The Let's Play Archive

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle

by Nakar

Part 13: MONITOR - The Avatar: Great Detective or Greatest Detective?

Monitor and Fawn are especially exposition-heavy. Moonshade is really a better area because you do stuff in between chattering. We'll get there eventually, but in the meantime let's have a couple updates where there aren't 8 people yammering for 30 minutes at a stretch.

The Avatar: Great Detective or Greatest Detective?

"Hey, look, bears!"
"You know, now that I think on it, were there ever any bears in this series?"
"...goddamn, you're right! We fight wolves and rats and bats and we beat up Frank the Fox that one time, but I don't think we've ever seen a bear before."
"They're so majestic."
"Awww, they don't drop anything!"
"Can you please not kill wildlife we're marveling over mid-marvel, Steve?"
"Well I won't anymore, now that I know they're crap."

Krayg said there's a goblin meeting place in the northern woods, near a black rock obelisk (but is it a blackrock black rock obelisk? I don't know!). This place is supposed to be crawling with goblins, but for reasons unknown only one of them attacks us as we walk up to the meeting spot.

"I cannot help but think that this strange bottle must be a clue as to the identity of Monitor's traitor."
"How the hell could you tell that? For all we know it's just more junk the goblins littered the place with."
"I found a banana peel!"
"There, see? I could just as easily theorize that a gorilla is Monitor's traitor."
"But there are no gorillas in Ultima!"
"And until five minutes ago there weren't bears either, the rules have changed."
"I still think we should take that bottle, if only so Dupre doesn't drink it."
"Sorry, what? There was still a little stagnant water inside this drum. I was thinking maybe something in it had fermented but now I think I have cholera."

You know, I can't help but think I'm still forgetting something.

Oh, right.

"I was a bit worried when it took you six or so updates to get back here."
"Believe me, it hasn't been altogether pleasant for me either."
"Perhaps Harnna is familiar with this curious bottle?"
"And my banana peel!"
"I really don't think that banana peel is anything, Iolo."
"That looks like the type of bottle that usually contains the ale Simon drinks. In Monitor, only he drinks that bitter Fawnish ale."
"That seems a clue of sorts."
"Shut up guys, I'm trying to remember something I heard a while ago. I think someone may have hinted at the person who drinks the ale."
"Harnna just told us it was Simon the-"

Simon: "He is the innkeeper of The Sleeping Soldier. He is a quiet man, and the oldest person in Monitor. He enjoys his drink -- especially an unusual type of ale from Fawn. I have told him to cease drinking that swill, but he insists. From a healer's point of view, that ale should be banned!"

"I'm drawing a blank. Well, let's go beat up the innkeeper."
"Until he confesses to being the traitor?"
"Huh? Oh, sure, whatever."

"Bad fog rolling in this morning. I wonder what part of town we're in."
"Oh, hey, we're near Lydia's!"

"What do you mean you won't pay for her ashes? She's a Pikeman, we're all Pikemen here!"
"We aren't."
"Well those guys aren't."
"Yes, well, while she is a Pikeman, she is not, technically speaking, a 'pikeman,' and I'm only smart enough to accept one kind of body here."
"We can still burn her body though, right?"
"Huh? Oh, certainly, lord knows I've thrown my share of random things into the crematorium just to watch it burn."

Krayg says he's seen someone else in the woods, and the bottle found at the rendezvous site does seem to back up someone else being around. The goblins don't frequently get to Fawn, so fawnish ale isn't something they ought to be able to get their hands on. Simon the innkeeper, an otherwise unassuming old man with a sob story about his young bride being killed by goblins, doesn't really seem like the traitor type. But the bottle sure seems to point the finger. What gives?

"I am the innkeeper of The Sleeping Soldier, Monitor's inn. If thou dost need a bed, I can certainly accommodate thee. Or if thou dost care to join me in a bottle of ale, I will gladly share with thee."
"In just a second. We need to ask you about a few people and items before we ki-"
"-address a different topic."
"The only two memorable visitors we have had -- besides thyself -- were a fat sage and a scholar. The sage had such a curiosity about the ancient ruins. I believe he followed Renfry into the Crypts so he could look around -- something there fascinated him. Thou shouldst also speak with Andral, the sculptor. He and the sage spent many hours in conversation, here at the inn. I believe he went northeast from here, towards the little hamlet of Sleeping Bull."
"The man's name -- dost thou recall?!"
"Now what was that man's name? It was a simple name, unpleasant sounding and mean... Batlin, that was it. He called himself the Sage Batlin."
"We have found Batlin's trail!"
"I thought we were already on Batlin's trail?"
"Oh, and did I mention that he had several underlings travelling with him? There was a warrior, a sailor, and a hooded man. Standarr had a disagreement with this warrior. I'd wager he could tell thee a tale or two about him! The sailor was a swarthy man who was called Deadeye. He had the look of a pirate about him. Shazzana spent a bit of time with him as I recall. I noticed a funny smell about the hooded one... almost like -- brimstone? I also could have sworn that under his hood there were horns upon his head. But, no -- that is foolish. It must be some kind of trick."

This is the first introduction of Batlin's companions. Basically, Batlin sent an expedition of sailors ahead of him to the serpent isle, comprised of the sailors Ruggs and Kalen (who are still in Fawn), Iolo's wife Gwenno, Leon the local Fellowship missionary, and a cartographer named Scots. He also had three thugs along: Deadeye the pirate, Brunt the warrior, and a gargoyle named Palos; NPCs hint at Palos being strange and having a demonic appearance, but this is because people here aren't as familiar with gargoyles.

This isn't very well-explained, but Batlin basically had them set up a miniature Black Gate which he used to warp to the Serpent Isle after getting his ass kicked at the Black Gate. This suggests that the whole thing was set up as a contingency plan from the start, but I'll be damned if I know why, and I've beaten this game half a dozen times. The point is to establish these three as Batlin's tough henchmen so you can have a totally anticlimactic battle with them later in the game. Batlin and his companions got kicked out of Fawn when the teleport storms started, then he went to Monitor, was thrown out of town there as well, and traveled to Moonshade.

By the time we get to any of the places Batlin has been, he's long gone; in fact, he's heading to the frozen north at this point in the storyline, although he's not quite there yet. Fortunately he's really fat and stupid and it will take him about eight years to reach his objective, which gives the Avatar plenty of time to catch up despite taking every imaginable detour.

"And the scholar? What of her?"
"She said she was researching the land and seemed anxious to learn all about Serpent Isle. Spektor dealt with her, mostly."
"Gwenno! It must have been Gwenno!"
"Yes, I believe that was her name..."
"Steve! What luck! We have found a trail to follow! Oh, Gwenno! Dost thou know where she went from here, milord?"
"I believe she went east, anxious to learn the wisdom of the Xenkan Monks. She set sail with Captain Hawk, bound for Moonshade and points beyond. Of course, this was before the Storms. No sailor will brave these dangerous waters now."
"Praise Virtue! This means she is alive and well! I thank thee, sir, for this woman is my wife!"
"Very kind woman, she was, sir."

Gwenno left Iolo her Dear John Iolo letter in U7. I'm joking about the whole "they can't stand each other" thing, but it's kind of a dick move to pull on your husband out of nowhere. Gwenno isn't in on Batlin's plans, but rather decided to go check out the Serpent Isle out of academic curiosity with the Fellowship (which, at the time, nobody knew was evil). It'll be a while before we catch up with her too.

Finally, we'll ask Simon about booze, starting with the strange bottle of wine we got at the start of the game.

"The Rangers of Moonshade make wine. Perhaps it is from there that this wine thou dost speak of hath come."
"You offered us ale earlier. That offer still good?"
"Yes, thou mayest drink thy fill of ale here. But I am particularly fond of mine own personal brand of ale. Have a drink?"
"Sure, I guess I..."
"Steve! Art thou all right?"

"Unusual taste, eh? I dare say I am the only one outside of the city of Fawn who drinks it. I would share more with thee, but I think that thou dost not appreciate it. Besides, I must clean this foulness!"
"Hold on a sec, bucko! You just incriminificated yourself... thyself. Whatever. Take a look at this!"
"Hmmm. I cannot imagine... oh yes, I remember. I was taking a walk in that area. I must have been careless and dropped the bottle."
"That is correct. I was taking a walk. Sometimes I want to exercise and enjoy the fresh air."
"Way up there?"
"Yes. What is wrong with that?"
"But what about goblins?"
"What about them? They did not bother me. We cannot let them control our lives!"
"Yet we found this bottle in a goblin camp."
"Is that the area they believe is the Goblin rendezvous? I do not believe it. I have never seen Goblins there."
"So thou dost go there often?"
"Er, no, not at all. I only meant I did not see any Goblins then."
"Mine instincts tell me this man is lying, Avatar!"
"No, really?"
"So I have been found out! Well, to the blazes with it all!!"
"Wait, what?"

"Thou hast found out my secret! Now, thou must die..."

After the Avatar and friends fail to die...

"Thou hast slain me! My blood spills away... all because of Pomdirgun, that betrayer!"
"There seems to be a lot of betraying going on here."
"Come nearer, that I may boast of my deeds before I die. I am a Goblin! I have lived amongst the foolish Knights all these many years and no one hath suspected!! Yes! I have supplied my fellow Goblins with all of Monitor's military secrets!"
"That is right! I have relayed patrol plans and other military information to King Pomdirgun. The assault on Fawn Tower was a success thanks to me! Monitor's Knight Champion was ambushed because of mine ingenuity!"
"Then why is it Pomdirgun's fault? You're the one who exposed yourself."
"He hath double-crossed me! That is why I am telling thee this! He promised ME the Helm of Monitor, but the greedy bastard kept it for himself! After all the loyal years I have served the Goblins, I deserve it! Well, I shall have to extract revenge!"
"Just how long has this been going on?"
"I have been in Monitor longer than anyone else here! I came to the town many, many years ago. It was Pomdirgun's father who procured the magic potion that enabled me to change mine appearance. But now... I am tired of being a Man! I want to be a Goblin again! I have thrown away mine entire life! I want to die..."
"Well, we'll be granting your wish in just a second but... how does this work again?"
"A Moonshadian mage created a potion that enabled us to make our appearance Man-like. But it is addictive! I cannot live without it... Hmmm... Perhaps thou wouldst like to know the secret location of Pomdirgun's camp? If thou dost promise to slay King Pomdirgun, I shall tell thee!"
"Sounds like you've got yourself a deal, goblin-guy."
"There is a Great Dead Tree in the Knights' Forest, north of Knight's Test. Thou wilt know it because it is surrounded by rocks. Hidden nearby is an ancient stairway leading into the bowels of the earth. This leads to a passageway which will bring thee to the chief's village, hidden in a secret valley. No Man hath ever set foot there... But be careful! There are many challenges for the unwary, and thou must survive to cleave Pomdirgun's head into two! The passageway is sealed with an iron door, but thou shalt find the key tied around my neck. Urrgh..."
"He's dead."
"I noticed, yes."

Simon has three keys. One to the inn, one to his treasure chest (there's not much in there though), and the one that will supposedly open the goblin passageway. I'm not sure what happens if you try to kill Simon indiscriminately before this point, but since he actually changes from a human NPC into a goblin monster, it's possible the key just isn't there.

On our way out of town, we'll have a quick chat with Andral the sculptor, the one semi-important Monitor NPC we haven't met yet. Since Batlin was inquiring about sculptures and artifacts, he was referred to Andral. But he did a bit more than just speak with him.

Oh, and he's making a statue of Luther. If you can't find Luther at the List Field or the training hall, odds are he's here modeling for Andral. However, he refuses to speak with you during this activity.

"Perhaps I should not speak with thee... I hope thou art not come to rob me!"
"Depends, what ya got?"
"She's kidding. Or just an ass. Go on, sir."
"I am not sure that I care to speak about the incident. 'Twas most unpleasant. There was a stranger in Monitor, one who claimed to be from another land. He was very large, a scholar rather than a warrior. He travelled with many companions, including a tall, cloaked stranger. On the night that Batlin the Sage left town, someone stole an ancient relic from mine home. I suspect that he was the thief!"
"That does sound like Batlin."
"But why would he steal it?"
"He came inquiring about ancient ruins, and was especially interested in the Serpent Stone -- but Renfry can tell thee more of this. Simon the Innkeeper heard the sage say that he had come here from Fawn."
"Could you describe the men who were with him?"
"There is not much to say! The one in the cloak spent most of his time in the inn, and seldom spoke. There was also a warrior named Brunt who travelled with Batlin. He was small in stature, but with incredibly broad shoulders -- Oh! If only he would have posed in my studio! I could have created such art... Standarr fought him in the List Field, and said that he was an opponent unlike any other!"
"We're not interested in Batlin's lame crew, guys. What about the artifact he stole?"
"Mine ancestors found the relic when they first founded this city, and it hath been kept in the family all this time. To be honest, we were afraid to discard it. It had a demonic appearance, being shaped like a serpent, and composed of a dark rock never before seen."
"Perhaps blackrock, Avatar..."
"We hated the object, yet we were afraid to be parted from it. I cannot explain this. But it was so. Monitorians are not a superstitious people, yet we fear the ancient ruins. They were once the homes of Daemons who ruled this land in a distant age. They were horned beings with red skins, and they had the power to command molten rock to flow! The Serpent was their sign."
"And the object was serpent-shaped too."
"Indeed, 'twas as if a living serpent had been changed into stone -- a perfect replica! 'Tis not uncommon to see the symbol of the serpent among the ruins, yet I have never seen before or since any such Rock Serpent."
"Couldst thou describe the curvings of the serpent?"
"Umm... why, the head curved to the right, and the body was most sinuous. Why dost thou ask?"
"Avatar, this man's stolen relic was a perfect match for the one thou lost in the Storm, except that it faced the opposite way!"

As we learned from the first couple of updates, the ancient culture that lived here embodied the Balance of the forces of Chaos and Order. The serpent the Avatar arrived with (which was found in Ultima Underworld 2) is the Order Serpent. The one Andral had, therefore, must be the Chaos Serpent. The question is, why was Batlin looking for blackrock artifacts especially?

"But let me say this -- Batlin shall not rest in peace, for a powerful warrior is on his trail! Dost thou know of Wilfred the Slayer?"
"Wilfred is a Knight of Monitor, but his home is at the inn of the Sleeping Bull. Batlin hath been there as well, and Wilfred's father hath mysteriously disappeared. Wilfred suspects the sage of being involved. Surely, brave Wilfred shall track down the sage and kill him, and I shall enjoy sweet revenge!"
"Sounds more useful than you guys. So where is this strapping young lad?"
"Thou canst find the inn of the Sleeping Bull by taking the Serpent Highway north from here. There is not much there, save for an ancient inn for which the village is named. Wilfred's brother Argus doth operate it."

That's totally not true. The Sleeping Bull is one of the best places in the game, featuring the most versatile moneychanger NPC and a mage who sells game-breaking spells. It's a hell of a lot more fun than, say, Fawn.

Right, so where were we? Ah yes, off to the woods to find the secret tunnels Simon spoke of. If you're interested in where the Goblin camp actually is, look north of the icon on the map. See that brown area nestled in mountains near the Great Northern Forest? That's the goblins' valley. We'll have to travel underground to get there.

About where I indicated, slightly northeast, is a farm which seems to have been raided by goblins. The place is in disarray and the family lie slaughtered. But something is very wrong here. The livestock, not normally known for its aggressive tendencies, will attack you for no reason.

I suspect this is an Animal Farm joke, or something similar; there's even two pigs on the farm.

To some, it's an Orwellian allegory. To me, it's several more days of dinner.

This isn't in a Cheater's Corner, but it will be later. This mysterious tower is known only as the "House of Wares," but it's locked, and the key isn't available until much later in the game. What would be inside a place like this, and why is it locked up so tightly?

"It's always a comfort to know the deer here still have five legs."
"Dibs on the fifth one!"

This is a really terrible shot, and I apologize for that, but some wolves rushed me and then goblins spawned north of us, except by the time I got the screenshot they were under a tree and to be frank I don't even know where Shamino went. But if you look real close, you can see a stairway leading into the bowels of the earth. This is the tunnel Simon was talking about, and next update we'll be doing a good old-fashioned dungeon dive followed by wholesale early morning goblin genocide. A fulfilling afternoon outing.