beating her, but he is at least standing to face her.
This amuses Karla so she turns Fianna over and leaves.
And it would appear that the sweet and innocent Leylia is Karla. Or at least Ghim thinks so.
Leaving aside the first half, this episode is a serious "What the...!!" moment. Suddenly there's this major independent player on the board and you don't know what Karla wants to achieve. However she's clearly not as closely aligned with Marmo as her previous actions would suggest. Suddenly you don't know what's going on, and everything becomes uncertain. It's an unsettling feeling. There's also the conflicting motives for the heroes and Ghim will be wanting to save Leylia rather than kill Karla.
For me this is the moment when Lodoss War lifts above an RPG after action report into a genuinely interesting story.
*Yes, it's really called that.
** Although, much to Parn's annoyance, Alania didn't really try to resist.
*** Bonus points if you can pick which anime and episode that is a quote from a fan subtitle of. :)
****Cue the sound of rattling dice.
Day 1 - Prologue to the Legend
Day 2 - Blazing Departure
Day 3 - The Gender of Lodoss War
Day 4 - The Black Knight
Day 5 - The Grey Witch
Day 6 -
Day 7 - The Desert King
Day 8 - The Sword of the Dark Emperor
Day 9 -
Day 10 - The War of Heroes
Day 11 - Requiem for Warriors
Day 12 -
Day 13 - The Scepter of Domination
Day 14 - The Demon Dragon of Fire Dragon Mountain
Day 15 -
Day 16 - The Wizard's Ambition
Day 17 - Final Battle! Marmo, the Dark Island
Day 18 -
Day 19 - Lodoss, The Burning Continent
Day 20 -
Tomorrow is another open topic, I do have one idea that I doubt people will see coming but I'm looking for more suggestions.