The Let's Play Archive

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle

by Nakar

Part 38: FURNACE - Quite Possibly The Worst Archaeologists Ever

Interesting factoid: The Black Gate was (roughly) 32 main updates, not counting bonus content (which would only push it to around 35). As of this update, we've matched it in update length. In fairness, however, most of that was due to NPC dialogue, of which there is much less in the second half of the game. We'll see how things go as we start the next half, which pretty much starts as soon as we get back to the mainland.

And yes, we can get back anything lost in the teleport storm. In one form or another. Unfortunately, Rudyom's Wand was replaced with that magical apparatus. You know, the one that belongs to Vasculio? Bad times, man...  and no, we can't lose the game even when we do get the wand back. Something has happened to it. 

Quite Possibly The Worst Archaeologists Ever

"Awesome, we have come this far only to be defeated by a bridge!"
"Avatar, it would seem that there is a gargoyle on the far side!"
"Do you... do you want me to hurt him?"
"I think Iolo means we could get him to lower the bridge."
"Oh. Well that's no fun, but alright. HEY BUDDY!"
"To be called ruler of gargoyles. To respond to Zhelkas. To mean 'Iron Helm.' To ask who you are and why you are here."
"I'm Steve, these are some losers and a Frankenstein, and we're just passing through."
"To be wary that you might be like others of your kind, who come here to slay my people and steal our treasures."
"What, us? Wherever would anyone get that idea?"
"And yet... to wonder if you are the Hero of the Dream. To be female as the Hero was in the dream..."
"Well I'm glad somebody can tell. What's up with the bridge, big guy?"
"To be protection against our enemies. To be lowered and raised by ancient levers. To know that only gargoyles are strong enough to pull the levers!"
"I'm not sure that would even matter since the only switch appears to be on your side."
"To raise a valid point, Steve."
"Do you guys often get attacked?"
"To say sadly that Men come to do us harm. To not understand why they call us Daemons... To say they are brawny warriors in stout armour. To delight in shedding our blood. To hate us greatly. To regret that we cannot make peace with them."
"That sounds like the Knights of Monitor. They're kind of douchebags."
"To tell you there is no such thing as a daemon. To be sure that Daemons are creatures from stories, used to frighten young ones. To disbelieve that Men can believe us to be Daemons. To be Gargoyles."
"Oh, don't worry, we're well aware of how this gargoyle thing goes down. But what could they possibly want from your people? You're so far away from the realms of men."
"To say that many Men have come here to steal the wealth of the Lost City. To be willing to share... To be angry that the Men in Armour do not want to share. To want only to kill us. To be as ignorant as they are greedy. To say that these invaders cannot stand the heat of this place! To quickly die. To be amused to see them come again and again, only to die. To survive long enough to vex us with their weapons, before their deaths."
"So this is where the daemon stories about the ruins come from. Monitor's knights must have seen the gargoyles here in this Ophidian city and thought they built all the ruins."
"That's surprisingly astute of you, Steve."
"I try."
"To say that several generations of gargoyles have dwelled here. To assure you that this place was old before we came. To look about and know that the people who dwelt here revered serpents. To say that they also suffered a great calamity. To wonder what happened to those who once dwelt here..."
"Going back to this dream of yours. What makes you think I'm your hero? Besides the fact that everyone does and that I probably am."
"To tell you that our slumber is filled with a single Dream, a vision of a Hero from another world... To say that the Hero is most like you... To wonder if you are the Hero."
"Tell me more."
"To say that the Dream tells of great disasters -- storms that disintegrate with their bolts, diseases which kill the meek, and a spectral Trinity which spreads Evil. To have detected a change in the structure of the world, by means of an Imbalance of Essences. To know this is the reason why great storms now howl across the face of this world, hurling their lightnings down. To know this is not all -- to become worse with time, until the End of the World. Unless the Hero prevails. To weep for the creatures that succumb most easily to the sickness of this world. To have dreamed of dying infants, of minds numbed or gone insane, and of beings which simply waste away due to the Imbalance. To despair for my people, for they are lost in slumbers and the Dream. Only I remain. To have seen the Three Ghosts stalking the land, through the Dream. To declare that one has the Evil Glow. One has the haunting eyes that mock. One has the Serpent's Head. To know that this is not yet, but shall soon be. These are the Enemies of the Hero."
"I wonder what's going to happen."
"You seem genuinely concerned for once."
"With this much prophecy, who wouldn't be?"
"I'm just wondering who I have to beat up to make it all stop."
"To declare that a Hero shall come from beyond this world. To have seen that this warrior shall slay the Trinity, and triumph through virtue. To be required to give this Hero an ancient artifact, which will provide guidance to her. To know the Hero by this sign -- she shall submit to the Test of Purity, and be shown worthy by returning in virtue."
"Oh boy, a test. What is it?"
"To tell you that this city is old. To have a long history before the gargoyles found it. To know little about the former inhabitants, but to believe that they were not Evil. To have visited their sacred places amid the ruins. To know that the Dream says that the Hero shall go to the Place of the Twin Pillars, where she must face the ordeal of the ancients. To assure your companions that no harm shall come to you or to them during the Test. To believe this myself."
"And where is this place of testing?"
"To have visited this place within the Underground City. To be in the north-eastern chambers of the city. To have seen two stone pillars of great size, in the semblance of serpents. To say that the Pillar of Ice is broken. To say that the Pillar of Fire yet stands. To have dreamed of the Hero grasping the fiery serpent with her hands, and thus commencing the Test."
"And the artifact you're supposed to give me when I complete it?"
"To have a great treasure among the Gargoyles, an artifact discovered among the ruins. To not know its powers. To have seen by the Dream, that we must entrust this device to the Hero who shall come. To say that this Ring of the Serpent shall be the means of guiding the Hero in his struggle against the Imbalance. To delay my purpose no longer... To ask if you are willing to take the Test. To prove that you are the Hero of which we dream."
"Alright, I'll take your test."
"Saw it coming."
"Would I be the Avatar if I didn't take every test of virtue put before me?"
"I suppose you would not, no."
"To admit you to the underground city."

"So are you gonna come with us, or do you just like the view?"
"To meet up with you later. To have things to do. To need to wash my hair."
"Gargoyles don't have hair! Hey, get back here!"
"What? I didn't do anything."
"Oh. Sorry. Reflex."

"You're going to have to be more specific, talking snake in my head."
"I really don't have time for that, Steve, a certain amount of crypticity is necessary."
"Is crypticity even a word?"
"These earrings have proven nothing but trouble so far. I think I'm picking up Serpent PBS or something."

And here's why we "needed" the Chill spell. After about five minutes in Furnace, everybody will proclaim that it's hot and start taking damage. It's rather weak stuff, and you probably don't NEED the Chill spell, but of course Julia won't give you the key without it, so you may as well.

Casting Chill is a temporary measure. It only lasts a couple of game hours (five minutes or so real time), so it has to be cast again. It's cheaper than Great Heal or Restoration in terms of spell points, though.

The area Zhelkas meets us in is somewhat remote compared to the actual Ophidian city. We've got to cross over lava patches and through tunnels before we can reach it. Note the Sulfurous Ash all around; sometimes you'll also find magma men wandering the flames.

"There is no question, this is an Ophidian city."
"But considerably less in use than the last one we saw."
"It makes you wonder, though. Was this a city of Order, or a city of Chaos? I haven't seen any good evidence to point either way yet."
"Fire seems to be a trait of Chaos, from what we've seen."
"And yet it's almost too hot. As if spells of cold were necessary here all along to maintain an even temperature."

Before we go, a little trick. I found some phosphor (the smouldering bloodspawn-ish looking stuff) in Freedom. Phosphor is made from some other chemical compounds that you can make elsewhere in Furnace, although as it happens I'm bringing some in premade. Neither phosphor nor the other chemicals are reagents, in the sense that they don't cast any spells, but they do have a use. Phosphor, if used on the ancient Ophidian streetlights...

...lights them! That would be a lot more useful if Furnace weren't, you know, a volcanic area with lots of natural lighting from the fire. But there's a little trick for your consumption.

The path finally enters the city proper, into what seems to be some kind of commercial district.

Ophidian crafts lie unused, yet unbroken in the stores.

"That's some kinda wool, sitting there for hundreds of years inside a volcano without decaying or igniting."

"Whoops. Sorry man. Didn't know you lived in here."
"I do not believe he can respond."
"Is he dead?"
"No, just a deep slumber."
"There is no way to wake these gargoyles. This is much like something which is happening in Britannia!"

If this is news to you, it was news to me as well. Maybe Underworld II covers it, but I know this plot point only comes up later in Serpent Isle, so I have no idea why or how anyone knows about it now. Basically, the Emps of Britannia have fallen into the same deep slumber as the gargoyles of the Serpent Isle. The Imbalance seems to be spreading and affecting larger and larger creatures.

"So I was telling Sheryl, you know, I mean we can't have your mother here all month. It's only a two-bedroom, so I mean you know we can kind of accomodate her, but the budget is just really tight with the economy being what it is and-"
"Aren't you guys supposed to be asleep?"
"Steve, I think we accidentally wandered backstage."
"Whoops, sorry dudes."
"Shut the door on the way out! Anyway I forget where I was going with this..."

No, the gargoyles aren't supposed to be awake. I don't think. Anyway even if they are some of the few not suffering from the dream sickness, they can't talk.

Moving right along then...

"Wow, an intact liquor store!"
"Man, I'm glad we ran into this. I'm parched."
"You're actually going to drink wine that's hundreds of years old?"
"Well if it's good when it's ten years old, it must be awesome when it's a hundred years old!"

"Urk... oh God I was wrong, I was horribly horribly wrong."

Up to the far northwest there's a locked area we can't get through, and some magically-locked doors we can pass.

They just take us back to the area we started in. Since we need to hit the button on this side to open this gate, we needed to come here anyway. It'll make leaving easier.

Now, to actually get to the northeast part of the city where Zhelkas wanted us to go, we'll need to go south through a series of large buildings, since some of the paths are blocked or bridges have fallen into the lava. Stupid decaying ancient cities.

"This looks like an ancient bathhouse."
"I wonder if the tentacle monster things were here before the Ophidians died out, because it might explain a few things about their ability to function as a society."

A corpse in a decaying, dried up bathtub has a Chill scroll, in case you forgot to transcribe yours and just cast it off the scroll like a dope.

"Weird, this key I found is all warm to the touch."
"A key of fire! How strange."
"Stranger still, it won't go on the keyring."
"God forbid you should ever have to carry and use a key the normal way again."
"I know! What's next, reagents?"
"Poor thing."

Since I had the foresight to give everyone magic bows and arrows I don't have to actually fight the tentacle lurker guys.

To the next building then!

"Kinda shoddy equipment. What's left of it."
"Somehow I don't think this place was meant to be an armory. Check out the balcony."

"This must be an arena!"
"That or a comedy club with a very tough crowd."

"Is there any particular reason we're stopping here?"
"I want to fight in here!"
"But why? There's no one to fight. And besides, this city is a grave. It's disrespectful and also there's no one to watch."
"Boydon can watch."
"Hooray! If only I had some popcorn."
"Where would you pop it?"

"Whoops, got us locked in here with gladiator automatons."
"Are you not entertained, master?"
"Alright, I'm bored already."
"Go Steve! This is tense."
"Boydon, they have yet to hit us once."
"If they hit you at all, I'd call that a stunning twist in the plot, Steve."

The arena is completely pointless, aside from the key you can get. But I think it might be possible to use the Fetch spell to grab it without doing the arena at all. It's just 3-4 automatons with crappy swords though, so it isn't exactly difficult.

"Hey Dupre, you know what the definition of irony is?"

"I do now."

The next area is a park of some sort, full of mushrooms and dead people. I guess maybe the Ophidians ate the mushrooms, and this combined with the whole building over lava thing is making me imagine this is a really, really terribly made Dwarf Fortress.

"Another damn incompatible key! This one's made of ice, too."
"I wonder if there's some kind of connection with the fire key we found before?"
"Well golly, Iolo, I wonder if two keys of opposing elements in a game where the theme is balance are in some way connected to each other? I wonder if that's at all plausible?"

The serpent's tooth on the body is supposed to take you to Monitor. Because of that, you can get back to the mainland without actually finishing Furnace, just as long as you can reach the Serpent Gate. You don't want to skip the rest of Furnace now, though, because you'll have to come back eventually to get the Serpent Ring and (soon thereafter) the Serpent Staff.

Past the mushroom area the path curves back into the plaza in the far northeast part of the city, which - at long last - brings us to the pillars of Fire and Ice. Note the Pillar of Fire, which should be a bit familiar. Remember how I said the pillars in Silver Seed would warp you somewhere? They go here. Touching them is the same as touching this one, subjecting you to the Test of Purity and then dumping you here in Furnace. This would be "bad." Although it's worth noting that Doug the Eagle has determined that doing this trick to warp from Silver Seed to Furnace makes the Avatar literally immortal. A cool trick, but not one I came up with myself, so I just felt like I'd note it. I'm also not going to do it, of course.

But we're not going to bother with the Test of Purity yet. Zhelkas can wait.

We're going to go to the huge building at the other end of the plaza. The plaque reads "The Great Temple." Here's my theory about where we are: Furnace was the City of Balance.

Why do I say this? Well, I mentioned that fire and irregular architecture are the signs of Chaos, and ice and regular architecture are the signs of Order. But the Furnace city has elements of both: The buildings tend to be regular in shape and structure, but the roads and tunnels curve organically and somewhat erratically. There seem to be shrines in both "civilized" areas as well as "natural" ones. And of course, there's keys and pillars dedicated to fire and ice.

"But what about the lava and heat?" Well, think about it: The heat is so overwhelming from the magma that anyone who dwells in Furnace has to cast Chill (ice, y'know) spells to stay comfortable. Balancing the temperature, as it were.

This would mean that Ssithnos probably dwelled here, at least some of the time. The pillars of Fire and Ice are probably devotional altars to Order and Chaos, placed alongside each other right outside the Great Temple (although, as we will eventually discover, this is not the Great Temple of Balance, a special ritual site hidden from the peasants). Of course Isstanar pointed out that his body was taken by the Acolytes of Balance to the crypts on Sunrise Isle in the far north, so we're unlikely to find his body or any artifacts of him here.

But we can still make use of his facilities. The great altar here accepts the keys of fire and ice, turning them into a blackrock key. Interesting... blackrock represents balance, then?

The blackrock key obligingly allows itself to be put on the keyring, ending Steve's existential key crisis.

Elsewhere in the temple are a bunch more Chill scrolls. If you haven't transcribed this yet, do so.

Look familiar? The blackrock key allows us to finally open the teleporter... the Serpent Gate. We can now come and go from Furnace as we please. With that all set up, it's time to head back to the Great Temple and take that Test of Purity. Knowing what the temple really does may provide some insight into what the Pillar of Fire is actually testing, and what the Pillar of Ice might have tested before it shattered.