The Longing: Birthday Riddle

I’m about a month into The Longing, and also well over 300 days into it. I haven’t given any progress reports for the last few weeks because I’ve mainly just been letting the Shade sleep in the bed I crafted for him, which seems to be the best way to make time pass faster while logged off. I’m doing this because there have been hints that the next big content-revealing event is the Shade’s birthday. Recall that the King creates the Shade at the beginning of the game. His birthday should thus happen after 365 days have passed, which is to say, when the 400-day countdown reaches 35 days left.

Basically, I’m trying to interpret the stone face’s secret. I know it’s a secret because the Shade specifically asked the face “Can you tell me a secret?”, and once I managed to pay for the answer, I was told:

You may find a hidden domain, if you try to breathe freely… You may find a mysterious door, if you look for it where you can see the most… You may find a birthday present, in a most beautiful place… If you put it all together, a wondrous secret is revealed.

This made sense of two things I had experienced previously. To address the second point first, I had at one point found a door in a place where I’m sure there had been no door before, Silent Hill-style. It was locked, though, and I had no key. The “try to breathe freely” part I think is linked to the smelly fire. This is something you have the option to create in the fireplace in your home. It requires sulfur, which I took a long time to find, but once I had some, I knew I had to give the smelly fire a try, just because it was something I hadn’t been able to do before. As I posted to Twitter at the time, “THIS WAS A MISTAKE”. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but the result is that you’re driven out of your dwelling and can’t go back for several hours. You can’t even shorten that wait, because the only place you can make time advance faster is in the home you were just driven out of.

It was some time after this that the stone face told me the secret. I hadn’t made any connection between the mysterious door and the smelly fire before, but I’m pretty sure that I saw the door shortly after building the fire for the first time, so I came to the conclusion that the fire produced the door somehow. But now I’m thinking that I was wrong about this. For one thing, subsequent attempts at door summoning by means of smelly fires have failed. For another, now that I look at the riddle again, it seems more like the “breathe freely”, the door, and the birthday present are three independent pieces. And finally, there’s the matter of the books.

See, I’ve explored everything obvious to explore. There are no visible doors or passages I haven’t been through. And yet my bookshelf is only about half full. The obvious explanation is that there are more books in the “hidden domain”. But would the designers really lock away half the book content until after the game is more than 7/8 over? I could believe that if the place I hadn’t accessed were the library, but I’ve already been there. No, more likely I can already access the “hidden domain” somehow, and there’s books there, and maybe there’s also a key there that opens the locked door and lets me get more books. So now I’m going to stop sleeping and start experimenting, because apparently I have some stuff to figure out before that birthday present appears.

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