Balance has been restored!

So following my ‘orders’ I headed straight to Sunrise Isle (which I thought was actually Sunrise Island oh well…).

But you see the thing about Sunrise Island, is that it’s not really on the map. The Shrine of Balance is actually a deep underground complex and can only be reached through the Serpent’s Gate. Thing is: the Ice Dragon isle is exactly where Sunrise Isle is shown on the Map. Which lead a lot of people (not me though) to go back there and look for some Shrine they might have missed.

Whoops!

Sunrise Isle is basically a dungeon area, except it is solely focused on puzzles around the the concept of Balance. Which basically involves putting Order stuff in Chaos (or vice-versa), alterning one another or so on.

The first area actually simply involves putting a red and blue serpents on two sides of a scale to get a Balance.

This opens the doors and makes items appearing which all symbolise of the six virtues. In the next area (which feels a lot like the Dream World minus the starry background), you need to find six temples devoted to Order and Chaos, and then put down the symbol reprensting the OPPOSITE Virtue on a pedestal.

In the end you get a book, which allows you to summon a bridge of flames to enter the Shrine of Balance proper.

The next puzzle area involves getting a symbol for order and chaos by putting elements of ice and fire to liberate each of them. You then enter into the central area (and the final puzzle area indeed) which consists again something related to ice of fire, as you need to put ice cubes and fire cubes on a pedestal to make a teleporter appears. That involves however some secret passages and a lot buttons to push!

One point of note is that you can actually go up to that point if you try to get to Sunrise Isle before the end – see It’s not that linear!

As it happens you are transported to another area where the Great Earth Serpent ordain you as the Great Hierophant. Hero, Avatar, Hierophant – man our boy just does a lot of things doesn’t he?


Having now been ordained the access to the inner Shrine is open with a last battle against some ice elementales sent by the Order Serpent. But they were no match for me!

The end was near now… I put the three Blackrocks Serpents to Open the Wall of Light, and the Serpent Eyes to restore the Soul of the Great Earth Serpent in the Serpent Statue.

Now here is the fun part: you need to slay the Statue with the Brass Serpent Sword Xenka has given you. Problem him some people never got it, either because Xenka never teleported at the Shrine of Chaos or because the keyword did not appear. Thus rendering finishing the game impossible. This lead to many people trying to use a regular Serpent Sword… but that of course doesnt word.

Thankfully this never happend to me (and indeed it never happens in Exult!) and I could kill the Serpent… and finish the game!

And so Balance was restored, and I had saved the universe again. I could now get back home but… wait what is this giant Red Hand coming? Aaaahhhh!

And thus ended Serpent Isle… leading to an Ultima VIII that would begin exactly where it ended. Well it was a ride, and clearly: Serpent Isle is still my favorite Ultima!

As closing word I have to see at how surprise I was by how LONG this game still is. I basically played it at the same pace as Ultima VII and Underworld II… and it took me at least twice as long! Crazy…

But well… this is not over yet. Pagan awaits!

Farewell Noble Paladin… :(

Following the advice of Xenka, I proceeded to the Isle of Crypt to follow the advices of the dead.

The Isle of Crypt in itself is not too hard: it has some spiders and skeletal dragon to face, but nothing you can’t handle at that point. I did however got stuck for a long time the first I went there… on account that I did not have the Blackrock Serpent of Balance which is essential if you want to get to the tomb of the Great Hierophant.

At that point it was just a matter of calling forth his soul with the Summon Shade spell.

Which lead to a simple revelation: in order to restore Balance I first had to restore the Chaos Serpent from the three emprisoned banes.

This lead me to return to the Temple of Tolerance and asked Sethys to guide me to where the Chaos Hierophant was killed as only him would know where he was. Alas the poor Ophidian had only survived due to the protection of the Temple, which lead to him dying upon exiting. But he thankfully revealed me the Hierophant’s body laid outside of the Temple of Enthusiasm.

(Note that this also marked the end of my party of six people, since I had to make room in order for Sethys to join. Meh).

So I proceeded to this other temple, and called forth the spirit of the Chaos Hierophant:

As it turns out he was rather less friendly than the Great Hierophant (damned extremists!), but did tell me what I wanted to hear. He also told me that something else would be needed to bind the Serpent of Chaos, and going back to Xenka revealed that a sacrifice had to be made due to the Imbalance being too strong. And that meant it could only be the Avatar, one of his companions, or Gwenno.

Now you would think that at this point the mighty Avatar would honor the Virtue of Sacrifice, and offer himself to sacrifice. But actually not: you draw straws and ends up with the shortest one!

So it was now back to Monitor and the Crematorium to sacrifice my life. Except that Dupre refuses to let me do it, and took his life instead, too ashamed of all the pain he has caused while he was possessed by the Bane. 😦

I gotta say even know, it still hurts my scene to scene my old friend dying as such… and the music remains heartwrenching.

With everything in hand, I went back to Monk Isle to have Gwenno join me. One point of note about the sacrifice: due the the Ghost/Great Hierophant bug in the original release, this could actually lead to real issues with the sacrifice – either by having the sacrifice keyword never appearing (which would render the game unwinnable) or having it appear as soon as Xenka returns. This is what happened to me the first time… which lead to Dupre being sacrificed before there was any need. Basically: I had Gwenno with me on Crypt Isle.

Heh.

With this I could now get back to Skullcrusher and blow open the Golden Doors near the Serpent Gate.

This lead to some sorts of catacombs, which have been filled with trolls and some undeads. Note that you can actually explore this the first time you get to Skullcrusher, but it doesn’t have much point at that time. After some exploration you eventually get back down, then back up to the Grand Shrine of Chaos and its wall of Light.

With the Blackrock Serpent, Dupre’s Ashes and the Banes the ritual was ready.

The Chaos Serpent had no been restored, with Dupre’s soul having fused with the Serpent of Chaos. But it came with a request: I need to go fast to Sunrise Isle!

At that point Xenka teleported herself to my side as well and asked me to go to Sunrise Isle as well, offering me a brass Serpent Sword…

The end is near!

Artefacts and Resurrections…

Except that well… I decided to do a few more stuff before.

You see one good thing about this second half of the game is that at this point it really is totally non linear!

Since I had begun with the Waters…. I figured I might as well continue with this and get the other waters of Order, meaning Logic and Ethicality. I tend to do this differently at every playthrough, sometime doing it right away, sometime after I have killed the Banes. It doesn’t change much.

So I began with the Temple of Logic. By exiting through the Serpent Gate however, I first went and got the treasure of Silverpate which was nearby as well. While it might not seem obvious, it is actually an important plot point since this is where your obtain the Blackrock Serpent of Balance, that is required for the Isle of Crypt and the End game.

This actually reminds be that I forgot to mention that I also got the Blackrock Serpent of Order in Moonshade after saving Stefano from a Death Knight sent by Torrissio and the late Columna. And that this Serpent was actually found in Underworld II (as a “Serpent Statue”) from a tribe of Goblin who got it from a traveller from Pagan (note that this actually suggest that Pagan might be the world where the Ophidians settled after the War).

In any case, having now this new Serpent I went back to the Temple of Logic. This is actually a nice temple, fully based on puzzles that requires… well logic! It’s not too hard (and you can actually cheat a bit with the Dispel Field spell) but it’s pretty nice.

After that I decided to go back to Monk Isle and cure Cantra with a bucket of Water of Logic, thanks to the SI Fixes mod.

Now unfortunately, they got it wrong as Cantra should be cured with the Water of Discipline like Dupre and Gwenno… but even then you can’t even begin to imagine how reward it feels to actually be able to cure Cantra after all these years. As a matter of fact, I personnally always took upon myself to bring a extra bucket of water to her and modify her flag manually each time I play the game.

I love Cantra really. And while I won’t spoil anything about Return to the Serpent Isle I will just that she will have (like most of SI’s survivor) an important role in shaping up the history of Serpent Isle beyond the Age of Doom.

But enough disgression: after having cured Cantra I went to the last temple: the temple of Ethicality.

In this temple you actually need to pray on a rug, and you get teleported to an area where an Automaton answere you question about Ethics whose response should be obvious for any Avatar worthy of the name! So you’re asked if it’s Ethical to risk your life to save someone, to get money laying around not knowing who it belongs to, and to yield to your ennemy. Once you have answered correctly, you then do a practical test of all theses exemples.

It’s not hard – but it’s fun to do!

So I was now free to go and get the water of Ethicality. I now had all the three water of Order in my inventory to cure my companions later!

But before I went back to Monitor and the souther land in order to get the artifacts of the Great Hierophant. I could have waited later but well… since you actually need at least one of those before getting to the Isle of Crypt…

Monitor of course…. was full of dead people. Harnna was the only survivor, and unfortunately her dialogue has not been modified and much like Wilfried there is no details about what happened in the Monitor region. But since the city has been overrun by Goblins, it’s safe to assume that Dupre as the Wantoness Bane lead an invasion of Goblins and killed everyone alas.

I left the city and went back to Furnace through the entrance next to Monitor. In this dungeon I found my old Britannian Spellbook (which exploded, whoops!) and most importantly: the Serpent Staff!

I would actually had gotten it if I’d left the Gargoyle city the normal way razer than lazying through the Serpent Gate but well…

After that I went to Fawn. Much like the other cities… pretty much everyone was dead: a consequence of the rule of “Mad Iolo” which brought sickeness to everyone. Ironically the only survivors were Ruggs, a Britannia sailor with an ugly face (Fawn being the city of beauty… you get it), and Lady Yelinda which had been skinned alive by Iolo but remained alive and ugly in the swamps of Gorlab.

After finding her and giving her the Comb of Beauty which I had found in Moonshade (it had been stolen by Columna to keep her youth) – she regained her former beauty and rewarded me by giving me access to Fawn’s treasury.

Which of course included the Serpent Armor.

The last step was going to the forest to the west and get Hawk’s treasure by following his map. Which included the Serpent Crown.

I now had the three Serpent Artefacts.

So I was ready to go and take on the Banes and headed straight (well okay… through the Serpent Gate and then the Northern Forest gate) to the White Dragon’s Castle.

Which is of course guarding by jesters that comes of repetedly out of explosions.

Yes jesters!

I figure this is some Mad Iolo stuff…

Regarding the King of the White Dragon’s Castle: one point of history. He was the father of Shamino’s bride-to-be Beatrix. However when his daughter died of a broken, he became batshit crazy and invited all his people in his castle… before murdering everyone after what he took his own life. This is actually the events that lead to the people of the Lands of Danger and Despair being without guidance and to turn to the Serpents.

Upon arrival you are actually greeted by the ghost of the White Dragon’s King. This is actually something odd – because you don’t see him again after that, which makes me think it might be a remnant of some lost plot point back when the Bane’s showdown was not supposed to happen here. You do get some nice information about the madness of the King inside it, which is very gruesome and creepy!

The Castle can be a tad difficult depending on your level, because it is really FILLED with all kind of traps that can take a toll on your HP very quickly : so better cast a lot of Restorations! You need to open some doors, find hidden keys on the passage, but you finally get to the Banes themselves sitting near their thrones.

I remember having a LOT of troubles killing the Banes the first couple of times. Here now however well… a Death Vortex got rid of them pretty fast. Heh.

I didn’t wasted any minute and used my Black Sword (where the Banes had been trapped) on the Soul Prisms. The Banes were now caged for good!

I then took the body and went back to Monk Isle. Same issue as Gwenno: if you ressurect them here, they tend to stay here which can be annoying as hell. So upon Monk Isle I ressurected by Companions.

I began by dismissing my two Automatons and restored the minds of Dupre and Shamino with the Waters of Discipline and Ethicality. I still had Petra in my party when I used the Water of Logic on Iolo and something odd happend: he joined my group!

You see he shouldn’t have: I already had 5 party members so he shoud have stayed there. But he did… which now gives me SIX party members in Serpent Isle.

Crazy. I suspect this is tied to the SI Fixes mod for Exult though.

But as Iolo was sane again the Bells of Monk Isle rang… for indeed Xenka was back into the world of the living!

As it turns out she doesn’t have that much to say, altough she offers some background info and really show some despise toward her fellow Monks who according to her almost ruined everything (somehow I got the feeling she and Karnax won’t get along fine…).

But she gave me instructions to follow: consults the dead on the Isle of Crypts, for which she gave me the last Serpent Tooth I was missing…

Water shall be thy bane!

So here I was, all cold and alone in Spinebreaker 😦

The Great Earth Serpent did gave me a new quest in getting the Gwani horn… but I needed to go back to Skullcrusher!

Thanksfully thanks to Batlin’s Jawbone I now had more Death, including one that allowed me to get back there. So I could get the Gwani horn thanks to the dispel field spell I had got on Selina’s body.

I stopped by the Gwani however and that was horifying because except for the leader, her husband and her daughter… ALL the Gwani had been killed by the Trapper. This was enough… so I went to his lair to the North and killed him for good. Bastard!

I was rewarded by a new Serpent Tooth: and a major one actually! You see this tooth lead to the final area of the game: Sunrise Island… and it’s actually an easy tooth to miss and get lost!

After that I get the raft until I reached the Gwani Death temple.

For a tomb, it’s actually a pretty beautiful area with all these ice coffins. It also plays this beautiful track “Conversation with Gwenno” there (altough this do feel like a silly name considering where it plays!). But using the Horn I could free Gwenno from her ice prison… and I then took her body and brought it to Monk Isle

(Note that I could have ressurected her here and there… but in my experience sometime she doesn’t go back to Moonsahde, so…)

Upon ressurecting her one probleme: she’s gotten made like Cantra! But the Great Earth Serpent was nice enough: he told me that a Bane of Chaos had corrupted her soul. One point of question though: why didn’t he told me that about Cantra? Bastard!

After talking to Karnax, this lead me to getting back to Moonshade in order to get a scroll from Fedabiblio.

Which lead to a chocking discovery:

Gwani

Everyone was dead!

Shamino the Anarch came to Moonsahde, ruled for a while and kill almost everyone in the city.

I can’t even begin to describe how shocking this event was the first I played Serpent Isle. The entire inhabitants of the isle had been killed with a handful of survivor left, and all by your own companions.

Now as some of you might now, this was not the original plan of Serpent Isle: each city was meant to be ruled by a Bane and corrupted by its anti Virtue which would have lead to more plots and quests for this second part of the game and this end up being cut from the cut.

I would argue this actually prove that sometime plut cuts and time constraints can be beneficial. Admitedly the original plan was good. But nothing could have come close to the shock factor of finding everyone simply dead! Now while this aspect could have been handled better (especially in the Monitor area) it was good shilling and shocking, so I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

In any case after having saved Fedabiblio with Torrissio’s wand I had already got in Skullcrusher (since he had been turned to stone) he gave me the scroll I needed. Ironically: this was the exact same scroll I had found translated by Erstam at the beginning of the game.

Back to Moonshade again (note: there is a LOT and back of forth going on at that point), and Karnax told be I needed to get the Water from the Temple of Discipline. So… I went there of course! As it turns out the water was unaccessible due to vast areas of acid that tends to… well. Kill me. So I needed to transfer my sould temporarily to an automaton body.

So back to Moonshade. And Petra at the Blue Boar. This is also another character I love – which has a very tragic twist with the death of Rocco and her certainty of being a soulless automaton although personally I’ve always felt she must have been a human soul binded to an Automaton body. Petra accepted to join me and it’s back to the Temple of Discipline. With her help I could get the Water of Discipline I needed and return to Moonshade to heal Gwenno. Of course I could argue with a solo-ing option like Ultima VI, a soul transfer would not have been necessary but…. 😛

(Note that Petra was only supposed to join temporarily, but the incomplete nature of this later part of the game make it so you can keep her in your party If you wishes it).

But of course now that she is healed Gwenno sends me back… to Moonshade since I need to find the secret of binding soul there.

-sic-

I learned this secret from Torrissio in exchange for his wand, who agreed to give me a spell scroll. One point of note about Torrissio: I just LOVE how he just settled in the Magelord’s palace after the holocaust… I wonder what a city ruled by him would look like, hmmm?

After having the Soul Prisms done, Gwenno back at Monk Isle told be I needed to have the prisms bathed in the Waters of Temples of Chaos in order to purify them. Well: north lands here I was again!

Or not. Because I felt it was time to rebuild a party. And let me just say how enjoyable it is at this point of the game, to have tooth for basically everywhere.

I first got to Sleeping Bull, where Wilfrid agreed to join me in exchange for killing Baltin. Now he is kind of a wuss: he’ll get piss if you tell him to leave, and if he come to 0 HP he’ll just feel and leave the party for good. But he is a good party member none the less… and I like to think adventuring with the Avatar would have helped him mature. While I was at the Inn (where everyone was dead as well… but alas no reaction from Wilfrid…) I went and explored the basement.

Note that this could have been done at an earlier point in the game… but I only found that out very late the first time I played, so I decided to wait for old time’s sake. You see, the Inn was built by a pirate named Silverpate… so he had this huge catacombs network built under it, which includes its own Serpent Gate and a kind of “nexus” which allows to spy and teleport in every room of the inn! Yuck!

But most importantly, it offers the map to his treasures in the northern (added to the one from the late Captain Hawk I found in Moonshade, that makes two treasures map!)

But I decided to leave the Southern Lands alone and head back to Spinebreaker when I got a couple of Automatons to join my party, and equipped everyone with my companion’s stuff.

With a full party at my disposal, I could now get to the Chaos Temples without fear!

First was the Temple of Emotion. Since I already went there to see the Eye of the Moon , I already knew the place, so it was easy to get the Water and purify the prisme. One done!

I also used the opportunity to use the Eye of the Moon again, which lead me to find out that the banes were hiding at Castle of the King of the White Dragon. They’ll get what is coming to them you’ll see!

After that came the Temple of Enthusiam. This one has an importance later on, but for now it is pretty straightforward: get through the temple, use bucket on well, use water on prism. Yay! One more!

The last Temple is the Temple of Tolerance, which is actually pretty great in term of design. You see, the Necromage Mortegro is stuck there on an island and requires your help.

So you need to explore the depth of the temple where you meet a still alive Ophidian who is obnoxious but tells you the Key to access the Pedestal for the Waters had been stolen by a rat. So you need to use the Serpent Bond spell to get the key back from his hole, and thus access the room where the winch lowering the drawbridge to the isle is located.

Now this is good design idea in theory… but the issue is that you can skip it all with a simple telekinesis spell. I didn’t, but it’s a shame really!

Having freed Mortegro, he was nice enough to sell me his spells for half the price, bust most importantly he gave me the Summon Shade scroll, which is soon gonna come very handy. He also requested that I get him back to Moonshade… but alas, he was hit by another teleport storm upon exiting the Temple… and he is never seen again. His fate remains a mystery to this day.

But what of the water one might ask? Well you need to simply put a bucket on the pedestal for it to fill with the sacred water of emotions. Except well… the Pedestal now lie in Gustacio’s basement in Moonshade. More backtracking, yay!

But I now had my three purified prisms; I was ready to face the Banes…

The Frozen Lands… a Beginning to an end…

Frozen wastes, here I come!

Leaving Monitor I proceeded to walk back the entire way to the Northern Forest, and then westward toward the dungeon leading to the North. I’ve actually thought for a long time then that this dungeon was Skullcrusher before actually reaching the city.

I guess it kind of bring the question about what to name it?

The dungeon is pretty straigthforward, but it has some branching as well and teleporters than can get you lost. No puzzles whatsoever, but I’ll point to one area specifically which is pretty nice as it leads you to an orange-ish Moongate which teleport you to the ghost of a dead Bard (whom you can think the works throughout the isle) who ask you to kill a pirate who murdered him. Alas it ends up as a easter egg, since the pirate is actually a guy in a house with a computer playing Strike Commander and Ultima VIII!

Oh well…

But I forgot about the pirate and rather continued through the dungeon until getting to exit to the north. There was a dying trapper there which told me about a witch they had to kill. Little did I know yet that he was talking of Gwenno which had been possessed by the same Bane who possessed Cantra.

One thing about the frozen north.

It’s downright AWESOME.

First the look is just unlike anything else, and it has this wonderful blueish tint that just feels appropriate for everything, even the mountains top!

But the thing is it’s cold. The first time I got there originally… well that lead to characters freezing to Death because I didn’t know you needed warm cloth! Indeed: unless you have your characters equip a fur cloak, a fur hat and fur boots… they’ll freeze and continuously loss HP.

Whoops.

But the most important now was heading north… to the Gwani tribes.

Now the Gwani have this reputation down in the southern lands of being these big fierce and evil creatures that makes Goblins pass like friendly neighbords, and are actually hunted down by trappers for the furs.

Of course this reputation is just bollocks, since the Gwani are nice and peaceful humanoid, looking more like fured humans. They are rather primitive, but are nice and welcoming… and where friends with Gwenno who was just killed by the Trapper’s men.

Poor Iolo 😦

As it turns out Neyobi, the daugther of the Gwani’s leader Yenani, is sick from the same kind of disease that affects the gargoyles, and Yenani aske that I go and get some Ice Dragon’s Blood for heal her.

So her goes nothing! Using the Gwani’s raft (which is like the only free form boat travel in the game, but in a reduced area), I got to the Ice Dragon’s island. The dungeon there was actually built to hide the treasure of some pirate… so it is a maze with teleporters whe you can get lost. But you can also use front entrance and kill the dragons of course!

With the blood obtained I returend to the Gwani who could heal their daughter. As I reward their leader offered me the mantra password to enter the city of Skullcrusher.

The entrance Skullcrusher, former city of chaos, is just south and need to be openned with runes stones to place on pedestal, and the formula told by Yenani.

This place is actually a plot chokepoint though – you see, there is nothing preventing you to go straight north to the Gwani after passing Gorlab, however since the developpers didn’t want you to go beyond Skullcrusher until you had faced Batlin at Shamino’s castle… the door remains closed unless you have used the Hound of Doskar on Batlin’s medallion. There is some sense to the logic behind it, but perhaps the trigger should have been put differently.

Now Skullcrusher had become the lair of a vampire named Vasculio. He was a powerful mage from Moonshade who did a lot of illegal experiments and ended being exectued. Except he returned from the dead as Vampire.

But he didn’t last long… especially with the Mage Bane to still his powers!

Taking the key on his body I could now exit to the east. There will be more to do in Skullcrusher…. but later!

I headed straight for the temple of Emotion which was just south east of the exit to get to the Eye of the Moon, and artefact that allows vision, as requested by my Great Earth Serpent friend.

As it turns out it gave me a vision of Batlin waiting for me in the city of Spinebreaker and preparing his evil plans.

So this was my next step and I headed straight to Spinebreaker.

Note that there is a lot of stuff to be seen in the northern lands, and you can do all that before going there – but since I want to keep some stuff for the second half of the game, this sounds like the better way to proceed.

So I rapidly arrived to Spinebreaker, which was guarded by some Automatons. But most importantly Batlin had set traps for me with his minions. But no matter – since I need to get to the Grand Shrine of Order and stop it!

This is however harder than it sounds, as the last gate behind it is guarded by an Automaton which asks me the name of a Book from which he cites a phrase. Which is actually a trick since the true answer is a book hidden in the library of Order.

Now getting on the library. Well it is actually fairly easy: there is a pedestal on it where you must three items reprenseting Order: a scroll, an abacus and a dagger.

The first time I played however, I didn’t managed to put the scroll so I figured it was not it. And I spent WEEKS looking for an answer (and out of frustration exploring most of the other Temples and Northern areas). Dang it!

But well now that I know… getting in the library was quick, so here I was… ready for the final confrontation! But first I had to deal with Batlin’s lackey and notably that treacherous Selina!

Having dealt with the minions, I rushed to kill Batlin… but I was too late and he was opening the Wall fo Light. But things went wrong. Batlin was tricked and the Guardian killed him, and the Bane were released taking possession of my companions. As for poor Boydon he was killed in the process. And here I was all alone… with little knowledge of the horrors awaiting me once I’ll return to the mainland…

(Note that I could have told Boydon to leave before entering, which I use to – but I felt it made more sense to let him die.)

One point of note here about Batlin’s plan: notice how Selina mentions the Guardian’s help and later how she ask him and Batlin to wait for here in the void!

It seems to me a lot of fans has the misconception that Batlin wanted to double-cross the Guardian and replace him or something.

I don’t think this is it, or else Selina would not make such mentions of the Guardian.

Indeed I feel it was the Guardian who has tricked Batlin into making him believe that be passing through the Wall of Light, he could become as powerful as he was and would go and conquer together or some such. Note that this is of course Bollocks: the Wall of Light only allows one to travel into the Void, it does not grant supreme powers. The Banes might… but I feel the Guardian’s plan was for Batlin to release them all along. But we’ll see about this later.

Dreams are my reality….

The Swamps of Gorlab.

Now these are a pretty cool place!

Back in the age of Darkness the village of Gorlab was cursed by the sorcerer Rabindrinath who drove all its inhabitants into a dream land. His plan went awry and everyone – himself included – ended being trap in the dream world, Rabindrinath himself falling into madness. Only the healer Siranush manages to save the souls of the inhabitants of Gorlab from utter oblivion.

As such, the old village was swallowed by swamps which are basically putting to sleep anyone who tries to cross them and transport them into the dream world, whose only escape is to “die”.

This is actually a fun place to go: you meet back a lot of other people from Serpent Isle and even Britannia, since you can cross Lord British (which tells you how deeply the Imbalance is affecting Britannia) and even Smith the Horse for his last appearence in the series (which is much nicer than in Ultima VII and tells you Batlin is building a Black Gate for the Guardian on the Isle of the Avatar!)

Now of course once the dream land you need to find Siranush which tells you must detroy Rabindrinath and get his Dream Crystal back to her. The sorcerer has his own castle but well… it’s not too much of a fight. You actually need to beat him with the power of Courage, Love and Truth. So this basically consist of talking to him so that he cast a spell on you which backfires thanks to the Artefact your got from the three cities.

After that you can get the Crystal back to Siranush which gives you the Serpent Necklace you need to complete this quest. This necklace is actually usefull since it allows you to hear back the last comments from the Great Earth Serpent (which at this point reveals he was the big snake you free from Exodus! Small multiverse, heh?)

So it was back to the dream world, and straight to the Great Northern Forest.

Now this Forest is basically the equivalent of Britannia’s Deep Forest. So it’s big and untamed.

As it turns out this is where you can get the Hound of Doskar to find Cantra from the Forest Master Morghrim which is some sort of old druid from the world of Pagan (altough his Pagan had nothing in common with the one we find in Ultima VIII but heh).

Alas an evil Knight named Draygan has stolen his Orb of Elerion and you need to get it back. This is actually another exemple of smart game design since you can’t just kill Draygan: you need to get some plants called kill Soren’s and use them on arrows to create sleep arrown to attack him in his sleep and kill him

(Is that really Virtuous though?)

In exchange for getting his Orb back, Morghrim gives you a whistle to call the Hound of Doskar… which basically look like a nice friendly St-Bernard dog (not quite what I imagined originally!)

Now you can basically ask the Hound to track someone through a personal item: in this case Cantra’s wooden sword… which leads you the Shamino’s former castle.

One point of note about the Hound, is that it is used as a plot trigger to prevent you from reaching some points. While the game is not as linear as some make it out to be, it does prevent to break the plot. In this case for instance, you can get to Shamino’s Castle as soon as you have access to the Northern Forest – but if you don’t use the Hound of Doskar on Cantra’s sword… a blue force field prevent from entering the central tower.

In any case Shamino’s Castle used to be well… Shamino’s castle from when he was the lord of the Lands of Danger and Despair. Alas, Serpent Isle was cut off while he was in Lord British’s land to help him against Mondain and he could never return, leaving his people without a king, and his beloved Beatrix to die of a broken heart.

Her spirit actually appears in the castle, hateful and vengeul with only one desire to kill Shamino. This all has a very tragic sound to it, and wish there was some way to set her spirit to rest and explore more of Shamino’s feeling about all this (wink wink nudge nudge).

As it turns out Baltin is in the central tower.

Alas he escaped to the Northern Land and I was too late… the poor Cantra laid dead on the second floor.

I really can’t stress enough how shocking and heartbreaking it was to find Cantra’s body here even with the Monk taking her away. 😦

One point of note: notice Batlin’s medaillon on the floor. It is required to to use the Hound on it in order to open the door of Skullcrusher later on. This actually is a poor design desicion because since Batlin says in front of you he’s going to the north lands this doesnt feel necessary… as it turns out my brother got stuck in front of Skullcrusher for weeks back then because it didn’t do this necessary step.

So I had to go North. But you can’t do that without careful planning.

You see: north is cold. So you need to get fur caps, cloaks and boots to protect your characters or else they’re gonna freeze to death.

So I went back to Monitor and got some protective clothes. I also had to break the news to Harnna about her daughter, altough she asked be to go and check on her in Monk Isle.

I went there but alas while she was back alive she seemed to have lost her mind.

I take comfort in knowing that thanks to SI Fixes i’ll be able to cure her this time (altough they picked the wrong water!).

So I am now heading back the Northern Forest, and the dungeons leading to the Frozen Lands…

The Virtues of killing Goblins!

So using the pillars in the ruined city of Furnace, I was transported to and odd room with three doors.

The concept of this area is actually very similar to the Dream Areas of Martain Dreams – which means they are really great!

In essence each offer a test related to one of the Virtues of Order, symbolized by a task or dilemas presented by one of your companions who tries to distract your of your task.

The first one is Iolo in a test of Logic who tried to convince you to leave the Serpent Isle through a red moongate leading back to Earth, after Zelkhas had supposedly betrayed you to the Guardian who is about to invade Earth. It’s actually pretty simple – all you need to do is refuse to go with Iolo.

The second one is Shamino in a test of Enthusiasm with whom you get stuck in a odd room with peoples and two buttons. As it turns out one of these buttons make all the people very friendly and go with to a special bedroom if you get my meaning. You of course need to press to other one to free them.

The last test is with Dupre on a test of Discipline which is annoying – but it’s kind of the point. You’re basically supposed to kill a bunch of worms getting out of the ground with your hammer, and need to do that manually with a hammer – which conisdering the interface of the game, does suck very much. Dupre in the meantime is exploring the surrounding and tells you of marvelous weapons there is. Of course you need to ignore him as usual, and just keep killing the worm.

Upon completion of this test, you are teleported back to Furnace and Zelkhas gives you the Serpent Ring. He also opens the drawbridge south of the city to get back to the Monitor area of Dungeon Furnace… but I figure why bother for now? So I went back to Monitor through the Serpent’s Gate.

After training a little bit at the List Field and changing a bit of coins at Sleeping Bull, I now proceeded to get to business and get read of the Goblin Chieftain Pomdigurn.

So I went back to the forest west of Fawn and through a hidden staiwell in a tree. Using the keys from the traitor Simon I could get to the secret Goblin valley. THere was a lot of Goblin there… so a lot of green blood was spilled by sword, including of course the evil chieftain.

I have to say I do wish there was a portrayal of Goblin which was less evil, like in the Underworld games but well…

With the chieftain dead, I could now loot his treasure vault and get the Help of Courage – symbol of the Champion Knight of Monitor – back. But most importantly: I found two letters proving that Marsten Lord of Monitor and his treasurer Spektor were both traitors and worked with the Goblin.

This is of course the ultimate demonstration of how much Monitor has fallen: that one of the Command’s leader conspired with the sworn ennemis of all humans in the land just to get rid of the other commands. Which is just crazy and unvirtuous.

Of course I immediately returned to Monitor to get the felons put into Jail. I also found out that they were the one who killed Cantra’s father! Bastards!

But I could not stay on Monitor… indeed it was now time to get to the northern areas – which means facing the dangerous Swamp of Gorlab!

Storms and Gargoyles…

Now that I was back in Moonshade, the first step was to find what has happened to my companions.

Since of course they couldn’t know what had happened to be, they basically get on with their live while waiting for my return. Of course, considering how quick Freedom went this time, this feel a bit silly – but it was one of those amazing feeling when returning from Freedom the first time, and it really gave this sene that you had been stuck into this prison for a LONG time.

As it turns out, my companions weren’t far. Boydon had begun a love story with Bucia the provisionner (!), Shamino spent his time hunting in the forest, Iolo had befriended the mage Gustacio… and Dupre was at the Blue Boar, drinking ale!

Shamino also got a couple of gifts from Frigidazzi: a Chill spell scroll to allow be to survive in the heat of the catacombs. And odd Serpent Earings. As it turns out as I soon as I put them I began to hear the voice of the Great Earth Serpent in my head. Neat heh?

So I could now get the key from Julia to enter teh Catacombs… but before that it felt important to go and help Gustacio in his experiments, especially since he offeres free magic in return!

Now Gustacio is working on understanding how the magical storms works and what they cause, and notably aiding Kane find out what happened to his brother Edrin. The experiment have already taken a tole, since the Necromage Mortegro has vanished in a storm, being replaced by a Pedestal from some old temple. Whoops.

So in any case this lead me to go to Gustacio’s tower and push some levers to get some cool colored lightnings!

As it turns out the experiments workes and allowed Gustacio to get a sense of the effects of lightning. Most importantly it revealed that Edrin had been changed into Kane’s parot: Ale. So after caging it and brigning him to the tower, I was able to summon a storm to restore Edrin to his human form.

One more for the Good Guys!

As promised Gustacio rewarded me with spells, but also with the Mirror of Truth which will come in handy later.

So it was now time to leave Moonshade behind and head back to the mainland. This happens to go through the Catacombs.

Now the catacombs are the land of the ratmen which can get very dangerous and are the reason the door to this place had been sealed by the Rangers. You can actually avoid fighting them by use of a magic harp which gets them to sleep… but I kind of forgot about getting it so had to hack my way through. Oh well.

One point of note is that originally the catacombs of Moonshade were meant to lead the player to Claw Isle, which was supposed to have housed some cat like creature. From then, another passage would have led back to Furnace and the main land. But with time constraints came cuts, and Claw Isle was basically removed from the game (serving now only as a cheat area) and the Catacombs leading straight to Furnace.

But of course all the mysteries of Claw will soon be reavealed elswhere…

In any case here came Furnace, whose access was closed and guarded by a Winged Gargoyle.

Since indeed, the evil “Daemons” Monitorians are so afraid are in trugh nothing but peaceful Gargoyles!

Now Furnace is a ruined Ophidian city. While it is never clearly stated in the game, multiple elements seems to point that it was supposed to be the City of Balance as it is the only place that seems to present elements of both Order and Chaos.

As it turns out the Gargoyles were driven there upon the arrival of the Sosarians settlers on the Serpent Isle, which kind of forced them to go and live underground – altough I’d possible they had also taken Furnace as their own even before that. (Though one might ask: since they leave there how come they haven’t cleaned the place and removed all the dead humans skeletons?)

Furnace is a nice place, but I do feel there is a bit of missed opportunity there. It could have been a fullblown Gargoyle city, but conveniently, all the Gargoyles are plunged into a deep sleep due to the Imbalance and only their leader Zelkhas is still awake, waiting for a prophecized hero to come to which he needs to give the Serpent Ring artefact, assuming he proves himself worthy.

This is nice, but it means we never really learn anything about the Serpent Isle’s Gargoyles of where they came from (altough I like to believe they went through a similar path than their Britannian counterparts).

But in any case, Zelkhas did let me in. So I proceeded to get to the area of his test of Purity, which was a Column on the North-East of Furnace.

While exploring I went and find the Everlasting Goblet too – this Goblet is actually interesting because well. It’s Goblet that never gets empty. In other word: unlimited food!

One tiny point of note though: while it might feel you can’t leave Furnace without doing this test and having Zhelkas open the bridge southward to the Dungeon of Furnace… you can, because there is a Monitor Tooth to be found there.

But since I was there…. I might as well prove myself a hero!

So here I was ready to pass the test!

Freedom is mine!

Unfortunately… not that kind of Freedom.

You see, as it turns out, things did not go that well. Or rather things went very well with Frigidazzi… I mean the ice sorceress… can get very hot when she wants it if you get my meaning!

One point of note about this – this is not the only sexe scene in Serpent Isle but as silly as it might sound for a game with tiny pixels, it is somewhat groundbreaking. For all the fluff that had been made about the sexe scenes in Mass Effect – Ultima came first, and that probably the first actual sex scenes to happens in mainstream game. No to mention it can be a lesbian sex scenes if you are a female Avatar!

Ultima really did break a lot of grounds.

But unfortunately – after this night of pleasure it just so happens that the Magelord Filbercio just happened to be coming to the bedroom of his mistress.

Whoops.

He did not take kindly on it… which kind of lead me to face another trial, but mine this time.

(In case anyone wonders – refusing to have sex with Frigidazzi doesnt change anything)

Now of course the trial was just a sham, and it was a pretext to send me to the Moutains of Freedom as punishment for having seduced the MageLord’s mistress. Like it’s a crime, right!

Now you see the dungeon of Freedom actually used to be a mine – but when regular minerals dried up, Filbercio decided to turn the mountains into a prison. So criminals are usually sent there because they angered Filbercio rather that having commited an actual real crime!

The rule of Freedom are simple though: if you manage to escape the dungeons and return to the surface, you are free man and exonerated from any crime.

Except that of course – nobody ever escaped the dungeon of Freedom!

I have to say: I love this dungeon. Notably because it holds a lot of memories for me, even if some are not so good – because I got stuck for months there, due to the fact that I had misplaced a key (to a point I eventually went and used a save from my brother to continue the game, which says a lot…).

But this frustration was good – because it really gave this sense of being alone and stuck inside this dungeon. It felt like a world of its own really: with secret areas, mages or monsters roaming around for some unknown reasons. What is interesting is that the place tells its own story… but not really through dialogues but through hints and events. You see there is some mage called Lorthodon that appeasr to be reigning here… you’ll never talk to him, but his influence seems everywhere. And somehow it makes this place feels more real.

Now the first area is actually some kind of shop headed by an Automaton. You actually have to do something not really virtuous here: that is killing the Automaton to steal his key. And pilfer his shop of course. After that it’s mosly a maze like area, with branchings all around, a few random teleporters, until you finally get to the teleporter plate leading to the next area.

This is good then, because you meet Stefano, a thief from Moonshade (which happens to have magical abilities but doesn’t really feel like learning them). He was sent here for angering Filbercio as well, but most importantly, he’s gonna join the party.

The trick to escaping Freedom is actually collaboration so you need Stefano to be able to get through a specific room with two levers that needs to be pushed at the same time. Shortly before that though, you get your first run in with Lorthodon (which change one his men into a skeletal dragon to kill you) but most importantly – you finaly get the Black Sword back since losing it at the beginning of the game.

After that you get to what is probably the major area of the dungeons – which are just very smart puzzles. Everything is hinted so you need to do some careful thinking to get it done. It looks like some sort of prison area with a caretaker having a small intstruction scrolls about what to do and no to do… so you need for instance to feed a rabbit, or guide a lady to a horse. The end being that it opens you the door southward to continue your adventure.

Very smart!

Except this was of course the area were I got stuck. *grumble*

The rest of the dungeons is rather straigthforward – you do have to build a stair with crates at one point, but other that you easily get to the end of Freedom… and Lorthodon!

As it turns out, the crazy warlock is unvulnerable and impossible to kill by your own means. This leaves you with only one choice: freeing Arcadion from the Black Sword so that he can destroy him.

And after that: freedom! The real freedrom this time. You’re back at the courthouse in Moonshade, and Stefano leaves your party happy to have been freed thanks to you.

So I wonder what my companions have been up to during this time…

The Tree of Balance has been restored!

Well that was… quick.

As I suggested yesterday, I decided to put my quest on hold for a bit in order to go to the past and do the Silver Seed.

The Silver Seed was an add-on for Serpent Isle, released a few month after the game. It is basically the equivalent of Forge of Virtue and you can go and do the add-on at any point you want during the game. Unlike Forge of Virtue however it is a tad more balanced because you don’t end the add-on with a maxed out character. Altough you do end up this small distraction with some very powerful magic items – the most important being the Ring of a Reagent, which basically remove the need for reagents for casting spells (and is the reason I usually do the addon before getting to the mountains of Freedom).

Plot-wise, Silver Seed is also quite interesting. It doesn’t offer much in terme of new NPCs… but it gets the Avatar back in time during the later day of the Imbalance War between the Ophidians. As such, it allows to get a more direct glimpse of the past of the Serpent Isle, and it is very interesting.

The addons plunge you in the Fortress of Serpent’s Fang, an outpost of the Order forces which holds the Silver Seed – supposed to give birth to a new Tree of Balance to restore balance. The Avatar is identified as the Champion of Balance thanks to the Amulet he found on Monk Isle and is thus tasked to find this seed.

One point of note is that the outpost is lead by a guy who transfered his soul into an Automaton body for good: in other words, the order guys are CRAZY… and some things during these addons do hint them as being very extreme.

There are also three odd witches around the area who follow one called the “Guide” and seem to want to help – except they of course want the Seed for themselves.

Unfortunately, the Seed is not accessible because the place where it is hidden is locked and can only be opened by four colored Orbs… which of course have been stolen and can only be found in one of the four dungeon areas in the nearby caves.

So I began with the place called the Fiend’s Domain. This is a dungeon which is basically FILLED with lots of traps and monsters and can get quite difficult if you’re not strong enough. It’s rule by a guy called “The Fiend” which sold his sould to the Chaos Serpent in order to create the Ring of Reagents and that drove him fully crazy. I had to dispatch the villain… but I did got out with the ring and the Orb.

Of course… I began by here in order to get said ring. Farewell Reagents!

The next area I went was the Maze

As one can guess from its name it is… well. A maze. A magical maze rather with a lof of square rooms, and passages opening and closing while you walk through them. And of course you can end up being blocked, with death as the only option!

The orb in this dungeon is in the hand of a cat like creature named Yurel which gives if to you in exchange for some cheese. This is actually an interesting character too – because it tends to show how barbaric the Order forces can be while Yurel used to be welcome amongst the people of Chaos in spite of his difference.

Before exiting the dungeon, you can also find the “Helm of Light” which as its name implies: gives light! It gives a lot of light though – in that when you wear it, it’s basically as it the entire game is plunged into daylight, even dark dungeons and during nightime… which breaks the immersion a bit, but also has its uses.

The next step was the abandonned outpost. Which is well… an outpost which has been overun by all sorts of creatures. It offers a couple of puzzles, but remains rather straighforward on the whole altough there is not much interesting in terme of background there. Of course I got out with a third Orb, but also a belt of strengh which allows you to get 30 in Strength, which is always useful!

So last but not least… the Lair of Aram Dol.

Aram-Dol is a lich. So like all liches, he’s evil – but he’s also mighty powerful, has created weird dryder-like creature to guard his domains and protected his dungeons by various kind of puzzles. So it’s a pretty big and hard area.

Altough I would like to point one thing of interest: there is a dragon near this area called Draxinar! Except… he is a very nice and civlized dragons with an interesting view on life, who love to play games of riddles and just neat to talk to. And this of course brings the question: why aren’t there more civilized and good dragons in Ultima! That’s prejudice here!

But… in any case I made my way through Aram Dol’s lair. It wasn’t too hard (but then I know the place) and I feel it is a nice area on the whole, with a good balance of explorations, puzzles and battles. But on the whole I got to the “boss” pretty quickly.

And well… I can’t say the good ol’ Lich lasted very long in any case.

What can I say? I rock!

And so with a few more magical items and the last Orb, I could now return to Serpent’s Fang!

Deep in the keep there is this room where… well you need to put the Orbs on Pedestals to open to the door to the Silver Seed. I do so and of course… the three witches attacked me!

Now what is interesting is that it is reaveled the Guide these witches serve is none other but the Guardian – and that they plan to use to Seed to cross to another world and leave this “husk” behind. The thing about this revelation, is that it hints that the Guardian could very well have had a role in the Imbalance War – which would certainly fit his character.

One disgression here – this revelation of Silver Seed is often cited as a reason why the Guardian’s nature in Ultima IX is “totally inconsistent”. But let’s be serious a minute here – while I feel Garriott probably forgot of this specific plot line by the time he did Ultima IX, one has got to ask: considering the Avatar travelled back in time (followed even by Karnax a bit later just to see the tree grow) is it really that much of a strech to feel that the Guardian might influence things through time as well?

I don’t think so.

In any case I now had the Silver Seed, and could now contemplate the beautiful Silver Tree growing outside.

Now of course while this is nice looking, the tree doesn’t actually do ANYTHING in term of restoring Balance, but I like to think this is thanks to this tree that the universe didn’t collapse when the Serpent of Chaos was torn into tree.

So in any case there wasn’t much for me left to do in Serpent’s Fang – so I could now return to the present, and back to Moonshade.

Now as it turns out I’m stuck on Moonshade since Hawk refuses to sail on the sea. But he’s actually revealed to me that there are catacombs below the city that are rumored to lead to the main land. Alas, Julia the Ranger’s Captain refuse to lend me the key unless I have a way to protect myself from the untolerable heat that exists below ground.

But as it turns out, Moonshade has a sorceress specialised in cold magic: the beautiful Frigidazzi. She seems to be okay with teaching me magic, and request that I come see her in her room after midnight.

Well… alone with a beautiful lass at night, I’m sure everything will go just fine!

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