Part 34: MOONSHADE - The Only Useful Character From The Black Gate Returns
The Only Useful Character From The Black Gate Returns
Robo-Iolo unfortunately, well, sucks. His Strength is okay but his Combat score is very low and while he can gain experience, I think if he dies (and he will) he loses it all getting remade. Even if an automaton could level up, I'm not sure if they can train (although they ought to gain training points and so I guess they can). But those stats may also vanish when he dies. Automatons are mostly good as fodder and pack mules, but hey, Create Automaton is far cheaper than Resurrect, so who cares?
I have ordered him to defend me because the last thing I really want is him running off and getting exploded, but since the combat directives are more of a suggestion, he'll generally do that anyway. Admittedly, it would help had I put the protect halo on the Avatar rather than ordering the Automaton to protect itself, but I misclicked and only noticed later.
"Alright. This is an Ultima game, and we're in a prison, so the obvious next step would be to find the correct switch and flip it to escape. Now if I were a switch, I'd probably be behind a bucket, but there are an awful lot of buckets in this place, so it may take a while."
"Hello cellmates! I'm Steve and I'm sure we're going to get along just swell!"
"Aww hell. This is exactly like that show I saw once."
"Master, you appear to be under attack. Shall I engage?"
"Duly noted Robo-Iolo, proceed with the shanking."
"These motivational posters really don't inspire a lot of confidence in the judicial system."
"Additionally, it would appear that escape is in fact possible."
"Master, I believe that the sign is intentionally placed there to induce despair."
"Yes master, I do."
"...you're supposed to say something flustered and angry and get all defensive."
"I will keep that in mind for the future, master."
"This is just weird."
This is just for posterity. I want you to note the day and time.
Oh, and we've apparently been in Serpent Isle for less than two weeks, and we've already pretty much screwed up all three cities. Tee-hee.
Despite having the spellbook and ring of reagents available, Freedom is still probably one of the hardest dungeons in the game. Everything is quite aggressive, your Automaton rarely lasts long, and you're sorely underequipped. Mass Death fixes most of these problems, but the things you're asked to fight with the equipment you have is certainly anything but easy work.
"You don't seem very upset about being broken."
"I have no such recollection, master."
"I never thought I'd actually miss the real Iolo."
"A pair of bloody footprints cease at the wall, master. I surmise that a secret passage may lie beyond."
"It's also possible that a man loaded with dozens of powder kegs accidentally ran into a wall at full speed and exploded, thus scattering his remains elsewhere in the tunnels without the need for further footprints."
"Such a scenario is highly improbable, master."
"You'd understand... if you were Iolo."
"My hypothesis appears to have been the correct one, master."
"Okay, but don't let it get to your head!"
"Of course, master, I did not intend to denigrate your superior position."
"If I tilt my head and squint really hard at something in the distance, I can almost make out the glimmerings of condescending sarcasm I feed on to survive."
"Very good, master."
"Shut up, Robo-Iolo."
"Look out for that poison field!"
"As you are surely aware, master, I do not breathe and am incapable of actually becoming poisoned."
"Just play along, okay?"
"Master, an escape from prison is no laughing matter!"
"That's what you think."
The mages of Freedom are quite protective of their Bloodspawn stashes. Perhaps if they actually carried the Bloodspawn and used it to cast death spells, they'd be able to prevent being killed and having their stashes looted.
Not that we need any reagents. If you hadn't brought the ring though, you'd need to basically ration your spellcasting based on the reagents you find. In that sense, the Mountains of Freedom may well be one of Ultima's hardest dungeons. My Avatar has maxed-out stats and great spellcasting and it's still quite a struggle.
This is also why you get things like spiders running rampant with spider silk there. In all fairness, the whole "go where the reagent would actually be to find some of it free!" thing from Ultima VI on is kind of a flop. You rarely find places where they actually thought to include reagents, and even when you do, it's almost never enough to cast any appreciable number of spells. You always wind up just buying them.
The teleporter to the next area is one-way, but there's really nothing you could miss in Freedom that you'd be sad to have left behind later, unless it's one of the items you came in with. This would probably not be the best place to drop the ring of reagents, for instance.
"I'm not sure what you're doing in here, but my gut is that this isn't consentual."
"On the other hand, it's entirely possible we just wandered into Second Life."
Defeating the wizard causes the bear he turned into to fall off his body and turn into a rug, which is a pretty cool effect except it's Ultima VII's engine so it doesn't really look like anything. A couple pikemen then show up to distract us as the mage runs off. We'll see him again.
"I have dispatched the attackers, master."
"Awww man, now how are we going to sell them for cigarettes?"
I think this is the first spot where you can get a good amount of garlic/ginseng, which is needed for healing spells, if you lack the ring.
"Hey look, a pretty guy! I bet he's worth a whole pack!"
"He does not appear to be hostile, master."
"He's got his sword drawn!"
"I'm sure that he does not mean it."
"Felicitations, madam. I am Stefano, late of Moonshade, and obtainer of rarities... I was unjustly imprisoned here! I'll freely admit that I am no fighter... But I have a quick wit and information that should help us pass out of this foul place. Perhaps if we join together, we have some small chance of escape."
"Stefano, huh? I'm Steve. You're the first person who has suggested actually banding together to bust ourselves out of here and give Filbercio what for, so I'm inclined to give you a few minutes' dialogue before I gut you like a fish."
"Is she serious?"
"Although I am not certain, sir, my assumption at this time is that she is."
"I've actually been in your house before. It's kinda nice. Are you a mage?"
"What, me? No, I'm no mage... Though they tell me that I have a bit of the ability. But what good is that when the entire city is ruled by Adepts? No, no, 'tis not for me! Give me a good challenging search any day! The harder something is to find, the better I like it. I do sometimes carry a spell scroll or two... May as well make use of any edge I can acquire. In fact, if we escape, I suggest that thou shouldst acquire as many spell scrolls as thou canst -- they come in very handy!"
"I've got a better place for them, but it's pretty sound advice all the same. So you're not really in with the big boys in town, I take it. What are you in for?"
"Ah, now that is a tale! Filbercio promised me a small but substantial fortune if I could procure a certain pair of moonsilk stockings. It seems that he was eager to enjoy the pleasures of one of the female Mages, and felt that these stockings would provide leverage for his arguments -- if thou dost see where I am reaching... So I stole -- er, acquired -- the stockings for him. But then the lightning stole them from me. Filbercio accused me of swindling him, and tossed me in Dungeon Freedom! If Moonshade weren't ruled by the Adepts, canst thou imagine what it would be like trying to govern all those powerful mages? With all their fragile egos? -- LARGE, fragile egos. If there's one central problem with the Adepts, 'tis that they have no regard for those with little or no magic. However, in some ways, that makes my life easier."
"Yeah, they have kind of been jackasses so far. Case in point, where we both are at the moment."
"Thou dost not know the half of it! One time I was passing time at the Blue Boar while Frigidazzi was there. Rotoluncia entered and rather pointedly remarked that Frigidazzi was looking excessively rumpled that day. And suddenly they were at each other... Of course, they were pretty much evenly matched. Until Celennia showed up that is. But 'tis that I refer to... Fragile egos and hot tempers, and magic to top it. Not a safe combination."
"Filbercio thinks Frigidazzi and I are pretty close, I think."
"Thou knowest the kind of beauty that artisans create? 'Tis like unto Frigidazzi -- like a cold marble carving. Oh, I'll grant that there's a hot predator under that shroud of ice, but few have seen it."
"And those that have can't unsee it."
"Like the cold spells she excels in, Frigidazzi certainly knows how to lower the temperature in a room... 'Tis a wonder that Filbercio hath not died of frostbite by now! I cannot discern if he's a brave man... or merely stupid!"
"Well, at least we don't have Rotoluncia to deal with anymore, since I kind of blew her up."
"Dead, is she? At thine hand? I'm impressed at thy skills, Steve! Most could not have killed the Red Witch."
"Well, in the end, only one could really kill her. So who the hell is Celennia?"
"I would rather face the ire of Frigidazzi AND Rotoluncia than that of Celennia! She's worse than a cat, Steve! She'll toy with thee before she kills thee -- She wants thee to have time to consider what will happen to thee, and why. Celennia was Frigidazzi's dearest friend until they had a fight. I do not know what it was about but I wouldn't be surprised if it was caused by Frigidazzi being friendly with the MageLord... I think Celennia thought she was to be his next companion. All I know is that the fight was spectacular, and Celennia was on Hawk's ship the next day, bound for Sleeping Bull. They say she doth have relatives in Monitor..."
He's referring to Selina, whom we met in the Sleeping Bull. I'm not sure if this is a script mismatch, or if Celennia is the name she used in Moonshade while Selina was her real name. It's also possible she gave us that name in the Sleeping Bull as a cover, although that seems a bit silly, so I'm inclined to go with the previous theory.
"Anyway, you're a thief then, I take it?"
"As I said, Steve, I acquire rarities. And sometimes those items are... previously owned, shall we say? But Adepts, being the pompous lot they are, fail to see anything other than a magical attack as a threat. Most Adepts resort to simple physical traps to guard their mansions. Of course, there's always the automatons to deal with... But once I know that secret, their home is as good as mine!"
"What sort of traps?"
"Oh, it could be anything from sliding walls, to fireballs that shoot out of the wall, to secret doors. And dealing with most of those are easy enough, if thou art careful. The automatons are harder to deal with... They are quite fast and fierce fighters. Definitely not what thou wouldst care to encounter in a dark hallway, I'll tell thee! I still have the scars to prove it..."
"Robo-Iolo seems to break every ten minutes, but I guess for someone like you it's touch and go."
"'Tis no easy work. When people hire my services, they know exactly what they need and where it is. Or perhaps I should say that they know whose mansion it is in. From there I must determine how to enter, and when. And then I have to outwit the Adept who wished to keep it hidden from my talents. I have yet to be outdone, I might add."
"Except by Filbercio, apparently."
"A fair point, I concede."
"So who else hires you?"
"Oh, no! Ask no more! I guarantee my clients complete secrecy. If I ever forget that promise, dealing with mages, I'll be very dead, very fast. Or at least I hope I'll be dead... There are a few drawbacks to knowing anything about magic, Steve. All the alternatives to being dead come too readily to mind!"
"You told me Filbercio had hired you."
"Given our current situation, I think you can understand why I would be less than interested in preserving his secrets, Steve."
"Yeah, alright, I guess that makes us even on this one. Alright then, you said you had information we could use to escape. Out with it."
"Somewhere, within this labyrinth, there are two switches that must be thrown... at the same time, in order to continue to the exit. I do not know where it is exactly, but I'm sure that it will be apparent. Without me to aid thee, thou hast no chance of winning free of this place for all thy prowess. And without thee, I have no hope of surmounting what lies in the next room."
"I have another person to throw the switch. My robo-slave."
"But keep going."
"One of the things I bless about my peculiar line of work is the ability to move silently, Steve. It may be the only thing that saved my life this time... When I came into this room, I heard some sort of commotion in the next room. When I sneaked into the entrance, all I saw was a mage and a VERY, VERY large monster before I ran back in here. Last time I looked, they were still in there..."
"I did not recognize him. But by the robes, I judged him a mage. I have heard that a few foolhardy mages have attempted to sneak into these tunnels in search of Stoneheart. Few who try ever return to the outside world."
"I meant about the monster."
"I... I think it was a... a dragon! Oh, please, Steve! Thou must let me join thee! Without mine aid thou canst not hope to escape, and I am no fighter! Without thee I am a dead man!"
"Alright, fine. I don't have any reason not to help you break out anyway."
"Thou and I, we'll do good together!"
So Stefano joins up. For where we are, he's decently equipped (although you probably will want to steal his plate armor for yourself, or even for the automaton, who needs it considerably more). His stats are just bad, but there's no getting around the fact that he's right, you do need his help to escape. You'll want to help him bust out of this place anyway, because he can eventually get us our blackrock order serpent sculpture back. He also happens to not be a tremendous dickhole, which already elevates him above "the entire city of Moonshade" in my eyes.
"Son of a bitch! Why is this chest trapped?"
"Primarily because I didn't want anyone getting into it."
"But you're in my party now!"
"I'm not sure how the trap is supposed to know that."
"Look everyone, free pants!"
Some time later... well okay, one room later.
"The sword our latest roadbump is using looks a bit familiar."
"'Tis of a distinct make indeed."
"No, I mean, I think..."
"Arcadion! Goddamnit, I knew it. You've got some explaining to do when you're not being used to try to kill me, mister."
"I have fulfilled the task thou didst set for me back in Britannia. Did I not serve thee well on the Isle of Fire? Thou didst not bind me for service in another land. Thou shouldst release me from my prison to be free again. Wilt thou?"
"What are you, crazy? You're the onyl useful ally I've ever had, hell no!"
"The journey into this realm weakened thine hold on me, Avatar. Beware! If thou wilt not release me honorably, I will have my vengeance upon thee if I escape!"
"Oh no, whatever shall I do about Arcadion having his feelings hurt."
"But perhaps thou wilt have need of me yet..."
"Yes, I will. As a sword, which is why I went through that stupid Elric-cribbing crap in the last game."
"The last what?"
"This doesn't concern you, Stefano!"
"With all due respect, master, perhaps you should wrest the blade from the knight's control before he removes my other arm and then debate its freedom?"
Arcadion forces his way back into your inventory again. Note that if you have no free hands or container space, he will remove the Avatar's backpack in order to place himself on your back. This is one possible way to discard an item the game will not let you discard otherwise, but unfortunately the only object I can think of that does this is the Black Sword itself.
Regrettably, the Black Sword is now a pale shadow of what it once was. It no longer kills instantly and its damage has been inexplicably lowered to that of a non-magical two-handed hammer. Bluntly, it sucks, unless you mod up its damage value slightly, and even then it can't match what it was in The Black Gate. It is, however, necessary to complete the game, so don't discard it.
Of course you can't discard it, unless Arcadion is freed from the sword. But why in the world would we want to do that?