|Well, that didn't go as planned...|
This turned out to be a less than stellar idea.
The ship was teeming with pirates, who could strike from range, and the gangplanks that allowed our group's frontline fighters into range were narrow, meaning we had to deal with a hail of arrows - and scoop up the piles of treasure left behind by defeated pirates before we could move further forward in the process! The battle was long and difficult, Gwenno eventually switching to a crossbow and then throwing axes to support Iolo and Jaana's slings, trying to pick off as many of the pirates as possible while Aric and Shamino slashed furiously for their very lives. Jaana even halted her portion of the assault to throw the occasional desperate Mani spell their direction - but it wasn't enough. Aric fell to a pirate's blade, and Gwenno only barely pulled out of the struggle alive, while Shamino panted and gasped from his position at the ship's stern. The ship had been commandeered - but at what cost?
|Windmire and Emilly sharing a meal.|
The sacrifices of my little band just kept coming, though. After a brief rest to heal while they waited for the Shadowlord to move on, they found themselves killing more than just time as they were beset upon by orcs, and while they had enough strength to fend them off, Gwenno was pushed over the edge by an acid trap on one of the chests they left behind, and what had started as a group of five was now down to three. Not only that, an honest-to-goodness dragon loomed on the horizon - Shamino, Iolo and Jaana were taking no chances. They turned tail and fled, and rushed into Minoc as soon as daylight broke.
|I think he's the one doing the misunderstanding of the virtues...|
It was stopping by the shipwright's that told me Minoc under Blackthorn's rule took sacrifice too far, though. Blythe was all the blackhearted man that the couple in Stormcrow told me he was, forcing his two employees to work long hours day in and day out with little rest, one of them no more than a little girl. But a girl who worked as a sailmaker - hadn't I been informed that one of the council members had a daughter who did just that? Sure enough, when asked about it, Rew confirmed that her mother Fiona was part of the Council, and when I went back to her, after confirming my identity, she was quite willing to part with the Word of Power for Covetous, just around the corner from the pier.
After picking up a few strange keys from a tree in town, presumably left there by Shenstone, whom a beggar had told me he'd seen skulking about around noontime, and crossing paths with a guard enforcing the Fifth Law of Virtue (which cost me half my income, lest I have no income), I headed east for some other errands. Those in Empath Abbey had told me of a demon who lived in this part of the world who might be able to tell me more about the Shadowlord of Hatred, and sure enough, I found him living right where the village of Vesper used to be. It was a desolate land now, far from the pleasant little town that I remembered from my last visit to this part of the world. Sin'Vraal told me of his meeting with Lord British, and his former service for the Shadowlord of Hatred, even going so far as to tell me his name, with the warning not to speak it too loudly lest I summon him unwanted. This is knowledge that shall surely need to be guarded closely.
|I get the feeling I'm not welcome here.|
So I hurriedly hopped back on my frigate and set sail east, and it wasn't long before I was standing before the Codex, which was already open to the page I needed, as the Codex is wont to do. It reminded me that it was the guilt, not the guillotine, that constituted the shame, then sent me on my way to return to the Shrine of Honor. Musing on this, I guided my ship toward another island on my map that I didn't recognize, recalling that I had been told to speak to Sutek, who lived on an island in this part of the sea. Sure enough, his cottage was there, surrounded by swamp, which I carefully navigated through so as to spend as little time as possible wading through it. Sutek himself was out in the graveyard around back (which makes me wonder what he's been up to), and told me of the shards of Mondain's Gem that were still around from when I shattered it way back in Ultima I - how they gave rise to the Shadowlords, and how to use them to defeat those dark entities once and for all.
|Dagnabit, this is what I get for not cleaning up after myself.|
From there it was off to Buccaneer's Den to see what I could learn in that lair of pirates - unsavory characters they may be, but pirates are also well-traveled sorts, and perhaps they would have some clues for me. And that they did - I found a glassmaker there, and remembering what I had been told about glass swords, I asked him about them, to which he replied that there were rumors of magical crystalline swords somewhere in the Serpent's Spine. A wench named Tierra barely seemed willing to give me the time of day, until I offered her a drink and complimented her, on the advice of another pirate - she was rather friendlier after that, telling me that a man named Bidney used to climb mountains, and that I should ask him about it. Bidney himself was a drunkard of a man, but confirmed he used to climb mountains with a grapple, which he gave to Lord Michael of Empath Abbey. I learned a little more about David at Greyhaven from Scally the bard, who told me a story of his exploits and that the man had in fact invented the sextant, which could certainly come in handy if I got my hands on one. And finally, amongst the many other figures that I met in the Den, I bumped into my old companion Geoffrey, who was more than willing to lend his hand in the effort, and quickly reacquainted himself with the rest of my merry band.
|I think it's a little more complicated than that, kid...|
With that done, I decided to head back to Minoc and the surrounding area. I'd asked around about the shards in Empath Abbey, since they knew much of love and had pointed me toward a few clues about the Shadowlord of Hatred. They couldn't tell me much, but maybe Sin'Vraal, who had given me the Shadowlord's name, could help in that respect. He did indeed, telling me where the Shard of Hatred could be found and that I should enter through the dungeons in Lost Hope Bay. I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet, but that would be good to know for the future regardless. And since I was in the area, I paid a visit to the Shrine of Sacrifice, which exhorted me to visit the Codex to learn of unwilling sacrifice. I finished my session by doing just that, dropping by the Codex then returning to the shrine. It strikes me that the Shrines have been, in their own manner, expressing just what is wrong with Blackthorn's Laws - that it should be the guilt of the wrong action itself and not the threat of death that leads one to make amends, that sacrifice is a choice, not something to be forced. It makes me wonder whether these quests the Shrines ordain are specific to the Avatar, or whether they would be bestowed on any truly seeking enlightenment in this period of Britannian history - whether the Shrines themselves are trying to expose the nature of Blackthorn's misinterpretations of the Virtues. Perhaps that's why Blackthorn would be seeking the mantras and the words of power? The shrines themselves are pushing back against his rule? An interesting angle to think about, at any rate.
So ended the next chapter of my adventures, and I expect the next couple will be in a similar vein. I've only visited about half of Britannia's cities, after all, and there's surely much to learn in the others. There's still six of the shrines left to visit, too, and I still need to find Sir Simon to ask him of the crown jewels left to obtain. I need to figure out where I might be able to find the other two shards of Mondain's gem and discover the names of the other two Shadowlords, too... there's still a lot of intel to gather before I start planning my further strategies. The game engine still has a grating moment every now and again (NPC scheduling trapped me in Empath Abbey's kitchen for so long at one point that I got anxious and ended up attacking poor Lord Michael so I could make my escape) but I'm enjoying it immensely now that I'm starting to get into some of the meat of the game and its storyline. I think it's time I headed for Spiritwood next...
|Why, what could this be...?|