With Justice restored, it was but a matter of returning to the Court of Yew and there: both Raven and I were proven innocent of the charges against the Gargoyle. Funny how things go much smoother once Virtue is restored, heh?
On an unrelated note I forgot to mention one thing when talking about Wrong and its horrible performace back in 1999. I feel in retrospect it really proved how removing schedules was (unfortunately) a good decision for the game in the end. We know they had been removed because of technical and performanaces issues – and really when you see how much Wrong could get to a crawl with but a few guards constantly moving arounds, it’s not hard to imagine how much of a toll schedules must have been on performances in cities. Oh well…
In any case it was time to get back to Britain (I did say by dropping from the mountains next to the Despise Column) and return to Raven.
Next step: Cove and Minoc!
The original Cove was destroyed was Lake Lock flooded during the Great Cataclysm, which forced the inhabitants to move to the east and settle near the Shrine of Sacrifice. The situation did not get better though as riots broke out which lead to many more death and power was taken for a loon named Raxos who is convinced he can restored the Shrine of Sacrifice by…. sacrificing people on its altar. Yuck!
Minoc is not much better – since the original town was destroyed and the city is now little more than a Gypsy Camp which are all mired by greed and selfishness and think more about gaining a quick buck than helping their brethren.
This area is nice really… but it really a sad reminder of how much had to been cut due to the time constraints put into the project: Cove basically consists of a single house and burned down one, and Minoc the CITY of Sacrifice is but a small gypsy camp. This seems even crazier if you look at the unused maps of Ultima IX which allows you roam around a pretty big Cove, originally designed as a nice mining village. It’s hard to to imagine how big all the cities would have been with more time.
There is not much to do in Cove. The most important thing to do there is to free Nico, a mage from Britain, from the clutches of Raxos. (One point of trivia… Nico was actually meant to be named Nicodemus, altough whether he was meant to be the same character from Ultima VI&VII is hard to say) You can do this by killing Raxos… but the easiest and most Virtuous way is to wait until the Shrine is restored, so that Raxos will just give you the key. This has its importance because Nico will offer you an Orb of the Moon which will allow you to use the Moongates toward cities you have already cleansed.
Upon getting to Minoc however, you have a nasty surprise: Blackthorn (which has really made a job of getting in your way), is there – threatening the gypsies to get the Blue Lens they possess. He flees as the Avatar approach, but not until casting a curse upon them: anyone who will try to help the Avatar will die in flames!
This means that you don’t feel very welcome in Minoc really since the people there don’t really want to help you. Also… the all have really crapy fake gypsy accents which are a pain to hear! The only person willing to help is an old gypsy named Morgana – she actually hints that she has met you before, meaning she could potentially be the same Gypsy who first sent you to Britannia, but it’s just speculation. She does however try to help you as much as she can, and reveals you the mantra of Sacrifice at the cost of her life.
Besides that, Lazlo, the Rom Baro leader of the Gypsies says he will help you find the lens if you bring him the Blackrock Crystal Ball – an artifact which is said to always predict the future with certainty. Alas it has been stolen by a lich which now resides in the Blackrock mines of Covetous.
In other words: it’s time to get dirty again!
Covetous is another great dungeon of Ultima IX, and a testament to the variety of the game.
Covetous is one of the biggest dungeons of the game, spreading four actual levels. As in Ultima VII, it is mine – and most importantly a Blackrock Mine. However a few years ago the mine was overrun by undeads and an evil lich named Kellereth made it its domain. Guess whose job it is to get rid of it, heh?
But things can get a bit complicated. Since the dungeon is filled with Blackrock, it renders any use of magic impossible, whether we’re talking about spells, scrolls, potions or the magical effects you weapons might have. Also, it has a whole LOT of skeletons in it which can be a pain since they can already be hard to kill, can do a lot of damage… and resurrect unless you take their ribcage with you and put it far away.
Nevertheless, the dungeon is just very interesting. Now for starters you need to repair the elevator on the first level by getting a wheel that is missing it its mechanism and put it back. But before you can get to the elevator… you must face Lothar, the Sword Wraith!
You see Lothar was one of the most powerful swordsman of its time that was bound a skeleton by the Lich Khelereth against his will and is forced to fight for him, but wish only one thing: to rest in peace. Lothar however can only be vanquished by a magical sword called Gringolet that you can find in a underwater passage near cove. So you need to get back to Cove, and return to face the Sword Wraith. This is just VERY neat, and he also is quite a nice guy, since he warns you that Julia (whom you can find the diary in Minoc already hinting to this) has turned into a Wyrmguard
On level 2 you also find a talking skull which is looking for its tomb and make witty comments! You find his tomb on level 3, and get in exchange the key that opens level 4.
This last level is where you find the Lich, the Blackrock Crystal Ball… and of course the Column!
So I fist begun by going to the Column, and came upon my old friend Julia, unfortunately dressed a Wyrmguard as well 😦
Now first thing about Julia… the voice director mistakenly gave her a gypsy accent which is just terrible. Ugh.
Second thing however: her Wyrmguard story is actually treated very well. I feel she actually does have a point when saying how the Avatar always received all the credits while his companions who fought and died at his side where always forgotten (I mean hell, you just need to look at any Ultima manual) and how it would create bitterness. She also confess to an unrequited love toward the Avatar, which I felt was a nice touch.
But most importantly you can actually reason with her, and once you remove the Glyph from the Column, she gets actually strong enough to resist the Guardian’s influence and decides to return to Minoc.
With the Column dealt with, all that was left was fighting the evil Lich! Alas… you need to discard Gringolet to enter, which is a same because it was a very effective weapons against undeads 😦
But of course Khelereth was no match for the mighty Avatar, and the Blackrock Crystall Ball was now mine!
I gotta say that I really love the plot development of this dungeon because it has a really well thought out background, a believable settings and between Lothar and Khelereth: it just feels EPIC!
In any case it was time to get back up to Minoc and talk with Lazlo. Which was very happy to get his Crystal Ball… but refused to tell me anything about the Sigil and the Lens because he doesn’t want to die!However upon gazing in the Orb he sees the future (through a cutscene that originally was the original ending of U9!) and that if he doesn’t help the Avatar his people and the entire world will be destroyed!
This make him realized that his sacrifice is necessary for the sake of his people and he helps the Avatar, giving him the key to his home where the Lens and the Sigil are kept, dying in the process.
Thus died Lazlo, kind of the Gypsies. He was a nice character on the whole, but most importantly this lead to the Minoc plotline being treated pretty well and really much closer to the effect intended that Yew and Moonglow! Of course there are still quirks such as people not reacting until the Shrine is cleansed, but you know…
With the Sigil and the Glyph I could now go and cleanse the Shrine. Five down, three to go!
I went to talk a bit with the folks in Cove and Minoc (who were really moved by Lazlo’s sacrifice) and also got Nico out of his cell: I want that Orb of the Moon!
So it was time to leave Minoc behind. With the two lenses I have put a wrench into Blackthorn’s agenda and there aren’t that many Columns left, are they?