Part 5: Queen AliceThe White Knight began shouting orders to the people of Tune. "We have a new Queen! Send your messengers to the other towns! Throw open the sky-vaults! Make ready the rune-haven! Queen Alice arrives!"
Eager couriers took to their horses and sped off to the northwest. The shopkeepers remained behind, but began drawing extra items out of their back rooms.
My little conceit here is that Alice has become worthy of the best shop items by virtue of having crossed the board and thus promoted from Pawn to Queen. What has actually happened was that we have survived for 3,000 moves. The Sword and Great Sword became available after 1,500 steps, and the rest becomes available to us now:
I'm not going to buy anything here, though. We have much more interesting things to buy.
Alice turned to the Knight. "I can hardly treat with kings still wearing this strange suit. Can we find something more appropriate?"
The Knight bowed. "We can! You will, in the end, have to go back to Britain, but before you do that, you should go west to Fawn! They are famed for their love of beauty, and can surely adorn you properly. As for me, I must go to Britain myself and ensure things are ready for you when you arrive. Until then, my Queen!" And off he leaped.
Fawn, the City of Beauty, played a major role in Serpent Isle; it was another city of defectors from Lord British's rule. His control of the continent is still weak, though, so Fawn is still here for now...
Tune didn't have an Armorsmith, but Fawn does.
Alice walked up to the gentleman at The Iron Fist. No sooner had she finished saying "Good day, sir, I am Alice" that the proprietor stood up and bowed deeply.
"We were told you would come, good Queen. And here, we have the finest of royal gowns." He held out a shimmering silver dress, light as a feather but made of some impossibly smooth and strong material. "They say that in the heavens, they fight with light, and that the best armor is a looking-glass. I'd say our well-polished plate would do well in a pinch, but we can't match the real thing!"
There's nothing better than Reflect Armor. But the real prize is waiting for us back in Britain.
Alice purchased the gown, and then found a private room to change into it from her borrowed star-walking suit. She cleaned it carefully so that she could return it to Lord British later. As she left, she heard a strange sort of cry from the drinking-house.
Forgetting her newly-adopted regal demeanor, Alice ran in, half asking, half shouting, "Kitty, is that you? Are you all right?"
It was not Kitty.
It is, in fact, Dr. Cat, whom I first became aware of when Nakar credited him for the baffling zebrataur pole dancer in the Ultima VI intro. He has a cameo here and was also directly involved in development. It would seem Dr. Cat goes all the way back.
The cat behind the counter had recovered from whatever had startled him. "A Queen you may be, but you will need to be an Ace to prevail over Mondain. The sky-vaults are open, and you will be starwalking soon enough."
"Become an Ace, and reach the 8th rank in deed as well as in travel, and you may yet save us all."
These rumors don't lie. That "extra gift" is the only place level truly matters, and it's also why the Space Ace sequence is on the critical path.
When we return to Britain, we have new options. Oh, yes. New options indeed.
We have just purchased a hovercraft. We could have bought a frigate much earlier, but why would you get a frigate when you can get a hovercraft? It runs on land and sea, though it can't handle mountains or forests. Nothing can handle mountains, though, so that's not a huge loss.
We are now, as appropriate for a Queen, the fastest piece on the board. We zip up to the Unholy Hole and see an island to the northwest:
This is the Pillars of Protection. If we stop in...
We get a modest stamina increase. Revisiting it right away does nothing. Off to the east is the Tower of Knowledge, though, which boosts our Intelligence:
Visiting this signpost lets us revisit the Pillars of Protection. Visiting any signpost reactivates all the others, more or less. Upon returning the the Tower of Knowledge, though, we find something curious:
On our second visit, we get a larger boost! Diminishing returns clearly have no place in a Mirror Universe RPG. I'm pretty sure what's going on here is that we're getting a flat 10% boost to the relevant stat, rounded to nearest.
There's a lot of signposts out there. We sail east to new lands, as the Inform and Search command will tell us:
Here the signposts are off the west coast instead of the north coast, and the first isn't a stat boost at all, but rather... a dagger?
And to the south, a literary reference, which raises our Wisdom by making us more cultured.
This lets us revisit the Pillars of the Argonauts, which is pretty great because the way the Argonauts work is that we find the worst weapon that we don't already have. (We started with some Daggers, but Thieves stole them from us long ago.) So pretty soon, we find some new items we hadn't yet seen...
And then to some downright odd items...
And then we start remembering that this is an Ultima game and the anachronisms show up...
... but we aren't done here, oh no.
It is rumored that in the heavens, they fight with light. Or maybe it's just a sword that doesn't weigh very much.
Meanwhile, a pirate ship dares to challenge us as we fly down to Ozymandias's ruin to recharge the Argonauts.
The rumors are confirmed.
That's the lot. If he hit Ready weapon now, we get quite the list:
While Alice isn't really clear on this herself, this is in fact the exact point where Ultima becomes a game about flying around Sosaria in a laser-packing hovercraft while wearing a silver jumpsuit and shooting things with our blasters. I haven't found a "Ness Monster" yet, but once we laser up one of those, our hovercraft will also be full of eels.
Also, the mid-grade stuff there is wizard gear. You can't actually attack when wielding the Amulet, Wand, Staff; instead, your Magic Missile spells deal progressively more damage. The Triangle boosts Magic Missile as well as a Staff, but also lets you attack in melee.
I'll probably cast some Magic Missile spells at some point, but, well. Blasters.
Now that we have the best weapon, armor, and transport in the game, it's on to the next continent, where we find The Sign Post.
Accept no imitations.
Further south, we see a different, imitation sign post:
(Also, we are apparently now in the Lands of the Dark Unknown.)
A Southern Sign Post. Everything is different now!
Proceeding even further east, we come to Serpent Isle, pre-Serpents.
And what is this? Could it be?
It is! Also, Richard Garriott was clearly lifting stuff from old stories again.
I have to say, the sign posts here in Mirror Universe are way more awesome than the ones back in normal RPGs.
Except this one. Screw you, Eastern Signpost, you are worthless. I suppose you do at least reactivate the Grave of the Lost Soul.
One the way back to Lord British—I've completed his quest, after all—I stop in a dungeon to see if it's a name we might recognize from Serpent Isle. It is!
That giant rat gets a blaster bolt to the face before I leave. I can actually attack at range with this, which is very nice.
Back at Lord British, we get our reward:
This is a very nice stat boost, but it's also not required in any way. Lord British is completely optional in Ultima 1. Unlike the other stat boosts, Strength boosts do have diminishing returns in this version. Apparently in the Apple II version Strength boosts had accelerating returns and the signposts granted diminishing returns.
The other thing you can do with Kings is give them monetary tribute:
At this point we can shuttle back and forth between the stat-boosting signposts, and take Lord British's Quest as much as we want. We don't even have to get into fights; we just need to make sure we don't run out of food. Fortunately, we've also got an infinite supply of salable items from the Pillars of the Argonauts. Soon enough...
... now those are some stats fit for a Queen.