Part 32: SILVER SEED - The Fiend & The Silver Seed
The Fiend & The Silver Seed
There are only three of those kooky witches, so no one comes to greet us outside the tunnels leading to the Fiend. The only welcoming party is a bunch of lamias.
"Times like this, I start to wonder if we're really the A-Team."
"Wow, this place has a lot of traps."
"Yes. That one might have been dangerous if it had actually fired in enough time to hit us."
"Ah, Headless, the only monsters so lame as to make goblins look frightening."
Despite the proponderance of corpses in this area, almost none are carrying anything. Kind of disappointing, but I guess there's not a lot they could put on there but gold coins and crappy armor.
The main problem with the traps here is not so much keeping the Avatar safe as keeping your dumb friends from bumbling into the buzzsaws while locked into formation.
Or running from explosions. They're not very good at that either.
Anyhow, I've got plenty of reagents to cast Restoration. And by the end of this update, I won't need any reagents at all.
Deep in the cave system, bodies litter a ramshackle laboratory. Only one man is alive in here, and he's not exactly the most sensible out there.
"Welcome, Simpleton. Do not expect to stay long, for I am getting rather hungry and it has been months since I have eaten the flesh of a human."
"That is just terrific. And who are you again, you charming specimen of man?"
"I am the manifestation of the horrific images of thine mind's darkest recesses! Ha! I am Chaos Unrestrained! Those cowards in the keep call me the Fiend!"
"Unrestrained? We had to break through locks and traps just to get here!"
"Fool! Dost thou think those flimsy doors are my prison? That the meager traps and inconsequential guards hold me here? Nonsense!"
"Then why stay?"
"The ring! I am a prisoner of my former self, for without the ring I cannot right the world!"
"What former self?"
"Master of reagents! Wizard beyond compare! I do not expect thee to comprehend, simpleton! The Ring! Creator of the Ring! Thou must know of the Ring of Shal. Even the King of Fools knows of its powers. Any idiot can see what importance it bears to my ambitions."
"What manner of ambitions?"
"Order is folly! The world has blinded itself to this truth, and I shall force them to see! I shall bring death to the hierophants to bring Chaos and freedom. No longer shall men weaken themselves with reason! I shall liberate the entire world! I shall save the world. I shall take away its order as it was taken from me. Thus shall I show the world the truth."
"So what's so great about your ring that you can't do it without that?"
"Fool! Ignoramus! I should slay you and add your bones to my collection! Thou knowest well the powers of the ring! If I had the reagents to spare I would strike thee down with a spell most dire! If I had the ring... With it on my finger, I need never use reagents, for it simulates their magical properties! That is why I created the ring! That is why I pledged myself to Chaos!"
"You made the ring? Then-"
"Yes, you fool. I was Shal. But Shal had not the knowledge to create his life's goal, so he called upon greater powers than he to complete his work. The Chaos Serpent granted him that power, but there was a price. Yes! Greater powers! He called to the Serpents of Order and Chaos. He spoke with Demons. Only the Chaos Serpent would hear him! And the price? He was shown the error of his ways! It was a gift! He was granted a year's time to complete his work, at which time he would be changed... into me. Bless the Chaos Serpent for his Wisdom!"
"So you... uh, Shal, used to serve Order?"
"My dear moron, Shal was shown the wisdom of Chaos! All traces of Order were removed from him; he became a paragon of Chaos. There were some Chaotics who said my words were those of a fanatic; that I am too extreme. Ha! They are all dead now. That skeleton in the corner was Selioas; near you, Ajalsarthis. They now face the Chaos Serpent's wrath for defying me."
Note that Shal/The Fiend is not the typical follower of Chaos. This is important, because we get only a few examples of what Chaos's followers were actually like. Most of the aspects of Chaos we find are shattered, fragmented, and twisted; this fits in with the history of the Serpent Isle.
Why? Well, it's probably obvious by now: Chaos didn't have a chance. They're going to lose the war, and lose it bad. And once Order has won, Chaos is going to be broken. The resulting imbalance, well... is it any wonder the Imbalance spell causes teleport storms?
"The Chaos Serpent was far too generous in granting him a full year. Had it granted him but a month, I would already have saved the world! For Shal had time to hide the ring from me. He did give the ring to an animated suit of armor, with the orders to hide and guard it, even from himself. I have not yet been able to recover it."
"What are those walking armors?"
"The predecessors to automatons. They cannot speak and can barely follow orders. They make idiots like thyself seem intelligent."
"I would not be surprised if the suit of armor forgot entirely about it. The accursed thing may have noticed it days later and thought it was a rock! It could be in a pile of rubble! It might still have the ring in its hand! Curse this world!"
"Well, that sucks I guess. So long!"
"My only thought thus far has been to see thine bones scattered across my floor, but you might yet be of use to me. I shall let thee live if thou dost retrieve the ring and bring it to me. Dost thou agree?"
"One question first. Have you seen a magic orb around here?"
"I do not possess this orb, moron, nor have I any desire to. I do, however, recall an entertaining diversion perhaps one year ago. A crazed soldier of Chaos stole it and brought it into my domain. I assume he had been discovered and, rather than face the persuasive initiates of Discipline, sought asylum in my domain. He fell victim to one of my more flamboyant traps. I'm sure he still has the orb on his charred body!"
"Alright, well, I'm gonna go find your awesome ring and then keep it for myself. You want to get this whole charade out of the way and attack me now so I don't have to bother coming back here?"
"Fool! Simpleton! Idiot! Thou hast condemned thyself to death!"
"Thanks for being so understanding."
Shal has a ton of hit points and armor (though Lord knows where it's all coming from), but his explosions are not a big deal unless you have a bunch of melee characters.
"I'm glad that's over."
"He died as he lived. Well, he died a corpse, and he presumably wasn't one of those while he was alive. So I guess he didn't die as he lived after all."
"Was there a point to that statement?"
Let's find that damn ring and orb. First step is to go all the way back from Shal's lab to the stairs we came down from. Now we go slightly east...
...and walk through an illusionary wall. Mercifully, unlike in Aram Dol's Lair, the walls that are illusionary in this dungeon are obvious, because they're much narrower than the other walls.
That corpse has a book on his body:
~~Diary of Diabolical Traps~~
I, Seliashor, am accompanying a score of soldiers and scholars ordered to retrieve the Golden Orb. I was chosen for my knowledge of traps; a specialty particularly suited for a journey into unknown lands controlled by a mind such as the Fiend's.
First Level -- The first trap! A soldier, wandering into an alcove, found himself separated from his command by poison fields! I had the good fortune to be looking his way when he triggered the trap; it is obviously of magical nature. If this is all we will face, the ring will surely be ours.
Second Level -- The Fiend has raised the stakes! We discovered a large cavern, in which were numerous statues of harpies and decorative suits of armor. We had immediately deduced that these were traps and would smite us if we stepped too near, but the real trap was more cleverly hidden! Caltrops, painted to match the color of the floor, drew a great deal of blood from the soldiers as they gingerly avoided the obvious statue traps. Clever.
Second Level -- We have discovered the next trap. A small number of chests, clustered together, proved to be explosive if tampered with. Amateurish -- I spotted the trap before any of the foolish soldiers could tamper with it.
Third Level -- Three soldiers entered a completely barren cavern and triggered a truly fiendish trap. When they reached the center of the room, we heard the sound of a bell. Nervous seconds passed. Just when we relaxed, a spell of terrifyingly destructive nature went off. The soldiers were consumed in flames which appeared from empty air, disappeared, and reappeared in other locations. Had they fled from the room, they would have lived. There was a body in there, and my mind's eye can still see the light cast from our torches glinting of a golden object in its hands. If it was the orb, it is lost, for not one of our number dares to face the flames. I think it was naught but a gold statue or somesuch; more accurately, I hope it was.
Third Level -- We sent another soldier to his death. He was sent into the narrow mouth of a cavern. I knew he would not return. When he entered the cavern, an energy field appeared in the narrow opening! Neither I nor our wizard had Dispel Field in our spellbooks; he was left to die. He was one of the last soldiers alive; our prospects for survival are grim.
Poor guy. He almost got out. All of the traps mentioned exist, and most can be avoided by paying attention to the things in the book.
There's a lot of combat in this place, but the traps are far, far more deadly than any of the monsters. Nothing is really even comparable to Arachnians, who weren't that bad to begin with. Erinon's Axe cuts them up nicely.
"Ooh, a coin! And another!"
"We have hundreds of coins. Thousands of coins. I should know, you're making me carry them. There's nothing we could possibly want to purchase anyway."
"Also, this is an obvious trap."
"Good points all around, but this is obviously a case of reverse psychology. Shal thinks we're too clever to fall for an obvious trap that only a moron would bumble into. Well, I'm calling his bluff."
"Alright so it wasn't a bluff. Watch your step."
We need to brave the trap though, because the orb is on the corpse in the bottom of the room. Plus a Magic Helmet, Magic Bow, and some Magic Arrows. Not bad, not bad at all.
Well, we can finish The Silver Seed now, but of course before we do that, we need to find that damn ring. We really need to find that damn ring.
So we'll have to track down some more secret walls. There's a very thin wall at the back of this chamber, if you can dodge the traps.
It's very difficult to do this while keeping your idiot friends out of the way as well.
"Hmmm, these living armors sure are a pain."
"Steve, didn't the Fiend mention his former self gave the ring to a living armor for safekeeping?"
"Did he say that? I was mostly tense with anticipation for his inevitable attack on us."
Through one final secret wall, and...
A broken, battered suit of armor that has long since fallen apart. The other ones are alive and respawn, but this one has been dead ever since we first arrived. Could it be the one? Is the Ring of Shal nearby? Can you spot it?
No? Look close...
It's that tiny, tiny greenish speck in the rubble pile. The Fiend's hint was quite useful.
And there you have it: Shal's Ring of Reagents. The most powerful artifact in the entire Ultima series. The item I've been waiting to get my hands on since Ultima goddamn IV. Why?
Well, as the name suggests, infinite reagents. With the Ring, your spellcasting ability is limited solely by your mana reserves. Any spell, no matter how obscure or expensive the reagent, can be cast as often as you want. Serpent Scales? Not a problem now. Worm Hearts? No big. Bloodspawn? Why collect a bunch of stoneheart and mix it with human blood when you can just cast all the Mind Blasts and Mass Deaths you want? To say nothing of buffing and healing the party, creating and enchanting ammunition (for free!), and duping money. If this had been in Ultima Online, you'd have been lucky to hold onto it for a second and a half before eighteen people jumped you. This ring is the destroyer of worlds.
"And it's mine, all mine! Muahahahahahah!"
"Well, now we're all really screwed."
"It was nice while she wasn't casting every magic spell in existence at everyone she could find, but let's be honest with ourselves, this was inevitable."
"You guys are looking at this the wrong way. We're on her side. What's the worst that can happen?"
"Don't answer that."
Surok knows the score:
"Thou didst take great risk in acquiring this ring, Steve. 'Tis Shal's ring itself. I would wager that thou fought many foul creatures in the Fiend's Lair... but dost thou know the true power of this ring? 'Twill allow thee to cast spells without reagents! Thou hast perhaps one of the most potent artifacts ever made!"
He isn't kidding. But I'm sure you've come to appreciate it by now. If not, you will by the end of this update.
Now, we can finally head down into the secret vault beneath Serpent's Fang.
The Silver Seed is not far from our acquisition, but the door is locked up tight. The orbs can unseal it...
...you just have to get them on the right pedestals. When you have it in the right place, the orb will burn out. The good news is there's no penalty for getting it wrong, so just keep shuffling them around. After that, we can just grab the Silver Seed without a hitch.
"Not so fast, deary! Ye don't think that ye kin just dance outta here with that little seed so easy, now do ye?"
"Wait, are you guys evil? I mean I kind of guessed, but this just makes trying to help me even less comprehensible."
"And who will stop us, hag?"
"Hag, now is it?! Well, we shall see about that, deary!"
"I don't know about thee, Drusilla, but I think that lout would do well as a candlestick. What thinkest thou?"
"With such a bright wit, I think it would be fitting indeed!"
"Bright wit?! I would have said half-wit, trying to keep this flawed world alive! One would think that a pawn of prophecy would be... I don't know, more intelligent!"
"Oh, don't be so hard on them! It's not Steve's fault that she doesn't have the wisdom of the Guardian to guide her... Besides, I think she is rather cute..."
"Hsssst! Solaria! Thou shouldst not speak of the Guide to outsiders! Now thou hast sealed her fate! Wilt thou never learn to think beyond thy bed?!"
"Okay so you guys served the Guardian a bazillion years ago, suggesting he's been somehow meddling in the affairs of Serpent Isle for ages. Maybe he's the one who killed the Hierophant of Balance or something, that might help make sense of the plot. Gotcha. Now you're going to attack us despite having not even the slightest chance and no weapons to speak of."
"Blast! The Amulet seems to be protecting her! This shall not be as easy as we were led to believe!"
"Then we shall have to work together..."
"The Guide shall make our aim true! The Guide shall lead the way to our truly perfect world!"
"Let us be done with this! Once this pathetic pawn is dead we can cross into the new world, and let this decaying husk die as it was meant to!"
"Alright so, let me get this straight. They're servants of the Guardian and have been trying to get us killed, or something, just not very effectively."
"And then they attacked us for no good reason, summoning some ghosts to even the odds."
"So Steve cast Vibrate on all three of them, making them drop the keys without killing them, then cast Mass Sleep to put everyone to sleep while she collects the keys."
"That's what it looks like."
"Okay, so I get all that, but how did you put ghosts to sleep?"
"When you've got a Ring of Reagents, ain't nothing's a thang."
And so we take the Silver Seed up some stairs behind its chamber. Before we do that, though, we can go hang out with the Serpent Fang crew, who finally give us some respect.
"It took a mighty warrior to retrieve those Orbs, Steve. Thou art truly worthy of carrying the Silver Seed. Plant it quickly. It may be the only hope our battered world has of surviving this war."
And that asshole robot?
"I am now convinced that thou art the Champion of Balance, Steve. I apologize for doubting thee. Now that thou hast the Silver Seed, thou shouldst plant it. Our only hope is that the Tree of Balance will heal the land. Please, I humbly ask that thee to plant it soon. Although it is too late to stop the war, perhaps the Tree of Balance will speed the healing of the land's wounds after this grim business is done."
Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say. Anyway, back to the ascent.
"Does it suddenly feel less past-y to anyone else?"
"Yeah, I'm kind of getting a 'present' vibe from this area."
At some point during the climb, you leave the past and return to the present. I think. The game doesn't really explain it, but it's the only explanation that makes sense since...
...as soon as you emerge from the cave into the quiet valley...
...Karnax shows up.
"Well done, my child! Thou hast found the Silver Seed! Now all that remains is for thee to plant it here in this hallowed glade. Xenka's prophecies spoke of the Hero restoring the Tree of Balance. But even Xenka herself could not say where the seed of such a tree could be found. When the Forest Master first entered our world we thought that perhaps he was to be the Hero from Another World. But we learned that the seed he possessed had been warped by his passage through the Void. It will never grow... Until Miggim found the Amulet of Balance, we had not even considered that the Ophidians knew anything of the Tree of Balance. Plant it here in this dark patch of rich ground in front of the waterfall, my child. It looks just large enough for the seed, as if it were the seed's very own cradle. The water here will nourish it well."
"Who the hell died and made you in charge of this expansion, Karnax?"
Well, we ought to do it anyway. Just drop it on this little hole...
And there it goes!
"Do all trees do that when you plant them? Because that is totally cool."
"Wait, that's even cooler. I am so becoming an environmentalist next time I wind up stranded on Earth."
"I don't think-"
"Just let her dream."
"I am honored to have been present for such a miracle! Even I had not expected anything this momentous. With the Tree of Balance firmly rooted in this hallowed glade, thy task of restoring Balance to the world will be much easier, my child. Now, it is time that you return to thy quest."
Big Spoilers Ahead: If you wait to do The Silver Seed until the "Wall of Lights" event later in the game (you'll know which one I'm talking about, and if you don't, do not read the following dialogue), Karnax says something slightly different about the properties of the tree:
"Now that the Tree of Balance thrives in this hallowed glade, it's strong roots shall begin healing the wrents in our land. Once thou hast restored Balance to our world, who knows what miracles may occur? I have even heard it said that the souls of the dead shall be returned to life once Balance is restored. Only time shall tell. But now, my child, it is time that I return thee to thy quest."
"So can you teleport us back t-"
"Did he... did he just ditch us?"
"I think so."
"I hate when people do that."
"Screw it then, let's go back to Moonshade and abuse my new power."
Vibrate is such a fantastic spell. Cast on someone, it causes them to drop their inventory. It can even make them drop items which are flagged not to appear on an NPC's corpse.
For instance, I just made Elissa shit lightning bolts.
Isstanar can be forced to drop his pants in the middle of the dining hall.
Surok just got his pocket picked. Literally, I stole his pocket.
Fedabiblio is carrying several useful spells, including that weird orange-brown one that seems to have no name. Plus plenty of reagents, not that we need those now.
This letter in Gustacio's backpack isn't supposed to appear until much later in the game when we get it from him. It's a letter from Melino, talking about the Black Sword, and if you were to actually see what's under the black parts (or the second page) you'd be somewhat spoiled on things. I took the liberty of pruning spoiler stuff. I guess I shouldn't have included this at all, but it's not as funny if I'm not breaking the plot.
Melino himself's got some stuff. Lightning and Paralyze.
Topo is made to drop his belt and shoes, but mercifully not his pants.
Filbercio loves it when we Vibrate him. Note he's in possession of the supposedly illegal Bloodspawn. Oh Filbercio, you're a real card.
Most amusingly, perhaps, we can swipe this key from Captain Hawk, which opens the chest in his bedroom.
Inside is a treasure map and a letter.
The map is self-explanatory, as long as we know where the first landmark is.
Fortunately, Hawk's letter tells us:
Me Map, but I don't need to say that, because if it's anybody but me what's looking at this, I don't want to tell where me treasure is, so read no further, ye dog, lest I leave yer fate to the briny deep! This is dead-reckoning right, but I'm awfully drunk and mebbe I'm holdin' this thing upside-down.
33 Paces past the rock, excludin' that break I took fer drinkin'.
11 Paces east of the whatever that blasted thing is.
30 Paces, I think, because I was staggerin' about a bit and I stumbled and lost me count a couple o' times, past whatever me stinkin' map says is supposed to be there; I was sober when I drew that beauty. Unless this is me what's readin' this, I hope the treasure's already gone, ye thief!
The first landmark, per the coordinates, is here near the Knight's Test (yes, I know I'm supposed to be in Moonshade right now).
You don't really need to know how many paces to walk, as the landmarks...
...are pretty obvious.
In the tree stump is Captain Hawk's treasure: A small handful of coins and an old crown. The crown is necessary to complete the game, but isn't very useful otherwise (its armor value is quite low).
Don't forget about it though. It's easy to overlook Captain Hawk after the midway point of the game.
Julia's got a Magic Sword, and the Rangers have a bunch of arrows. It's a little penny-pinching to get arrows this way, but what the hell, it isn't like I'm paying for reagents!
Mortegro's backpack has a real treasure: A Death Bolt, which allows for repeated and infinite castings of the spell. Sweet.
Using the Death Bolt, I find myself getting into a bit of trouble. Now normally all these rangers would be dead by now, but my party is attacking the one immortal NPC in Moonshade. The one NPC who cannot, under any circumstances it seems, be harmed.
Ale the fucking parrot. Why would he even go aggressive on me?
Not quite. Going through the Serpent Gates warps time away during the voyage, as we'll soon see evidence of when Gorlab is visited.
So Guardian could've been created in Britannia while Erstam and crew were on STILL on their exodus.
And Nakar, I am certain there is a locked door in the basement of the Keep that leads into the tunnels. I distinctly remember it. I'm looking for a map now.
I'm looking too. I know there's a deep basement part. I thought there was some kinda secret passage in the very bottom, but I haven't been able to find it.
EDIT: Bingo! I wonder where I found the key though.