|All this ash should come in handy.|
Could I really do anything else in good conscience, though?
It seemed fitting that the closest to Hythloth the Orb of the Moons could take me as of yet was the Shrine of Humility. Carefully we wound our way through the explosive fumaroles still burbling on the island, then entered the caves. And sure enough, our path was perilous indeed. The ground shook on occasion, lava flowed profusely throughout the tunnels, the volatile nature of the fiery depths made manifest. Even worse were the beasts such an inferno was wont to attract - a few drakes here and there at first, but the deeper we went, we found ourselves fighting off the beguilements of demons, and the terrible might of dragons lurking amid the flame. I found myself leaning heavily on my magical abilities, and while the caverns proved a fine source of sulfurous ash (meaning I had little worry when it came to running low on reagents for Light spells), it was my dwindling stash of mandrake that I was truly worried about - I was burning through Great Heals like no tomorrow.
|I wish learning new languages was this easy.|
I found the youth just outside Hytholth's egress, just as the captain had said I would - they met at that particular spot rather regularly, at approximately that time of day. Beh Lem confirmed the fear his people had of me, but remarked it was not a fear either he or his father Valkadesh shared. Believeing his father, a respected scholar, might be able to help find a way to heal the rift between our respective peoples, he eagerly joined us and guided us around the mountains to his home - after, of course, I took a moment to outfit him properly, so that he wouldn't start exploding every few steps after an unprotected stroll through a swamp. He thought it best to avoid the heart of the city until we had a more concrete plan, and I saw no reason to dispute him.
|Um... that's a problem.|
And so I made my way to the quarters of Draxinusom, who thundered about my audacity in coming, demanding to know what I was doing there and making it very clear that the presence of a Gargoyle child was the only reason he restrained himself from slaying me where I stood - Johne had been correct on that particular matter, it seemed. Though shaken a bit on the inside, I calmly informed the Inquisitor of my purpose - to surrender. Draxinusom was skeptical, but upon telling him I had been discussing with Valkadesh about how I could go about providing the needful sacrifice, he presented me with an amulet, telling me to don it as proof and demonstration of my submission. Dupre was uncomfortable with this, believing it to be a magical trap of some sort, but there was no other choice, the way I saw it. I removed my ankh and replaced it with the amulet, and that was that.
|Gotta say, wasn't in a hurry to see this again.|
|Well that's depressing.|
A brief conversation with Lady Isabella pointed me in Selganor's direction once more, and he in turn told me that the inventor of the balloon (though considering I had flown one many years prior, I personally thought it was more likely he was its re-inventor) had headed to Sutek's island, east of Serpent's Hold, something about a job he had there. And so I set sail once more, navigating the channels through the islands until I reached the one I remembered as the wizard Sutek's.
|Uhhh... I'll just see myself to the exit.|
Our fears for the balloonist proved well-founded, as he lay dead in a corner of the deepest part of the catacombs. He did, however, carry the plans for his balloon on him, listing rope, a cauldron, a large silk bag, and a basket large enough to hold several people as the necessary materials. He also made mention of an anchor as excellent ballast should it prove necessary. And so it was off to the craftsmen of Britannia to gather what items I would need to construct the balloon. After a pit stop in Moonglow to once again restock reagents, I headed for Paws, where I bought rope, and Marissa confirmed she could make a bag out of silk, if I would procure it for her. Arbeth just down the road spun a good portion of my spider silk into thread, and in New Magincia, Charlotte wove the thread into a bolt of cloth. Then it was back to Minoc, where Michelle happily put her skills to the test and wove a basket large enough to fit all of us comfortably. Then it was back to Paws once more to get Marissa to sew the bag itself. Once she had finished, I followed the plans to put everything together, and voila! I was in the possession of my very own lighter-than-air device.
|I wonder who that could be!|
|I think this one's gonna need a rewrite.|
That left me with much to do, but also much to sift through. So I decided to call it a day there, and give myself opportunity to let everything I had discovered about the Gargoyles sink in.
Let's take a moment to talk about contrast.
It's a powerful device in any sort of narrative. In fact, one could argue that it's just about necessary in order to give one a good sense of stakes. Why should one care about how things have changed, or might change if something isn't done, if one doesn't have a baseline to compare it to? But more than that, contrast is great fodder for conflict, for development, for friction and, eventually, the learning of lessons in a story. It's boring to read about two characters who are so similar that they agree on practically everything. There's nothing to move anything forward in that sort of situation - it's contrast that drives them to discuss and deliberate, to consider, to take action. Even if it's not strictly conflicting contrast, it's important to give a good sense of both sides of the story.
This session was practically all about the contrast. The Gargoyle Realm stands in pretty stark physical contrast to Britannia - sloping, pyramidal structures as opposed to the rectangularity of Britannian buildings, triangular signage with weird letters, holes of pure void that need to be skirted. The rocky, rough terrain of the city as opposed to the wide open spaces and clear roads of Britannia. The floating, tri-colored lights, the glowing heat sources, the mats the Gargoyles sleep on - practically everything in visual design and structure stands to distinguish Gargoyle society in stark contrast to Britannia, from nearly every angle.
I also don't want to let this session go without mentioning how much I love the fact the balloon-building focuses on the craftsmen. The first part of the game involves hobnobbing with the uppity-ups, the ones in power - Lord British, his trusted advisors, the mayors. But the latter part of the game, it's all about the lower classes, and while pirates and thieves would probably be enough to demonstrate that, the game goes one step further, utilizing the more virtuous and good-natured lower classes in the form of the craftsmen scattered around Britannia. Great use of contrast once more, and I wish this sort of thing was done in more games. I mean come on - look at how excited Michelle is to help out in an endeavor like this!
I can't quite move on from a post in which I explore Gargish society without going into the language, but that's more fitting for a separate post. I've got a heck of a lot to say about that particular topic, considering that sort of thing is my bread and butter. But hopefully it'll be ready to get out there soon, and then I can gather the last few pieces I need to finish up Ultima VI - the end is in sight, folks!