|This feels like defeating the purpose, in... a lot of ways.|
After leaving Iolo's, I wandered the west, hoping to come across a settlement where I could start getting a feel for the lay of the land, how things stand in Britannia during the rule of Blackthorn. This led me to Empath Abbey in short order, where I quickly bumped into a young, spry student named Toshi. A bit of conversation led him to ask if he could join my entourage, and so after a moment's thought, I said yes. He was certainly inexperienced, but he was a bold and enthusiastic young lad, and anyone who knew what stood against the forces of Virtue and yet still wanted to join the fight was quite welcome. Here too did I run into my old friend Julia, and our group grew to five. The residents of the keep had much to say on other subjects as well - Hardluck the castle jester, for instance. His songs reminded me that Blackthorn himself might not strictly be a villain on his own merit, but that he too is held under the sway of the Shadowlords that wreak havoc upon the lands, a reminder that even the good and well-intentioned can still fall under the sway of evil if one does not remain vigilant against it. The lord of the keep told me of a demon who lived in the eastern desert who could tell me more about the Shadowlord of Hatred, which I suspect I will need as I make my way further. One cannot hope to defeat an enemy one does not know, after all! Finally, Barbra told me of a vision she'd seen, that of a man, as through a looking glass, trapped there.
|My reaction to reading this stone: "...oh dear."|
I have to say, I really like the feel of these first few bits of Ultima V. Yew and Empath Abbey are the settlements closest to the player's starting point, so it's a very good chance that it's going to be among the first impressions the player gets of the game. And these encounters I've mentioned - the pair in the Yew stocks, Judge Dryden, the contrast with the residents of Empath Abbey and their understanding of what it is their settlement is meant to represent - paints a very nice portrait of Blackthorn's stifling rule as opposed to Lord British's. There's no room for understanding or sympathy or mercy in Blackthorn's regime, only law and overly legalistic interpretation. And yet via Hardluck, it's a reminder that even Blackthorn had good intentions, only to fall into shadow and corruption. It's a glimpse into how the virtues of Ultima IV can be twisted, and the need for nuance. Even the gravestones in Yew suggest a harsher game world than in its predecessor, mentioning those dead from the rack, dying in shackles, the upper and lower halves of Blackthorn's former jester being buried separately (ugh) - Ultima V definitely knows how to build a solid atmosphere.
|Oh, like THAT'S going to prove your innocence...|
There was much more to explore than just Lord British's castle in the neighborhood, though. I learned a lot in the city of Britain, and even bumped into Iolo's wife Gwenno, who I of course had to let into the party as well. I was going through food at a more rapid pace than I wanted to as a result of the six members of my group, though, so I dropped Toshi and Julia off at the inn while I decided on who I wanted to bring with me - it only seemed right to let Iolo and Gwenno reconnect for a little while. Annon informed me of the Great Council, who, after confirming who I swore my loyalty to, told me about the Words of Power, and even gave me the one that opened Despise. He also told me that the daughter of another Council member works as a sailmaker, and that I should ask her about her mother to obtain another. Greyson told me of the Guardians that protected the Codex, only allowing those on a sacred quest garnered from the shrines to pas, and reminded me of the Mantra of Compassion. Eb the busboy told me to talk to Malik in Moonglow about glass swords, and Terrance let slip something about the Resistance, telling me I should ask around at the Arms of Justice to find out more.
|I wonder if it worked. They did kinda fire themselves in the process.|
Feeling like I'd learned all I could in the vicinity of the castle for now, I headed south, dropping by Paws, where I learned that shrines, if I ever saw them desecrated and destroyed, could be restored with the Words of Power, giving me another reason to make sure I find them all. I talked with a man in the stables about horses, and he seemed very interested in seeking out a talking horse - having learned where Smith lived from the stables in Castle Britannia, I told him where he could be found, and he thanked me by telling me that he'd gifted a magic carpet to Lord British, which I could pick up from his private quarters, if I could gain entrance to them. From there it was off to Trinsic, where Jimmy told me more about the HMS Cape and its qualities, and I asked a sleepwalking wizard, on a hunch, about the Council, which ended up earning me the Word of Power for Shame. After talking a bit with Gruman, who refreshed my memory on the Mantra of Honor, I made my way to the Shrine, since it was close. Meditating there, I heard a voice exhorting me to learn the darkness of dishonor - my first sacred quest from the shrines. I figured that was a good time to rest, and Shamino even got a level out of it after an apparition came in the night.
|I try. I mean, it is one of the Virtues.|
Not sure whether I'll head for the other mainland settlements (well, Minoc) or see if I can snag a boat and follow up on some of my seafaring leads yet, but at least I'm not lacking for things to do!