Part 4: MONITOR - And They Said You Shouldn't Crash A Funeral Part 1
And They Said You Shouldn't Crash A Funeral
"Avatar! Art thou all right? I heard what sounded like the explosions of a volcano -- and look at all the fire here... Haha, also, what the hell?"
"Would you believe me if I said all of this was caused by monks?"
"Probably. I have been searching all over for thee! That storm hath left me quite disconcerted. I can find neither Iolo nor Dupre."
"I know, isn't it great?"
"And, to make matters worse, nothing remains of the equipment that Lord British gave us! It hath all been replaced by strange items that I do not recognize. Perhaps thou shouldst inspect thine equipment as well! I shall make a list of what we have. Such strangeness!"
"Speaking of strangeness, why are you wearing slippers and carrying a twitching human hand?"
"That is a very good question."
The answer is that I forgot that Shamino's swamp boots and the dagger in his backpack are also swapped by the storm, replaced by the slippers and hand respectively.
With Shamino sort of back in one piece, we'll keep following the coast south.
"That seems alike to the bow I did lose to the magical storm! And we are carrying an animal's skull, given to us by the strange storm -- it must have changed places with my bow!"
"You really think? You think maybe the bow was just lying here the whole time? We've found random-ass magic crap just sitting in the woods before."
"Avatar, it is a clue! If we find where the other strange items came from, we shall find our lost possessions!"
Shamino's a quick one, isn't he?
I like to replace the items that are lost, when possible. It helps to keep the items around, even when they're useless (sometimes you can just pick up your old item; you often don't have to "give back" what you got in exchange). You can ask NPCs about the items to get clues about their origin, but of course only if you actually have the item. Because they're not fucking psychic.
I'll take stock of the items later in the update.
First, there's the red bush Thoxa mentioned, so off we go walking through the wall!
Jackpot! Or at least, what passes for a jackpot in Serpent Isle. Don't expect too many huge random treasure troves; the whole game has been balanced around a drastically more limited selection of equipment, and there are few places you can sneak off to for cool loot (but that doesn't mean there are NO such places). The chest contains a magic sling (which is slightly more powerful than the slings in The Black Gate), some food and gear, and a sextant. Then of course there's the bag with some lockpicks and a bedroll on the ground. Nothing exceptional, but we need all these things.
"A bedroll! With this, thou wilt sleep well anywhere."
"I know what a bedroll does, man."
"I'll wager that chest is locked. Thou shouldst try thy lockpicks on it."
"You think? Did you fall on your head after the storm, Shamino?"
"Lockpicks work on locked doors, too. Of course, we only use them for virtuous reasons -- the Avatar is no common thief!"
"Oh, perish the thought."
"If I may... We did pass through an illusionary wall to enter. Might there be another leading from this place to somewhere else?"
"That's completely illogical."
"Maybe, but it's correct."
"But how did you know?"
"I could see it at the top of the screen."
There's an ancient corpse in here with some serpent scales. Serpent scales are a new reagent (one of two introduced in Serpent Isle), but of course that won't help much without spells or additional reagents.
Also a sword and a shield. Woohoo. The two-handed hammer Shamino comes with is a better weapon than pretty much all of these.
Next to the corpse is an ancient scroll, providing us with some backstory.
What follows is an excerpt from my translation of an ancient manuscript. The translation is crude since I do not as yet fully understand the Serpent Runes, but I think thou wilt find this very exciting. Until we meet again,
-- Erstam, thy devoted servant
I write this in great haste, for I can already hear the forces of Order breaching the keep walls. I know not how this missive will survive to reach the outside lands, or for that matter, future generations. Mine only hope is that this speedily-drafted work will offer record of our hallowed philosophy. For our culture to have any chance of enduring the ages, someone, somewhere must find this.
Please, reader, I beseech thee, spread the word of our peoples. Release the spirit of our word and learn from the wisdom of the past.
Balance -- The harmony between the Principles of Order and Chaos -- is the one pure axiom we hold true. All three Principles are symbolized in our hieroglyphs: The Great Earth Serpent, keeper of Balance, lies on a vertical plane, around which the two opposing serpents of Chaos and Order wrap themselves.
Chaos and Order each embrace three Forces. These six Forces, when combined, form the three Principles of Balance. The Forces of Chaos are Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion; the Forces of Order are Ethicality, Discipline, and Logic.
Tolerance is that which encourages the acceptance of all things.
Enthusiasm is the energy that allows one to perform great tasks.
Emotion is the ability to perceive those feelings that come from the heart, as opposed to coming from the mind.
Ethicality is the belief that there is great value in abiding by rules of conduct.
Discipline is the drive to complete a task and avoid the distractions that will prevent its completion.
Logic permits clear, reasoned thought, free from any instinctual biases.
From the marriage between two Forces, one each from Chaos and Order, come the Principles.
Tolerance and Ethicality combine to form Harmony, the ability to be at peace with the self, the individual, and the world.
From the union of Enthusiasm and Discipline springs Dedication, that which permits one to surmount obstacles and lead others.
And finally, Emotion tempered by Logic results in Rationality, the ability to comprehend life and understand the world around us.
The Forces of Chaos and Order must ever remain in Balance, for imbalance leads to disaster. Witness the war-torn state of our world today! As thou canst surely see, my world hath been torn asunder by disregard for Balance -- our dearest axiom! If thou dost thrive in a time less violent, I can do no more than plead with thee to help restore Balance to the Serpent Isle! I must end this brief explication here, for I can hear mine attackers pounding upon the oaken door downstairs. I wish thee and thy world better fortune than mine own.
-- Ssithnos, the Great Hierophant
"Oh boy, more virtues for you to become an avatar in."
"Hey, other people see a set of ethical principles to guide their lives. I see a checklist."
I've always kind of liked the Ophidian Virtues. They work out pretty well, and they don't obviously bias one towards Order or Chaos because both sides' virtues are given positive treatment with respect to each other and themselves. The anti-virtues, or Banes, will factor into the plot later as well.
The first battle of Serpent Isle is a couple of random wolves. They wouldn't even be a threat to a starting character in The Black Gate, let alone the starting stats of Serpent Isle, and we're even stronger than that. The only thing Serpent Isle's weaker enemies have on The Black Gate's fodder is that the player will generally have worse equipment, especially weapons. Killing enemies more slowly gives weaker enemies more chances to score hits.
"Mmmmm, rotting pig carcass."
Finally, the beach curves to the east and terminates in the city wall of Monitor.
"Halt! Who art thou and what is thy business?"
"Who wants to know?"
"I ask the questions here."
"I'm Steve, and this is Shamino."
"Another stranger! Most suspicious. There have not been many travellers recently. The Colored Storms and the Goblins have kept most people off the roads, and so 'tis unusual to see strangers in Monitor. Suspicious, in fact... Perhaps thou art in league with the enchanter who materialized in the center of town! We promptly jailed him. But the uproar interrupted the funeral ceremonies."
"People are afraid of the weather?"
"Didst thou not see the storm which passed by here so recently? Even a Knight must hide from the fury of Nature! Hast thou noticed the lightning? It comes in many colors, and it hath sinister magical properties!"
"Yeah, stealing my shit isn't really what I'd qualify as 'sinister.' It's more annoying. What's with the funeral?"
"'Tis a sad affair. One of our patrols was ambushed, and the Goblins slew nearly all of them! Only Templar survived to return. Worse yet, the patrol was led by the Champion Knight, and she remains lost. We must assume that she is slain, and the Helm of Monitor taken!"
"We are lost without Astrid, for she was a Warrior of Warriors! Only the bravest Knight can be the Champion of Monitor. We compete constantly for the title, and this keeps us fit to battle the Goblin hordes. Astrid was unique among us, for she had held the title for nearly three years. In the north, they say that women are weak, but not in Monitor!"
"Eh. I've never met another woman I couldn't beat up."
"Are you really proud of that?"
"You've beaten your share of women in our travels, Shamino!"
"So uh, is this helmet important or something?"
"The Helm is more than symbolic. Yes, the Champion Knight wears it. But it stands for something! It was once the property of the Goblin chieftain who nearly conquered Monitor! Now that they have it again, we are in dire trouble."
"I see. And the enchanter?"
"Thou dost show an unusual interest in this man. Speak to Lord Marsten. I shall say no more to thee about the matter."
"Fine then. Open the gate."
"Art thou friend or foe?"
"That's a dumb question."
"Procedure's procedure, lady."
"Fine, we're friends."
"I do not know thou art a friend... I shall let thee in, but thou must have an escort until thou hast spoken to Lord Marsten. Thou canst find him at the Crematorium, mourning for the dead. Follow the road north."
"Crematorium? Sounds like a party."
"Remember, we shall be keeping an eye upon thee! Pikemen!"
"Alright, we'll go see him, jeez."
"Do not be surprised if most people do not talk to thee! Since thou art not a Knight of Monitor, thou dost not belong here. Only the bravest of the brave can be a member of our community!"
The guard (he has a name, actually, but we can talk to him later when he's off duty) summons some Monitor Pikemen to escort Steve and Shamino. There are several things to note about Pikemen. First, they're pretty shitty, despite being city guards. Second, they carry halberds, which are good weapons. Third, they are nameless (except the key ones) and spawn in infinite numbers in certain places. Fourth, and most important, the corpse of any generic pikeman is worth money from the Monitor Crematorium.
If you can't do the math here, you're probably too nice a person to be playing Ultima.
The pikemen that are sent to watch you have terrible pathfinding, and you will probably lose them through the cunning tactic of "walking north." This isn't specifically an Exult problem, because the pikemen escorts tended to get themselves completely lost in the original game too.
Heading north, a little girl starts harassing us.
"Hello, little girl."
"Zounds (she really says this)! I am not as young as I look! Dost thou know how hard it is to be small for one's age? I am fourteen years old, nearly old enough to be a Knight of Monitor. But everyone thinks that I'm a little girl... Um, sorry. I mean, welcome to Monitor! My name is Cantra."
"Steve here. I hope we don't have to drag another urchin around."
"I don't think she intends to join us. She's probably busy with this knight thing."
"I have trained for a long time to become a Knight. There is nothing in the world so wonderful as being a Knight! My father was a Knight, and a very good one. But he is dead now. When I turn fifteen, I can take the Test of Knighthood and become a grand warrior!"
"You're pretty nonchalant about your father being dead."
"Everyone says that he might be alive, but it hath been weeks since he disappeared. I am old enough to face the truth. He was on patrol near Monitor. He told the pikemen that he had found something suspicious, and he went to look... and he never returned. It must have been the Goblins! I refuse to weep. But I vow that the first dozen Goblins I slay shall be for him!"
"What? You? I guess I've seen less likely things."
"I am strong. I am ready. The Goblins will be no match for me! I have trained well. If thou dost need a trainer, I can recommend one. Everyone says that Shazzana is the best trainer, but she is such a tyrant! Ever since my father died, Caladin hath been my trainer. He is big and loud, and sometimes dumb, but he doth have a good heart."
"I have been training for the Test for mine entire life! Anything that thou needest to know, I can tell thee."
"Why would I be even remotely interested in doing some crazy dangerous deathtrap test for a city I've never even heard of until now?"
"It truly isn't so dangerous if thou dost know the secrets. And Shmed is nothing to worry about. What wouldst thou like to know?"
"I suspect she won't shut up until you indulge her, Steve."
"Yeah, I gathered that. Alright, where is this test?"
"The Test of Knighthood takes place in the Knight Mountains, just north of the city. Thou must follow the trail that leads west from the highway. But beware of Goblins! They come ever closer to the city of late. Even the bravest warrior can be slain if ambushed..."
"You have some advice, then?"
"These actually are not secrets, since everyone in Monitor knows how Knight's Test doth operate. To become a Knight, thou must survive the dungeon there. Simply remember these tips: Do not look back, or the explosions will overcome thee. Move swiftly at first. Look upwards, as well as from side to side. There are clues that would otherwise escape thee. Be prepared to climb. Timing is essential. The fiery missiles can be outrun, if thou dost watch carefully. Use thine hands to search as well as thine eyes, for some things are invisible. The last chamber is kept a secret! But I would wager that it is as easy as the rest of the dungeon, if thou dost keep a calm head and steady nerves."
"You said you didn't have to worry about Shmed? What's that?"
"Oh, he is the old man who administers the Test. I do not like him much. He looks at me oddly sometimes... He will not let thee into the dungeon until thou dost give him the password. Only Lord Marsten can give the password to thee. Shmed also disarms thee, since thou canst only enter the Knight's Test with a mace and leather armour. And no companions may accompany thee."
"Lord Marsten, yeah. Sounds like he's in charge around here?"
"To become a Knight of Monitor, thou must first ask permission of the Lord of Monitor. Marsten is the Lord of Monitor. One day he will give a banquet in mine honor to celebrate my becoming a Knight. If thou dost wish to take Knight's Test, thou must ask Lord Marsten for his permission."
"Well gee, we were just on our way to talk to him!"
"Oh, I hope that thou dost attempt the Knight's Test! And when thou dost, please come back to tell me about it!"
"I hope I never have to talk to her again."
Off to the north is a big building. This might be the Crematorium, but I can't read that runic crap.
There we are, the  Read flag is the one we're looking for. There are a variety of interesting condition flags here, some Avatar-specific.
Better. Of course if you weren't sure this was the Crematorium you could just walk in.
I'd say that's the crematorium, alright. The old dude is Renfry, the operator of the Crematorium. If you place a pikeman corpse on the machine there and flip the lever, it gets turned to an urn of ashes and Renfry will give you 150 monetari (the currency of Monitor). Now's as good a time as any to explain cash, in fact...
Gold - The currency of Britannia and of the ancient Ophidians. It's the second most valuable currency in Serpent Isle, but relatively few NPCs accept it. The exception is the Silver Seed expansion area, where gold is the standard.
Monetari - The currency of Monitor. It is the most valuable currency, with one Monetari equal to two gold coins. It's accepted almost exclusively in Monitor, which means it's mostly good for buying provisions and weapons. If you're weight and space-conscious, converting all your money to Monetari isn't such a bad idea either. Monetari is also the best money to exploit through the False Coin spell.
Filari - The currency of Fawn. It is the least valuable currency at a rate of two Filari to a single gold coin. It's also pretty much useless because, aside from Delin the provisioner in Fawn and Delphynia the herbalist (who can sell a couple reagents), almost no NPC actually accepts it. Some Filari was swapped for one of our items by the teleport storm, by the way.
Guilders - The only currency in Ultima to take the form of (glowing, magical) bills, Guilders are the currency of Moonshade and the second lowest in value (you get 1 1/2 Guilders per gold coin), but probably the single most important of all. Why? Spells! Moonshade is the town of mages, and the mages will only accept Guilders. Moonshade also has an apothecary who sells potions, reagents and magic items, and one of the best-stocked provisioner shops in the game.
So let's say we cremate a pikeman we... found murdered. That's 150 monetari, which is 300 gold coins. Not bad. It's 450 guilders though, which will buy an average spell. Really nice. So in a way, one murdered pikeman equals one new spell in your spellbook. This is what we call "economics."
Right so, where was I? Ah yes, heading into the catacombs.
The leaders of Monitor express their mourning by clustering around a torch for an orgy. They do this in the original game as well, although they tend to wander slightly more.
"Greetings, stranger. I am Lord Marsten. Thou hast come to this city at a grievous hour. We are here to entomb the ashes of this brave Pikeman Groat, as well as to mourn the loss of our Knight Champion."
"Astrid was the finest Knight that Monitor ever had!"
"The Goblins ambushed her patrol. They slew all but one of the Pikemen, and took Astrid's body back to their camp -- to be feasted upon and used to make their sickening trophies, no doubt! When the reinforcements came, they were mere moments too late. They managed to rescue Groat but his injuries were too severe. Not even our healer Harnna could save him."
"Damn the Goblins! They should be exterminated..."
"What business dost thou have with me, stranger?"
"Uhhhh, not that I meant to interrupt your mourning here-"
"Canst thou imagine the horrors of being devoured alive?! She was a masterful warrior, and deserved a finer death than this..."
"Understand, stranger, that Marsten and this woman were bedmates."
"Yeah... look, is this a bad time?"
"Yes, Astrid and I were bedmates. I will not say we were lovers. For we were also warriors and comrades in arms. And we knew that any time either one of us took the battlefield might have been the last time we could have seen each other. I loved her, but we were not in love. I shall always remember her."
"As shall I...."
"What was that thou saidest, Brendann!"
"What??! Oh, nothing, merely mentioning that we shall all miss her presence. She was a fine warrior."
"There is none to replace her, and certainly none able to reclaim the Helm of Monitor from the Goblins."
"You guys are really hung up on this magic hat thing."
"'Tis a sacred item once belonging to the Goblins. It was what gave their ancient leader, Gurnordir, the power to build the Goblin Horde. When our forefathers killed Gurnordir, the Helm was claimed for Monitor. It hath since been worn by the Knight Champion. We need to reclaim it! Else, the Goblins shall again build their Horde and invade this great city."
"With what, a helmet? How the hell would-"
"I vow to war upon them until the end of the world! There shall be no end to my vengeance upon the Goblins. They have robbed, pillaged, and murdered our people since our ancestors came here centuries ago. They delight in kidnapping our women and eating them alive! In the end, 'tis either Men or Goblins -- both of us cannot dwell here."
"You'd be surprised at the kind of people who can manage to live together, but if this stupid hat of yours is such a big deal, just point me in their direction. It'll take me ten minutes."
"I see no reason to discuss this matter with someone who is not even a Knight."
"Yeah well. I heard you were the guy to talk with. What's with this place anyway?"
"Monitor is a fine city! Our people fled from their homeland when an evil tyrant united the kingdoms, and sought to force his philosophy upon them. So we set sail from Sosaria, and -- led beyond the Serpent Pillars by a mage named Erstam -- we came to the Serpent Isle. This land was deserted then, settled only by Goblins and covered with the ruins of a mysterious ancient Serpentine civilization."
"Tyrant? Surely he doesn't mean..."
"He was an evil man, and Knight and Mage alike rebelled against his tyranny. So our ancestors fled here, and founded the Three Cities. British was his name. Lord British, he called himself. But we call him Beast British!"
"Funny thing, Lord British is still around."
"What?! I should have known that evil tyrant would yet live! Beware -- no servant of the Beast shall be aided by any Knight of Monitor!"
"-aren't really big fans of him either. In fact, he was the one who forced us to come here! Plus he's kind of a dick."
"Thou dost agree, since thou dost not speak well of the Beast! Aye, a tyrant if there ever were one. Three great cities were founded by those who fled the tyrant: Moonshade, Fawn and Monitor. Moonshade is the City of Mages. Fawn is a city that worships Beauty. As for Monitor, 'tis the city thou art in now. 'Tis a city based on Courage. That tyrant Beast British tried to force his bent philosophical 'virtues' upon our ancestors. As magic depends greatly upon illusion, the Moon mages dismissed the value of Truth. As worshippers of Beauty, the people of Fawn saw little worth in unconditional Love. We of Monitor feel that Courage stands above his other virtues."
"So you're all petty and stupid. I'll keep that in mind on my trip here on the Serpent Isle or whatever you guys are calling it."
"This new land was originally to be called New Sosaria, but it became known as the Serpent Isle upon the discovery of various ruins and mysterious ancient serpent writing. We know little else of the race that left its mark here. Thou dost see them across the land, left behind by the evil creatures which once dwelled in this place. That fellow Krayg could tell thee more. He is most fond of taking long walks in distant places, and often sees strange sights."
"And this Erstam guy. I've never really heard of him. He was your leader?"
"Only of a sort! He was a wild-eyed man, driven by his thirst for knowledge and his need for the freedom to pursue it. 'Tis said that in his studies and experimentations he did discover things that drove him insane. Others say it was the loss of a woman who was his true love that drove him mad. Today he is known as the Mad Mage. And his name is most often spoken in hushed whispers."
"Let's talk about something less expository."
"Certainly...I am the Lord of Monitor, the City of Knights. There are three bodies of Knights in the city. No Command is better than another, for all warriors are equal. As the leader of the Leopards, this is my year to rule Monitor."
"I said less expository."
"Sorry, this is just the way I roll."
"Fine. Tell me about the commands."
"Every citizen of the town must become a Knight of Monitor, or be banished when they reach the age of fifteen. The Knights are organized into three war bands, which are known as Commands -- the Bears, the Wolves, and the Leopards. As thou hast no doubt noted, our tattoos mark us according to our Command."
"And that Hello Kitty tattoo means you're a Leopard?"
"Actually, that one was a bet."
"Shut up. We Leopards are the peacemakers. The Bears and the Wolves always quarrel, but we stop them from wringing each others' necks. We bring balance to the community. 'Tis not always glorious to be a Leopard, but we are proud to do our duty."
"And the Bears?"
"The Bears have saved this city again and again. They never forget that we live under siege, that the Goblins could always attack. The city walls were constructed by the Bears. They are tough, strong, powerful warriors. Caladin is their lord."
"Which leaves the Wolves."
"The prosperity of Monitor is due to the foresight of the Wolves. They have forced us to reach out to our fellow Man. The Wolves repaired the ancient highway, and added new roads to link the Three Cities. They built the guard towers. Brendann is their lord. The Wolves are smart, preferring cunning over brute force."
"So which command is the Knight Champion supposed to be?"
"Knight Champion is the most revered title in Monitor -- more than Lord! To be Knight Champion is to be the finest warrior in the land. To hone their skills, our Knights meet daily on the List Field to spar. Thus, they demonstrate their martial prowess. From success in tournament and in battle, the Knight Champion is determined. He or she is privileged to wear the Helm of Monitor."
"List field? Some kind of training ground, then?"
"Thou canst hardly miss the List Field -- 'tis the walled field in the south part of town. There is no shortage of opponents, especially if thou dost go there in the late morning or afternoon. Even strangers like thyself are welcome to spar. 'Tis good preparation for the Test of Knighthood."
"Actually, that brings up a point. What's the deal with this test thing? Can just any asshole walk in and take it?"
"One cannot be born a Knight, nor can the title be bestowed for money or influence. Only a worthy warrior can become a Knight. To test the worthiness of those who sought Knighthood, a special dungeon was prepared. If one can survive Knight's Test, then one is ready for Knighthood. 'Tis an honor to become a Knight of Monitor, yet 'tis also a heavy responsibility. There are many enemies in the land. The dungeon lies north of town, in the mountains. At the entrance, a Knight named Shmed awaits the hopeful warriors. He can explain the rules of the Test to thee, or thou couldst speak with Caladin. 'Tis Caladin's duty to instruct Knight candidates."
"By responsibility, you mean there'd be a duty to Monitor."
"One cannot shirk one's responsibilities after becoming a Knight. Thy Command might call thee to Tower duty, or to scout the Goblins. There is nothing worse than deserting thy Command. In times of crisis, thy place is here in Monitor. For instance, young Knight Wilfred hath left Monitor to investigate the strange death of his father. Such nonsense! He is needed here, with his brother Knights."
"So if I wanted to take this test, for some crazy reason that's about to become clear, I could?"
"Of course! If thou dost wish to take the test, thou hast my permission. Go to Shmed and tell him the password, 'Courage is the soul of life.'"
"Now, why in the world would I want to do that? Oh yeah, let's just get this one out there: I heard there was an enchanter who showed up to ruin your party."
"It was most disrespectful, the way that enchanter did interrupt our memorial service. The white-haired wizard appeared on top of the Cremator, in the most reverent part of the ceremony! I ordered him jailed. We are very strict here in Monitor."
"Could this be our friend Iolo, Steve?"
"Then thou shouldst visit the criminal at jail. We have our hands full in this town with the Goblins and we do not need such pranksters in Monitor!"
"Yeah, that would definitely be the sort of thing to happen to Iolo."
"If only thou wert a Knight! Then I could let thee vouch for thy friend, and let him free. But thou art merely a stranger here..."
"Yup. Saw that coming."
"Well, looks like we're off to bail Iolo out yet again."
"But why hast thou come to our town? What is thy business here?"
"Perhaps Steve is a spy for the Goblins!"
"Now, I do not agree with all this talk of a spy in our midst. Do not let these rumors divide our city, Caladin."
"Yet there was that other suspicious stranger, the fat sage..."
"Whom I threw out of town..."
"And that scholar -- a woman with fine bone structure, but a little too old to pleasure me..."
"Could he be speaking of Iolo's wife, the good lady Gwenno?"
"Heh heh, fat jokes."
"And do not forget the enchanter who appeared in the midst of the funeral services for our deceased Pikemen!"
"Warriors, be still! There is no spy in Monitor, and I refuse to hear more of this! There is no spy!"
"I am not convinced..."
Not ten seconds after Marsten is done talking, some guards show up with Dupre.
"Avatar! I thought I would never find thee! When that strange storm struck, there was a flash, and then I found myself in a wilderness. Fearing to be slain by the Goblins patrolling the woods, I instead took shelter in this walled city. But these Pikemen insist on escorting me to their leader!"
"That is all right. If thou art with my friend here, thou needest not speak with me."
"Before we go any farther, Avatar, I think we should take stock of our supplies. That blasted storm exchanged all of mine equipment for useless refuse! Even mine enchanted shield! We cannot hope to survive long without the proper equipment. Perhaps if we can find where this rubbish came from, we can find our good equipment. I shall prepare a list."
"I have already begun one."
"Then I shall add to it."
Dupre will offer to start the list if Shamino hasn't already. But that's unlikely to ever happen, because I don't think you can avoid Shamino joining you before this point short of cheating somehow.
Despite what he claimed, Dupre has managed to keep most of his crap. Only the Magebane and Dupre's Shield are exchanged out for anything, and since I took those from him, he's still got pretty much everything else. Such as it is, anyway.
(splitting this because of the character limit... only hit that a couple times before, ouch)