Part 23: MOONSHADE - In Which The Avatar Goes Back To School
In Which The Avatar Goes Back To School
"We didn't exactly put in at the closest point to Moonshade."
"Aye, when ye can control a flyin' ship in the middle of a teleport storm ye can get right back ta me on that, Avatar."
"I don't need to take this shit from a minor NPC, no matter how plot critical! I'll kill you!"
"Hey, hey, save some for the rest of us."
"I think I'll... be goin' now."
"This forest is stupid."
"I thought you were a ranger."
"I can be a ranger and fucking hate forests."
"I'm not sure you can."
"Maybe he's, like, a plains ranger."
"More like a bar ranger."
"For your information, I do it for the chicks."
"Oh, the ones wearing mouse suits?"
"Look, a swamp! Let's go traipsing around in it."
"But we only have one pair of swamp boots!"
"No, I only have one pair. You guys are just going to have to hope you don't get poisoned somehow like in every swamp we've ever entered ever."
"See, isn't this fun?"
"I think I'm missing my pancreas."
And why trudge into every godforsaken swamp ever? Mainly for this, a veritable bounty of blood moss. It's a reagent, in case you'd forgotten. We'll also need some later.
After some poisonings and a few random bear attacks, we make it to a city wall. Nobody is actually guarding it.
Fine streets intermingle with serpentine ruins. This one looks a bit familiar, doesn't it? We'll be coming back here - or perhaps more accurately through here - many times during the game.
Next door to the Serpent Gate, built into the mountain, is the first of the buildings in Moonshade we'll visit.
The Seminarium, a school for young mages.
"Cool, a robot!"
"You are not getting a robot."
"You're not my mom, Iolo."
"I don't care. You're getting a robot over my dead body."
"Don't think for a second that can't be arranged."
"I think he was just pointing out the necessary conditions, not actually making a threat."
The Seminarium is a little dinky, bonanza of reagents and scrolls aside. There are only two students.
"Art thou the great hero from a distant land?! Oh, my name is Freli. I am glad to meet thee! I know thou hast participated in many daring exploits. I so want to hear about everything! Life is so dreary here. I have nothing but my study of magic to interest me."
"You spend all day spying on me and you still think your life is boring, kid?"
"Nothing ever happens here in Moonshade. At least, nothing to match thy fascinating activities. I would wager not even Filbercio hath seen as much as thee."
"You can't tell me you're bored being a mage, lad!"
"Well, I certainly love magic and all, but it's taking too long! I have been learning for years, thou wouldst think me a master at this point. I do not believe it fair -- that traveller needed no tutelage, he simply paid Torrissio and was off."
"I had not the chance to meet him, but those who did called him Batlin. He was not here long, and left in a rush, but I overheard that he purchased spells from Torrissio. Torrissio can be quite mean, I have heard. Andrio is afraid of him, I know that."
"I am not!"
"Yes, thou art!"
"'Tis a lie! Besides, thou art afraid of him as well!"
"That is, uh, not at all true! Why, Andrio will not even pass his house before 9 in the morning. That is when he leaves his laboratory to go out into the city."
"Are you kids finished yet? I need to talk to someone about magic, and you're the first people I've met who seem even remotely competent."
"I mean no disrespect, Avatar. I find it a most fascinating topic. I could spend days creating brilliant flashes of light, moving stones with my mind, and summoning animals from nothing. 'Tis the arcane art that keeps mine interest in daily life. I simply want to be further along in my studies."
"You aren't the only one. Can you tell us a little bit more about the place, kid?"
"Moonshade was founded several centuries ago, Avatar. Legend holds that the Mad Mage himself journeyed from a far away place, arriving here and laying claim to the land. His true name is Erstam. He is called the Mad Mage because he fled the city many years ago to leave behind our civilization. No one truly knows why he left, but some who were there claim he made references to the townspeoples' 'petty bickering'."
"And that's why Filbercio is in charge?"
"The MageLord? He is the greatest of all wizards, or so I have heard. He rules with a kind but stern hand. Of course, I would not count on his friendship were I to be seen with his lover. This is but rumor, Avatar. However, it hath been said that he is seen late at night in the presence of the Mistress of Cold, Frigidazzi."
"Steve, I think this is Freli."
"Yeah, he told us that was his name."
"No, I mean, he's Delin's son!"
"He is my long-lost father. Here is a scroll thou canst give him from me."
The scroll reads:
Right Heartily and Beloved Father,
I recommend me to thee, letting thee know I am doing exceedingly well! Though I miss thee and my beloved sister, Alyssand, I am so excited. I have been learning so much magic, thou wouldst not believe thine eyes. I am good. Honest. I swear to thee, that's what the Mages here are saying. 'Tis fun, but frightening as well.
I am a dedicated student, Father, thou canst be proud of me. And Alyssand, too. I miss thee so much. Thou shouldst visit. The Palace is a sight to see. Gorgeous! These Mages are incredible!
Learning how to be a Mage is not easy, but I love it as much as I miss thee.
Thou art on my mind everyday. I hope to see thee soon.
It's too bad we won't be able to get back to Fawn to actually deliver the letter for quite a while. Delin will have to be sad a bit longer.
"Hello, I am Andrio. I never meet outsiders. Couldst thou tell me all about thy travels and adventures?"
"You... actually want to hear what we've been doing?"
"Yes, yes. I would very much love to hear about thine exciting adventures. While studying magic I have so little time to plan any expeditions of mine own. I am working to become a great master. Someday I hope to be as great as Master Filbercio. Of course, I know that level of expertise will take some time. But I have the discipline! Just ask Freli, he will tell thee I do."
"Is Filbercio really that good?"
"Well, he is the MageLord of all Moonshade. There are rumors that no mage hath lived who was more powerful, not even the Mad Mage!"
"We've heard many stories already about this Mad Mage."
"Have you? Then you know his name is Erstam. He was one of the founders of Moonshade. However, our instructors claim he slowly became insane as his power grew. Eventually, he left the city to be far away from his fellow spellcasters. They tell us the same could happen to us should we seek too much power too soon. I wonder if that is what caused the other two mages to flee to the Mountains of Freedom? Goodness, I hope that doth not happen to me!"
"Why would a mage willingly flee to a prison?"
"I remember not their names, but they had a reputation for conducting unusual experiments, especially with reagents. Someone once told me that they were always searching for more powerful components to assist in their magics. I have heard that the caves there are filled with the rare mineral known as Stoneheart. I am sure someone as brave as thou art will go there someday and discover whether the legend is true. Please promise to bring the tale whenever thou dost return from such a grand excursion."
"God, I hope not."
"But if you do, thou wilt tell, wilt thou not?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Excellent, Avatar. I cannot wait to hear further tales of thy journeys."
"So it's just you and the kid here, then?"
"He is my companion and fellow student. We have been friends for a very long time. And his mastery of magic is almost as great as mine own."
"Thou art mad!"
"Both of you shut up."
"Quite right, Avatar. I am sorry."
"Ah, yes, Avatar. I, too, am truly sorry."
"I like you guys. You're obedient. I like that in a malleable child."
"How else may I help thee?"
"Maybe give us a little information about the area? I don't know, I'm mostly stalling for time here."
"Well, I am hesitant to admit how little I have seen of the land. Unlike thee, I am not an experienced traveller. There is so little I know about my surroundings, save how to manipulate them with magic. I have no knowledge of what it is like to face danger daily. Certainly nothing so grand as that which thou dost meet frequently. In comparison, my life is filled with boredom. Yesterday I saw Torrissio leave his house at 9 in the morning -- same as always -- and run into one of the food vendors. I was positive Torrissio was about to transform her into a frog or some such, but instead, he gave no more than a rude chastising."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"Torrissio is not very friendly. I have heard he bears ill will for many things, and doth not often forgive transgressions. I hope never to cross him, for I could not endure his enmity for long. Thou, too, shouldst walk with care, for if thou dost ever need his aid, pray no such bad feelings exist between thee and he or he will offer nothing. He is an adept mage who commands the powers of life magic. Some day, when I am less afraid of his coarse manner, I plan to ask for his assistance in my Transmute Flesh to Wood spell. I am told he hath done something similar with stone before."
"Flesh... to wood?"
"Yes, Avatar. This spell will change a warrior's skin, making it as tough as wood. This way, a fighter will require less armour to deflect blows. My greatest obstacle right now is how to permit the fighter to move once his flesh hath solidified into the wood."
"Who volunteers for this sort of thing?"
"Freli is researching a spell like mine, but involving stone instead of wood. The patrons at the Blue Boar suggested we contact Torrissio about transforming such things, because his arcane emphasis involves matters of life, including changing flesh to other materials."
"What the hell are you kids going on about?"
"Whassup Fu Manchu, you the boss around here?"
"Only the most Avatary Avatar that ever Avatared an Avatar."
"Thou must be a seeker after knowledge. I am the Mage Fedabiblio, and I serve as the Magister of Moonshade."
"What the hell is a magister? Is that one of the more politically-correct names for sorcerer or whatever isn't cool with you guys these days?"
"Thou dost not know what a Magister does? The Magister is the director of the Seminarium -- 'tis the only School for Mages in the entire land. One of my functions is to find gifted children for this school. When they are located, I bring them to the school."
"Kidnap them, you mean."
"Ohhhhh, he's the boogeyman."
"I don't think he appreciates being called a boogeyman."
"No, it's cool, I hear it all the time. Assholes. A young, untrained Mage can be quite dangerous! Therefore, these children must be brought to the Seminarium -- for their own safety! For instance, take young Freli. His father was a shopkeeper. What could a merchant teach his son about magical powers! Taking care of my students is a tiring but fulfilling duty. Young Freli shows much promise, and Andrio is almost ready to graduate. Andrio hath quite a bit of youthful enthusiasm, and I find that most refreshing, but I do wish that he would use a bit more caution in his experiments! And though I must confess that Freli is my favorite student... He is most brilliant, but the unfortunate thing is that he knows this. Sometimes I feel that he is simply too smart for his own good."
"So is it cool if we crash here?"
"The Seminarium is unique in all the land, for all Mages are welcome to come here and study our records concerning spell research and magical activity. Any Mage can study here in safety, knowing that this place is a sanctuary from violence. Passing travellers also stop here to access our library."
"Dammit. Okay then, who else has been by?"
"Thou art not the first to be attracted to our facilities! In recent days, two visitors are memorable. First, there was the scholar Gwenno. We could not help her much, as her interest was in historical matters. I suggested that she consult the library on Monk Isle. Less agreeable was the visit of the Mage Batlin. He appeared to be most interested in the ancient inhabitants of this land, the Ophidians. Indeed, one might say that he was obsessed."
"That sounds about right, I guess. Anything else we ought to know?"
"Since thou art a visitor, I will explain a few things to thee. Moonshade is a city of Mages and for Mages. It is ruled by the Adepts, and served by the lesser Mages. There is a lower class -- the Mundanes. But some of them are skilled as artisans. The three Adepts are the most powerful wizards in the city. They compose the Council of Mages, which governs the city. One of the Adepts serves as MageLord. Currently, Filbercio rules as Lord of Moonshade. The other two Adepts are Gustacio the Green Mage, and the Red Sorceress, Rotoluncia."
"Is the MageLord really as awesome as some people say? I get the sense he's... you know."
"A veiled political reference? Not really, this is only 1993. He comes from a long line of Mages. Filbercio is well-respected and is known as a shrewd administrator of city affairs. In private, though, it is said that he is something of a womanizer. When dealing with magic in this city, everything in this city is political. And when dealing with politics, Filbercio is the master of the game. I dare say, he would be a force to be reckoned with, even if his actual magical skills alone were not good enough to make him the MageLord of Moonshade. If Filbercio doth have a flaw, it is that he can be distracted by a pretty face. It doth not hurt if that face belongs to a woman who is also a powerful Mage. The trouble is that it doth not deter him if that woman is already betrothed to another! Oh, perhaps I have said too much..."
"Probably. What about the other adepts?"
"The Green Wizard is Filbercio's chief rival for the position of MageLord. Gustacio is extremely hard-working and devout in his studies and practices of the magical arts. He is a respected citizen, although there are those who do not like him -- he tends to have a rather severe personality. Now, Gustacio hath thrown himself into his studies of the phenomenon of the teleport storms. It hath become his obsession."
"Trust me, she is someone thou dost not wish to cross."
"What about all the other mages?"
"These are citizens who have pursued some sort of magical education. Although they know a few spells, they were not able to become Adepts. Most become Rangers or Apothecaries. The artisans are basically Mundanes who possess some skill that is valued in the society of Mages. Artists, writers, musicians, metalsmiths... That sort."
"Mundanes? What is this, Second Life?"
"These poor souls live in a dark little world where magic is merely another powerful natural force that affects them, which they desperately try to adjust to or withstand. Most of the Mundanes born here eventually leave. They settle in Fawn or Monitor, and this is better for them."
"So you're basically the head teacher here."
"I'm the only teacher here."
"Yeah yeah, whatever. I want to enroll. Gimme a spellbook."
"I already had one but it got switched for a rock or something in a storm. Now I want a new one, and you're the guy who does it."
"Uhhhh geez, I dunno... ah, I've got it. Bring me three fresh Mandrake Roots, and I shall let thee have a spellbook. The Roots are found on Monk Isle."
"But I've already got a bunch of those."
"Thou didst not understand me. The Roots must be fresh, taken from the swamp precisely as the tides are receding. These roots are stale, and unsuitable for our purposes."
No spellbook until Monk Isle, alas. The game brings you this far along and then rooks you over by forcing you to go check out a few more plot points. Fear not - we shall overcome. In the meantime, we can break into Moonshade's various manors, stealing spell scrolls and the like from the mages. Sadly, none of them will give us so much as the time of day unless the Avatar is also a mage, which means we don't really get to do much until the Moonshade plot gets rolling.
One of my favorite touches in Moonshade is that the pantries are largely not stocked with food. Instead, you get Create Food scrolls. Probably stores easier, doesn't it?
Gustacio's house is just northeast of the Seminarium. He and the necromage Mortegro are researching the teleport storms. It'd be nice to help him out, but he's a gruff fellow and not interested in speaking to us right now. Mortegro is a decent guy, but without a spellbook he can't help us. We'll talk to these guys later.
Down in Gustacio's basement is a curious area (remember it for later) with a pet lamia or something.
The scroll on the boxes is a rare Ninth Circle spell, Summon. It sucks, but it'll save a lot of cash.
North of Gustacio's is the manor of Columna the Green Enchantress, and her husband Melino. Neither are Adepts (I think they know up to the Seventh Circle each), and they too will not speak with us, but they're sitting on some surprisingly potent juice. One is a secret plot-important item we can get now but will leave for a little while, but the other...
Time Stop, baby. The blood and low health is because there's a buzzsaw trap in the way. This is kind of a strange area, because what's supposed to happen is an energy field is supposed to pop up as you approach the table with the scrolls on it, blocking it unless you're fast or have the Dispel Field spell, which you won't until much later in the game. So you have to be fast, unless Exult breaks and doesn't spawn the energy field, then you get it free!
The letter suggests Columna has stolen something from Lady Yelinda that enhances her beauty somehow. We could find this item right away, and it's funny when we do so, but it's much funnier after hearing about the love triangle going on with Torissio, Columna, Melino, and Stefano (I realize that's four people, but Stefano is technically not part of the triangle). Since none of those people can be spoken with just yet, we'll leave it be.
North and east of Columna and Melino's is the manor of Stefano. Stefano himself isn't much of a mage (I think he admits to only knowing up to a very low spell level), but it's still enough to make a living as a sort of mage-adventurer and thief. Strangely, he's not home right now, and his automaton doesn't know when he'll be back.
Across the street from Stefano's is the ice laboratory of Frigidazzi, Filbercio's current mistress. She too is not home, and her house is locked up tight. You'll notice a pattern here; until we actually get a formal introduction to the MageLord, most of the town doesn't really care about us, and until we become a mage ourselves, they really don't care.
Down the street is the manor of the life mage, Torissio. In addition to selling healing spells, which is nice, Torissio produces all the automaton servants for the town. He actually isn't creating most of them; he just digs them up from Ophidian ruins and uses an ancient spell to reanimate them. Once we have a spellbook, we can buy that spell off him, allowing the Avatar to conjure an army of mechanoid minions. For now though, he's far too busy to listen to us.
Across the channel is the shop of Pothos the Apothecary who (wait for it) isn't home at the moment.
This actually works out better for us, because it means we can rob him with impunity. His automatons might raise a fuss, but if you really want to steal from someone you can ambush the automaton. If you kill them quickly enough, the Rangers (Moonshade's guards) won't show up to arrest you. And if they're dead, there are no witnesses at all.
Anyway, we get three scrolls and a chest packed with reagents. They're all probably familiar to you with a couple exceptions. The glowing yellow pile of stuff that looks like Spider Silk is Bloodspawn, the forbidden reagent created when Stoneheart (the ruddy rock we got from the teleport storm) is mixed with human blood. The small blue-white things are Worm Hearts. Both are quite important, and not just for spellcasting.
As for the scrolls. Well, they're nice spells, let's just say that.
Due to the nature of Moonshade, there's a lot of secrets I could go and get right now. I'm going to get most of them, but I want to stagger them a bit as we proceed through the Moonshade plot. If I haven't mentioned something yet, hold off until we're ready to leave town, because I may just be waiting on it. Today, for example, we'll just rob Pothos, even though there's quite a lot more goodies in the MageLord's manor.
Downstairs in Pothos's shop is a vault of magical equipment.
It sure would be nice if we could get in there. Maybe there's a secret passage somewhere?
Maybe down here, under the stairs?
Well I'll be damned. It's an entirely different secret area, with a Lightning Whip and... a poster of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. This won't be the last time we see one of those.
So how the hell do we get into Pothos's vault?
This is honestly one of the more devious hidden keys in all of Ultima VII (either part). It's almost entirely hidden under the chair here (I moved it a little west), and even then you can only barely make it out. Most hidden keys are at least slightly hard to see, but still ultimately visible.
What's the loot? A Glass Sword, Sword of Defense, Magic Axe, Magic Bolts, Magic Leggings, and Magic Boots. Coincidentally, this is one each of all the magical items Pothos sells you when he gets back here and reopens his shop. His prices are a bit outrageous, and we already have something like five Magic Axes, but a free Glass Sword is never unwelcome.