Friday, March 6, 2015

Ultima IV: The Keys to Victory

With four of the stones in my pocket, a full party of eight, and sitting on the doorstep of Cove, it was time to ply the last batch of townsfolk for clues. Many of the threads I'd followed led to this small little village hidden off the coast of a lake, and it was time to tie them up into as neat a bow as I was able. Somewhere within this little village were the answers to the last questions I had about this quest of mine, and I was determined to draw them out.

Let's just say things were heating up and leave it at that.
My first answer come in the form of Brother Zair, whom I'd been directed to practically at the very beginning from a man I'd met in Paws. He had information about the word of passage that I would need at the entrance to the chamber of the codex - it would seem that each of the rulers of the three keeps across the land each knew one part of the word. Looked like another visit to the Lycaeum, Empath Abbey, and Serpent's Hold was in my future. Sloven pointed me to the supposedly haunted in over in Skara Brae to find out about the location of the white stone - he not only confirmed that the inn was indeed haunted, but that I'd have to ask the ghost who did the haunting about the stone. Merlin was rather more straightforward about the black stone, in contrast - I was told to search for it in a moongate, the one that opened on the darkest of nights, when the moons were black. That seemed fitting, and I added it to the list of places to revisit when I made my way back to the Lycaeum. A gathering of mages left me with much to ponder about the one pure axiom I apparently need, and Allen told me that the abyss could only be approached by ship, I'd need a magically strengthened hull to accomplish that. The sailors I'd talked to in my journeys talked often about the HMS Cape, and how mighty it was. I knew it went down in the Cape of Heroes, so perhaps it was time to plunge the depths of the seas. Finally, Blissful the Seahorse told me to meditate at the shrines of Honesty, Compassion, and Valor to find out what steps I'd need to take to enter the Abyss itself. There'd be some backtracking in my future!

There was one last thing I'd been directed to Cove to find, though, and after a little poking around I found the Candle of Love in a little alcove off of the shrine they had there. The shrine's Ankh also gave me a handy checklist of what I'd need to enter the chamber of the codex when I finally made my way to the bottom of the Abyss. I'd need to be an eight-part avatar, have the key of three parts, and know the word of passage and the one pure axiom. I only fulfilled one of those pieces, but I knew how to obtain two of the others, and I had much to consider in regards to the last. I considered myself well informed by this point.

I wonder if he'll finally find his peace after I finish the quest...
Saying goodbye to the pleasant folk of Cove and the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the place, I prepared a Gate Travel spell (which I had learned from Mentorian near the town's entrance) and magiced over to Trinsic, where I supplied Geoffrey with a bow, who was in desperate need of a better weapon lest he be left behind. From there I made my way to Skara Brae by way of Minoc, so I could pick up some more Mandrake along the way. In Skara Brae, I stayed in the inn for a mere five gold - I suspect they had to discount the room severely in order to get any business, due to its haunted reputation. It took a couple nights, but the specter did show up eventually - and proved rather friendly to one on the Quest. I found myself wondering what his story was - his lingering presence seemed tied to the Quest itself, and I couldn't help but wonder what sort of circumstances led to that. He was disinclined to elaborate on the subject, though he did inform me that I could find the white stone in Serpent's Spine, though I'd need the ability to float through the clouds to find it. I remembered being told about a lighter-than-air device just outside Hythloth, and that I could find a secret entrance to that dungeon in Lord British's Castle, so I made a note and moved on.

My next stop was Yew, as that was a quick jump through the moongate away, and Empath Abbey wasn't too far away from there. A brief discussion with the lord there confirmed that he knew one part of the word, and told it to me with the exhortation to seek out the other two parts, which I had every intent of doing. From there it was off to the Shrine of Compassion, and after three cycles of meditation there, I discovered that I had to light the Candle of Love third in order to open the way to the Abyss. I suspected the shrines of Valor and Honesty would tell me the first and second steps, so I boarded my ship and set sail, with a brief stop at Serpent's Hold to learn another part of the word of passage from Sentri and a little poking around the Cape of Heroes, where I found the wheel to the HMS Cape. From there I sailed to the Shrine of Valor, learning that I should ring the Bell of Courage as my first step at the entrance to the Abyss, then it was off to the Shrine of Honesty, which I actually found without getting lost for once, where I was told to read the Book of Truth after ringing the bell. Since the Lycaeum was close by, I stopped there to learn the last part of the Word of Passage, then headed over to the moongate to pick up the black stone. Three more to go, and the complete Word of Passage to boot! Progress was undoubtedly being made.

The White Stone was here once.
...or so I thought. I took the moongate back to Britain, and plunged into the depths of Hythloth only to turn right back around and try to climb my way back out to the surface. I'd never done this before in any of my playthroughs - either I'd just X-it my way out, or I'd use Blink to get the white stone and not bother with the balloon at all. Consequently, this meant for a fair bit of stumbling around to find my way up. I even managed to find the altar where the stone used to be, and no wonder it went missing! It was RIGHT THERE on the first floor of the dungeon, and sure it was behind a trick wall and three poison fields, but surely somebody could find their way to it without too much trouble - although I suppose there's no way to get a ship there, but someone who can swim real well might be able to. Well, in any case, I kind of undid some of my progress here. I got swamped through a combination of dungeon rooms and encounters in Hythloth, and I was so desperate to get out that I somehow lost both my Valor and Sacrifice eighths - I'm still not entirely sure what happened, I blinked and suddenly they were gone. Apparently 'impatience' is not a virtue of the Avatar, either.

A brief glimpse of what's to come, from the air.
Resolving to rectify this unpleasant turn of events as soon as possible, I boarded the hot air balloon I found just past Hythloth, and a bit of navigating and several wind change spells later, I landed the balloon in a little alcove atop Serpent's Spine, marked by an ankh - and sitting there by it was the white stone! It didn't take long after that to regain my partial avatarhood in sacrifice, all it took was a rather generous blood donation to the castle healer and then a stop by the shrine. It took a little longer to regain my valor partial, but it too didn't take too much time, thankfully, and I opted to leave my ship by Jhelom and use magical means to get back to Britain - it was a short trip from Jhelom to the Isle of the Abyss, so it'd be more expedient that way. Having recovered from my momentary lapse of virtue, I delved back into Hythloth and pushed my way into the altar room of Courage, through which I pushed my way into Destard. There were some tough fights here, I bumped into a lot of Reapers and Gazers while searching, but I suppose my party was getting some much-needed rest as a result of those battles. In any case, it was a relatively short venture, and once the red stone was mine I ventured into Shame through the altar room. This was a longer journey, but eventually I made my way to the second floor where the purple stone lay awaiting me. I took the ladder up - and discovered that this part of the first floor didn't have an exit ladder. Well, I decided I wasn't quite up to backtracking quite that much, and caved - I mixed and cast an X-it spell.

Only to plunge back into Hythloth and make a run of the altar rooms. I'd noticed that each dungeon connected to the altar room associated with the principles that formed the virtue that stood in contrast to each dungeon, and since Hythloth was Spirituality's opposite, that meant it connected to all three. And sure enough, after enough poking about in its depths, fighting off demons, and placing the proper stones in the right places, I pocketed first one third of the key, then a second, then finally the last. A few spells later, I was back in Castle British, who raised Mariah another level - and then told me I was ready for the Abyss.

And I paused a moment. Enlightenment in eight virtues. Tracking down the eight colored stones. Checking out the Book of Truth from the Lycaeum's library. Pulling up the Bell of Courage from the depths of the sea. Finding the Candle of Love in a small alcove. Scrounging about in the dark depths to find the three parts of the key. The Word of Passage. The wheel from the Cape. Even the very Skull of Mondain himself. Everything I needed was there, either in my hands or in my head. The knowledge I needed, the necessary items, and seven stalwart companions that had fought by my side against dragons, gazers, zorns, demons, balrons, reapers, the most terrifying creatures the depths could think to throw at us.

All that remained was the Stygian Abyss itself. And there, down in the very heart of the darkest pit in all of Britannia, lay the object of my quest. The Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.

Together, the eight of us would conquer it. And I would enter the chamber and finally view the codex itself.

The end of the journey was in sight.

Ready for the final leg...

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