The Let's Play Archive

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle

by Nakar

Part 27: MONK ISLE - Transdimensional Highway Onramps & Party Monks

Transdimensional Highway Onramps & Party Monks

"So apparently Erstam keeps a serpent gate in his garden shed."
"I don't see what's so strange about that, it's where everything else always ends up."

Up until now, the serpent gates did nothing. Possession of a jawbone, however, allows us to double-click the gate and be whisked away.

"What is this? I thought there'd be, like, twisting ethereal passages or something."
"Yeah. This isn't so much an ancient magical gateway as..."
"...a lobby."

Lest we forget something that happened a week ago, let's go back and check out that map we found in Silverpate's pirate basement:

Welcome to the Dark Path, the teleport nexus of Serpent Isle. Each of those dead ends represents a serpent gate to part of the island chain. Most are tied to Ophidian cities and ritual sites, and Batlin has jacked most of those teeth. Others lead to ruined areas near the cities of the Serpent Isle, which is mostly what we'll find for now.

The Dark Path is perfectly safe. There are no monsters, and nothing you drop here will disappear. This makes it an ideal spot for a base of operations. Drop stuff here, or better yet, bring/hack in furniture and containers to keep your stuff sorted. I may do a little of this for laughs. The lobby area's certainly big enough.

Each area is gated off. If you have the appropriate tooth, the gate will open and you can access the serpent gate in the back. I suppose if you're cheating you can just hack-move the door away and go anywhere you want, but there's a certain benefit to not doing so, as it helps you narrow down which teeth you have yet to find.

Since we have four teeth, we can access four areas. I've already noted they're Erstam's Island, Monk Isle, and Moonshade, which leaves a fourth available location not yet named.

So let's go one left and north and try it out!

"It's a bit hot in here."
"That fellow would seem to agree."
"I hope he was someone important enough to have good loot but not important enough to make me care about taking it."


Fire Field is a spell I always had trouble locating. I'm pretty sure somebody sells it in Moonshade, I just never thought to come here from the serpent gate before I had the Chill spell needed to keep cool. Surprisingly enough, you don't seem to get hot in this room, or at least not too much.

Anyway, right now we're in a mysterious underground lava cavern filled with ruins. This is the remains of an Ophidian city, but a locked door north of the gate prevents any exploration. We'll be coming back here though, and fairly soon, but from the other direction. Once we have the key we can use it as a good jumping-off point for the looting exploration of the area it connects with.

It ain't perfect, but it'll do. I can pick Boydon up some magic leggings at Pothos's and pass along the Plate Armor Dupre is no longer using. You might consider not using Boydon for close-up combat though; Magic Axes are easy to get and Magic Bows with Magic Arrows (which are soon to become trivial to produce) do a ton of damage. And being at range would keep him out of trouble. Someone earlier recommended a Juggernaut Hammer (another ranged weapon), which is also a good choice, but we don't have one of those yet.

Returning to the plot, we take the gate to Monk Isle, though I suppose we're not aware it's Monk Isle yet.

"Now we're in somebody's basement. Were the ancients perverts or do the people on this island feel compelled to build right on top of mysterious ruins?"
"Yeah, I know when I'm designing a house I'm always thinking 'man, I should probably shift it a little over to the left to fully cover the sacred indian burial ground.'"
"On the upside, it does allow us to take all their stuff and hide it in a transdimensional space they can't access, giving us plausible deniability."
"Keep that up and you're looking at a promotion, Boydon."
"What, to New Iolo?"
"No, he already outranks you."
"How is that fair?"

Here's a sight that may be familiar to you. Although it wasn't familiar to me at the time, because I haven't died all game. If you do die, you will be resurrected here and Karnax will send you back to wherever you were. That should be the first hint this is Monk Isle.

The second hint is probably all the monks having a dance party outside. Seriously, what are they doing? I assume it's exercises of some sort, but it's really jarring to walk out the doors and see a dozen monks essentially breaking it down on the dance floor.

By the way we're on Monk Isle, if this wasn't pretty much readily apparent here.

I suppose that means we better talk to these dweebs. Or rather, not talk to them, as only five of the monks actually have portraits and dialogue; try to talk to the others and one of the "main" monks will say something like "He cannot speak," "She is deaf," or "He hath taken a vow of silence." Oh monks, you're so clever.

"Oh hey look guys, it's the jerk who tried to blow me up."
"I am Karnax, a Xenkan monk. Please forgive our previous meeting, my child. I have nothing against thee, but I fear that Thoxa's willful interference shall be the undoing of all for which we have prepared."
"You set the entire coast on fire."
"When I came to try to dissuade Thoxa from aiding thee directly it was not an attack against thee."
"Yes, but what Shamino said."
"The prophecies state that those seeking to be thy friends shall bring about the downfall of thy quest. That is not why we have dedicated our lives. I sought to win her away from her foolishness by rational argument. Regrettably, it became a test of magics. As thou canst see, Thoxa and I are both skilled enough that we both yet live."
"How did you manage to pull that off, anyway?"
"Unlike the unenlightened Mages of Moonshade, our powers come not from moldering reagents. The power of a Xenkan monk comes from a connection to the limitless Void that surrounds the universe. The Mages of Moonshade are but mere children playing at the arts they have not the patience to learn. True magic comes after long years of meditation and self-sacrifice."
"Sounds boring to me. I'll stick with a spellbook. But do explain, for reference. I might have time on my hands later."
"Consider the Void to be the frame within which our Cosmos is bound. It is the source of unimagined power... Power that thou mayest draw upon freely, if thou hast forged a gateway into it through long meditation. Unlike the silent novices that thou dost see among us, Thoxa and I have both forged gateways into the power of the Void. By tapping into this stream, any confirmed Xenkan monk can surmount his or her own death. But there are still some things that remain beyond any one monk's power and require the concerted effort of us all."
"Such as?"
"Manipulation of time and space requires more power than one monk can channel. So teleportation and resurrection require that all the monks conjoin their power."

This is why all the monks are in the chapel whenever you die; basically they get together and resurrect you. Presumably when you use the Hourglass of Fate to call a monk, they also come together, pool their powers, and teleport a monk to help resurrect your allies.

"I never got a good answer to this last time. You guys are Xenkan monks, right?"
"And you follow Xenka's teachings."
"So who is Xenka?"
"Xenka was a cross farm-wife who saw her visions as a means to have others do her work for her. Yet despite her human failings, her visions are true... Thou art here, even if she is not."
"Is not?"
"Xenka disappeared quite some time ago. Many think that she will return to deliver the final key to saving our doomed world. I think that her visions had left her and she slunk quietly away to die in obscurity. Xenka was given visions of the ending of our world. However, she was barely literate, and needed others to act as scribes for her convoluted visions. Xenka foresaw that people would turn from their basic goodness until the very land itself would rise up in revolt against their twisted ways."
"Grim tidings, indeed."
"Even now the storms flay the land. Soon the earthquakes will unleash the fire that will engulf the world. Doth natural lightning do aught but kill? Doth normal lightning transport an item thousands of leagues from where once it stood? And the storms are growing more frequent and fierce with each passing day. The land is a living entity, my child. Have no doubt that it will convulse as death draws near, even as a man. And where will we insignificant mortals be once the land which nurtures us heaves its last, explosive breath?"
"This seems really, you know, bad. I'm not sure how anyone is supposed to fix this."
"Those that live within this abbey believe that Xenka's prophecies hold the key to diverting the fiery end that awaits the world. Our numbers have decreased with time, for even Xenkan monks die from age. And few of the youths are willing to serve such a nihilistic prophecy. I do not know if Xenka's visions were full of diverse images or if she couched them in such terms out of peevishness. Whatever the case may be, her prophecies run round the edge of what must be known and it can take years to decipher the meaning of a single vision."
"In other words, you have no idea how I'm supposed to actually save the world yet."

Unfortunately, Karnax is a bit of a cynic and doesn't really have any answers for us. Part of that is just incomplete information; it's impossible to address the problems of the Serpent Isle without understanding the fate and culture of the Ophidians, but their knowledge mostly remains untouched and unknown in their cities and temples in the frozen north. And guess who gets to unravel those mysteries? That's right, Iolo us.

"You seem to have gotten over your little tiff with Thoxa."
"Thoxa is a very bright young woman, who would like to feel that she hath single-handedly saved the world. It doth go against the grain of her youth to sit and wait for each event to come to pass. What is worse though, is that she hath pulled Miggim into her rashness as well."
"Miggim is that guy from the inn we barely met?"
"Miggim is by nature a quiet young man, not given to impetuousness. He is ideally suited to be our librarian. His greatest desire is to be helpful, as well as ordered. In fact, it was he who divined the passage that foretold of thy coming. He hath taken the chaos of our library and turned it into a vastly more organized area. In fact, I believe that we have the most concise collection of Ophidian books and scrolls that still exists. Of course, it helps that we have the Lens of Translating."
"So how much do you know of the Ophidians?"
"The Ophidians are commonly referred to as the Serpent people because of the embossed serpents found within the ruins of their cities. They had a fully-developed civilization here long before our forefathers fled from the invader British. I believe that they destroyed themselves in a bloody civil war."
"How did that happen?"
"I believe that the Ophidian government disintegrated and their society split into two opposing groups. In the end, one faction apparently slaughtered the other. But all traces of the victors disappear soon after the final battle took place. It is a mystery where they went."
"Fair enough. So why wasn't anyone allowed to help me?"
"It was determined by all monks that the time for the Hero from Another World was at hand. It was also decided that we would take no direct action to influence the Hero in any way... Thoxa overstepped her bounds by giving thee the Hourglass of Fate."
"But what made you guys think it was just some asshole off a boat?"
"All references to the one who can alter the course of destiny allude to the Hero from Another World. Art thou from this land, from New Sosaria? Dost thou see? When taken with the other signs, it points to thee as the one who alone can save our land."
"That figures. So do you want the hourglass back, or something?"
"The damage hath been done. It is now thine to keep. It was designed so that we might be able to gauge when certain events were nigh. Perhaps it will serve thee better. I do not know."
"Most likely. Alright then, one final point of order to keep Iolo off my back. Was Gwenno ever here?"
"Gwenno was our last visitor here, my child. After she departed, the storms made travel to our island impossible. I was not able to speak with her as much as I wished. She spent quite a bit of time within our library."

Also, we can start The Silver Seed here. You can do this at any time by dying and letting Karnax resurrect you, but I've waited until now for a variety of reasons.

"Time grows short, my child. I shall aid thee as I can. Lest I forget... We have recently made a discovery which I believe shall aid thee, Steve. While searching for more materials for the library, Miggim discovered an ancient chest in the passages beneath our abbey, near the Serpent gate. Within this chest was a strange amulet and a scrap of decaying scroll. The scroll indicated that this is the Amulet of Balance. It is our thought that this amulet was meant for thee, Avatar. I shall caution thee that we do not know what powers it has, for the scroll disintegrated before Miggim could fully translate it. But I am certain it is connected to the Serpent ruins in some manner. Perhaps if thou dost use it near the Serpent gate thou wilt trigger its power."

We are then given the Amulet of Balance. Basically we need to double-click the amulet while standing on a serpent gate to enter the Silver Seed area. I wanted to avoid doing so because the Silver Seed offers certain spoilers on the Ophidians that are less of a big deal when Karnax has already told us the basic facts of the Ophidian disintegration.

On to the other monks now. It's really annoying picking out the ones who can speak when the monks are doing exercises because they move around and all of them show up as "Monk" until you've actually talked to them.

"So, thou art the one whose arrival we have been awaiting. I am Miggim, the librarian here on Monk Isle."
"You're the guy who found this stupid amulet?"
"It was quite a find, Avatar! I have been uncovering many small things over the years in the passages beneath the abbey. But this is the first time I have found something as large as a chest It was a pity that the scroll that accompanied the Amulet was so fragile. It was one of the oldest I have yet found. All I was able to make out before it disintegrated was the name of the amulet and that it was used near the Serpent gates. Perhaps this means that there is more yet to be discovered. I shall certainly continue my search."
"Sure, sure. Anything else you can help me with?"
"I must be cautious in aiding thee, Steve. But I can say that thou shouldst strive to keep thy three stalwart companions at thy side."
"And Boydon."
"He isn't part of the prophecies."
"Yeah well he's gonna be. So what is it you spend most of your time doing?"
"'Tis my duty to transcribe and care for the prophecies of Xenka. It was I that found the passages that told of thy coming. She was a very wise woman, Steve. She foretold the storms that brought thee to our land, and saw the end of the world. Those who believed in her visions banded together to study her words so that we might help avert the fate she foresaw."
"Karnax said the world was going to end."
"Within Xenka's holy writings is the passage -- 'When at last the great scales unhinge, the overburdened world shall be torn asunder by the opposing forces.'"
"'Great scales?'"
"It could mean anything, Avatar. Music scales, map scales, snake scales, or weight scales..."
"And opposing forces?"
"I know not... Though I would hazard a guess that it refers to the forces of good and evil. Alas, Xenka's writings follow no order and are convoluted and vague. We have spent the years since her disappearance trying to decide if some passage hath already happened or if one event will follow another."
"Xenka was not a young woman, Steve. After she disappeared from our midst, we found a freshly-inked passage that promised her return when the end was near. I always thought that she had discovered some way to ensure that she would live to see her prophecies revealed. Though I know not how."
"And you guys think I'm the key."
"Yes, Steve, 'tis written that a hero from another world will come to right the disorder in our land. That is thee... 'Tis also written that treachery will stalk thy steps at the beginning of thy quest. That is why I am here... Not all of Xenka's followers believe that we should take direct action in aiding thee. However, Thoxa and I disagree."

And speaking of which, Thoxa's also here, and none the worse for wear after her little battle with Karnax at the beginning of the game.

"Welcome to Monk Isle, Avatar. Thou mayest tarry with us for as long as thou dost wish, but remember... The Sands of Time wait for no one, not even thee. Whilst thou art here, thou wilt learn that the life of a monk is governed by the bells. Not all of our membership may speak to thee, the novices are bound by a vow of silence to help them better contemplate the mysteries."
"The sands of time being..."
"Within the Hourglass of Fate lie the Sands of Time. As each grain doth fall, so doth another moment hasten us to our doom. If thou dost fail in thy quest, our world will end... ripped apart by the storms and earthquakes that doth now plague it."

I'd make a Prince of Persia joke, but this game precedes it by half a decade.

"So your monks use the bells to do... monk stuff. Sounds pretty ordinary."
"The bells toll, though no one rings them. And it is said that when all the bells toll it will signal Xenka's return. Until then, they signal the order of our daily life. From Chapel to field, from field to the library, and so on. The Chapel is where we go to meditate. It is also where all the monks gather to perform resurrections. The book of Xenka's prophecies rests on the altar for all to see. Since we are so secluded from the rest of the land, we grow our own food. And as food concerns us all, we all share the tasks of tending to the garden and orchard. Thou art welcome to take what thou dost need from our fields. We would gladly share with thee the bounty of the land that thou art striving to save. Over the years we have gathered many books and scrolls that we thought would help us give light to the meaning within Xenka's prophecies. Only recently hath Miggim undertaken the task of trying to set the library to rights. It is he that helps any visitors that come to us seeking information."

Since it's been mentioned, what exactly are Xenka's prophecies? Well, the book on the altar's got 'em. Might as well post it:

by Xenka

When a stranger sojourns with thee in thy land, thou shalt not do him or her wrong. The stranger who sojourns with thee shall be to thee as the native among ye. And thou shalt love him or her as thyself; for I see the advent of a Hero From Another World who would unite the Serpents and save the world.

I see the rocks in motion, and trees bursting open -- I see treasures which have lain hidden for centuries coming forth. There I see one which is of three. It is black. It is magic.

Clearly do I see a Hero From Another World, but let it be said that she is not alone. She must not advance as one alone! I pray thee above all things to have this in remembrance. She must be accompanied by The Three.

The Hero From Another World will succeed through the use of powerful magic, the aid of specters, and the implements three of the Hierophant.

My words shed light upon darkness. Follow the unfolding of my words and thou wilt see that the friends of the Hero shall be her enemies. Visions shall make her wiser than her enemies, for thus is it always with her.

The Hero From Another World must triumph even in her Dreams.

The dead shall aid her, but enemies among the living shall abound. A careful choice of ally is necessary to ensure success. The Hero From Another World will even need a thief and a braggart as her ally.

I see the future as through a veil -- she shall be allied with those once her enemies, and shall find good men in bad company. I see the color red, and a woman is involved.

"Well that's clear as mud."
"Xenka's prophecies are very unclear, my child. Lacking Xenka's heavenly insight, we must struggle to wrest the meaning from each passage. Some devote their entire lives to finding the meaning of only a handful of passages."

Two more monks, rather more eccentric than the ones already met.

"Excuse me..."
"Yes, my child? I am but a humble monk. I can be of no help to thee in any way, I fear."
"So what's your name?"
"I no longer believe in names. Doth the corn in the field have a name? Canst thou hear the cry of the corn?"
"Steve, this monk is a mystical man indeed..."
"No, this man is an idiot."
"There are unseen energies which permeate the worlds. A monk within the Order of Xenka seeks to attune himself with these ethereal vapors. In mine own case -- I being but the least of these, my brethren -- I can draw upon the Power of the Void to foster the growth of plants."
"That's still kind of useful."
"Perhaps. But Xenka was the greatest of us all. It was she who mastered the Energies of the Void, until at last she was no longer of this world. Xenka is our exemplar -- we all would harness the Powers as she did. I am unable to speak further -- I am incapable of expressing all that Xenka is and was. Thou shouldst speak to Monk Draxta, if thou desirest to perceive the mystery of Xenka."
"You're a plant guy. Any idea where we can get mandrake roots around here?"
"Thou art not the first to come to this isle in search of the Mandrakes, for the plant is the source of powerful magic. There is a supply of roots in mine hut, if thou needest any. Please take all that thou needest, for Mandrakes grow only in the swamps, and are exceedingly rare elsewhere."
"That's the thing, we kinda need them fresh."
"The Mandrakes are only found in the swamplands, and only when the salt tides are right. I have only dried roots in my supply -- if thou desirest fresh roots, thou must go into the swamp when the tides are right."
"When are the tides in?"
"The Mandrake Roots only appear when the tides are right -- otherwise, they lay beneath the mud and cannot be seen. Now is not the time, but the tides will soon be in -- precisely when, I cannot predict. I could tell thee when the tides were right, if thou dost ask later."

Will do. One last monk left.

Also, does anybody actually know that monk's name? I looked and couldn't find it.

"I tremble before the Hero from Another World! Thou art even as Xenka said!"
"I suppose trembling is about right for Steve, though."
"Who are you?"
"My name is insignificant, oh great one. I am but a shadow in thy destiny and the glory of Xenka."
"Another 'mystic'..."
"But, if thou wilt suffer to call me by name, I am Draxta."
"We've heard you know a lot about Xenka."
"Oh yes! Xenka saw the destinies of every man, woman and child! They are written in her blessed book. I cannot tell thee thy destiny, for I am sworn not to interfere, but thou mayest look within Xenka's wisdom of thine own accord, as any may."
"Why can't you interfere?"
"It is written that 'The friends of the Hero from Another World shall become her enemies.' I shall not seek to befriend thee, as I have no wish to bring about the end of the world!"
"So why am I the hero, and not anyone else?"
"Xenka saw that the one hope for our world was that A Hero from Another World would sail a ship upon dry land. Thoxa hath told us that thy ship was found beyond the shore. And thou wert accompanied by three fine companions, as foretold."
"Xenka was a very wise woman, oh great one. Divine visions came to her to warn us of the end of our world. It was she who foresaw thy coming in the Place of Visions. Though she never told us that she foresaw leaving us..."
"What is the Place of Visions?"
"The Place of Visions is upon the very north-western edge of the fields, oh great one. Thou wilt know it by the benches placed before the great wall. I recall the last night we ever saw Xenka... I was there for her last three visions. Wouldst thou like me to show thee a vision?"
"Maybe later."
"As thou wishest. But bear in mind that the visions may be of aid to thee."
"What were her last three visions?"
"From the first vision Xenka said, 'The Hero from Another World must triumph -- even in her dreams.' I can tell that thou shalt succeed. The very voice of the universe sings as thou dost move through it. After the second vision Xenka said, 'The Hero from Another World must cast aside her prejudice and follow those of The Fellowship into the Truth of Beauty. Following the third vision Xenka said, 'The Hero from Another World shall need a thief and a braggart as her ally.' I must admit, I find that hard to believe."
"And then she left."
"It was a dreadful blow, oh great one, when we could not find her in any place we searched. But I believe that some great event, some great crisis will bring forth the prophetess and her psychic wisdom to save this floundering world."

So Xenka was around, and rather recently, but she's since disappeared. Karnax thinks she's dead, but the other monks believe she has gone somewhere and will return at the right time. I'm sure we'll never see anything come of that, right?

The salt tides mostly come in at night, so sleeping until 3-5 AM should do it. For some reason the monks were still partying at 3am, I guess they're just animals like that.

The swamps here are a poor source of Mandrake Roots, because you have to really poke around to find even one. You're better off just waiting and leaving here after you've got your three.

And once you do, you don't have much else to do on Monk Isle for the moment, so head back to the serpent gate and take the fourth entry to Moonshade.

"Hey Fedabibliramalamadingdong, we got the mandrake roots!"
"It is four in the morning, you know."
"You wanted them fresh."
"Well, not that fresh."
"I'll go away if you give me a spellbook."

Awww yeah, it's good to be back in the saddle. Now we'll just check our...

Oh come on. This book's a complete piece of crap. We have a grand total of five spells and almost all of them suck. But we have Transcribe, and that's all that matters.

Remember how I've been hoarding spell scrolls from the very beginning? Yeah, now we're going to Transcribe them all.

About thirty scrolls later (we had to stop by Pothos's to get some more black pearls, and some of the scrolls were redundant), and our spellbook is looking a lot better. We've got utility spells, decent attack stuff, and the most important spell in the game for financial gain. And this is before buying spells from the mages of Moonshade, which we'll do next time. Now that we have a spellbook, the mages are actually willing to give us some of their time - and more critically, accept money in exchange for spells. We won't fill the book by any means, but we should be able to make it even better off than it is right now.