Part 40: SWAMP OF GORLAB - Melodreama
There's this bizarre structure right outside Gorlab Swamp, with a fairly obvious secret wall here. The most annoying thing about the "loose brick" secret walls in the Ultima VII engine is that sometimes they can be opened simply by double-clicking, where other times they open only when activated by a switch. It's a minor annoyance, but I wish they'd used a slightly different art asset... except when they do make switch-activated secret walls indistinguishable from real ones.
Yeah, the game can be inconsistent at times.
Inside the little structure, inside a bag inside a basket inside a backpack inside a crate inside a barrel (see for yourself), are some gems. Yayyyyy.
Follow the walkway to the west and you'll find a little grove with a fountain that cures all wounds. It's nice, but it's not terribly convenient to anywhere with a Serpent Gate or anything.
To the east, some poor dude got himself disintegrated. Wonder what that's all about?
"Alright, here we are at the swamp. Now I'm sure something stupid is going to happen to us when we go in there, so I planned ahead."
"You planned ahead!"
"You, planned ahead?"
"No no, I'm serious this time. Check this out."
"I'll use this scroll to turn myself into a snake and scout out the swamp."
"Why did you give me all of your equipment first?"
"Duh, a snake can't wear armor, stupid."
"See you losers in a minute."
"Snakes can't talk, Steve."
"Oh yeah? Oh, yeah."
"Whew, I'm getting sleepy. Also, how does a snake get poisoned? That doesn't make any sense at all."
And so the Avatar begins to fall asleep. Something is amiss in Gorlab Swamp, and those who enter fall into...
...a very strange dream. A dream the Avatar must face alone. Or would face alone, if I hadn't just broken the game using Serpent Bond. More on that in just a moment.
"Whoa, your dream castle is a dump, dude."
"Avatar! At last thou hast come. Seeing thee again hath brought me strength. Dost thou know that I expected to find thee here, in my dreams? I wish that thou wert truly here to counsel me..."
"And you are, again?"
"Dost thou truly have to ask my name? Hast thou suffered from the recent afflictions as has all of Britannia?"
"No, I just enjoy doing this to you."
"Canst thou not recognize thine old friend? 'Tis I, Lord British, ruler of all Britannia. Or at least what is left of it after all of the disasters..."
"Then this isn't a dream?"
"Of course this is a dream! Thou hast not yet returned from the Serpent Isle to which I sent thee. Some days I fear that thou shalt never return..."
"Didn't you kick me out?"
"Well, yes, but now I'm regretting it because I'm completely incapable of solving any problems without your muscle. The storms began shortly after thou didst set sail."
"Wait... storms? Don't tell me."
"They are storms unlike anyone has seen before. The scholars can find no mention of such storms in any of the archives. How can a mere stroke of lightning rip away the entire royal mint..."
"The, uh, the mint, huh? You don't say."
"Thou dost think me slack-witted, I am certain. But I have seen it for myself... The royal mint is gone. In its place stands a strange lighthouse. 'Twas clear enough what it was... Its light was still shining after the storm. But none of the sailors recognized it."
That explains the Britannian Mint appearing in another world: The storms of Imbalance are spreading. Whatever is happening to the Serpent Isle is only the beginning of the end of, well, at least all the worlds connected to the old Sosaria.
"So these disturbances really are spreading. Shit, now I actually do have to start caring about what happens here."
"I know not what they mean... But none of the mages in Britannia seem to be able to predict the outcome of the most simple spells. A mage might find his entire house burned to the ground after merely trying to light a candle magically. Or another mage may, in the same instant, find himself unable to light a candle with a great flame spell. The mages claim that the ether is unstable. According to the mages, such an imbalance could easily destroy the world -- if it continues to increase in severity."
"For once, I can understand why you're worried."
"If it were only the strange storms, or only the magic instability, I would be less concerned. But when thou dost consider it along with the earthquakes, the emps, and the gargoyles, I fear that the world may indeed be ending. The earthquakes started not long after the storms began. At first they were fairly small and infrequent, but now they are growing more powerful and threatening the castle itself. Only this morning did a guard find a crack at the base of the castle's foundation. It hath grown wider during the day... If the castle falls, there will be no turning back. There will be nothing I can do to hold back the destruction."
"What's happening to the emps?"
"The storms and earthquakes have brought a great illness upon them, as they are more connected to nature than any other creature. Many of the emps have died already. I have little hope that any of that gentle race shall survive, even if the world doth not rend itself apart. I am sure that the illness will spread to humans, if something is not done to stop these disasters."
"And the gargoyles?"
"The gargoyles have also succumbed to these afflictions. They have fallen into a deep state of dreaming. Few of the gargoyles can resist the compulsion to sleep, Avatar. Their slumber seems troubled, however. They thrash about and mutter in their sleep. Yet when we attempted to wake a sleeping gargoyle, to see if his dreams held any answers, he attacked us. I fear that we will have no answers from dreams..."
"Well, don't look at me. I haven't got any answers yet."
"There are no answers, Avatar. No answers for those who sleep. I must wake and seek what answers I can without thee here. I do not know that thou couldst save us if thou wert here, but I would have more hope if thou didst return..."
"Well that isn't going to happen, so you deal with your problems, and I'm going to get out of here and deal with mine."
"Yes, yes. I should not be talking to myself anyway. With Britannia in the grip of these dark events it would be best if the people not fear that I have become afflicted, too. Thank thee, Avatar. Though thou art just a dream thou hast given me hope that Britannia will yet survive these dark days."
And then right on cue, Serpent Bond wears off and the party members rush back to the Avatar's side. Yes, even in a dreamworld. This also works in Freedom to smuggle your party members in. The important thing to bear in mind is that the Avatar's inventory is taken away when you fall into the dream (except, in the case of Gorlab, the Helm of Courage/Crystal Rose of Love/Mirror of Truth). So you need to pass off all your gear to somebody else, and reclaim it after entering. I'll also say this twice for emphasis, but make sure to pass it all back before you leave the dream.
Of course if you wanted to come here "legitimately," you're not defenseless. The chest behind British's throne offers a full suit of magic gear and an Infinity Bow. Because the inventories of your companions aren't affected by the Gorlab trickery, you can pass off anything you find in the realm of dreams to a buddy and take it out of here with you.
The game, understandably, was not counting on us doing this.
"A dreamworld like this just isn't the same without Freud in it."
"Ja, can I help you?"
"How the hell do you always wind up being around right now?"
"I thought it clear that I represent your repressed superego, frau Steve."
"...really? Then you're all in my head?"
"Haha, you really believed that! No, I am just very bored tonight."
As we wander the realm of dreams, we come upon the dreams of many others. For example...
"I am the MageLord now... Thou dost know that Filbercio is lower than swine... He doth deserve to be tortured for all the ill that he hath done."
"Help me, Please! I beseech thee... I cannot survive much more of this... Uunnggghhh!"
"The question is, was this Ensorcio's dream, or Filbercio's?"
"What if it was both?"
"So mad it must be true!"
Elsewhere in the realm of dreams one will find strange structures or treasure troves. This one perhaps offers some insight into what the gargoyles are experiencing in their dream state.
It's also got a secret chamber here with another Infinity Bow in it. Sweet.
Not far from there is...
"A frozen landscape... but it does not feel cold at all!"
"Very strange. Could this represent the dream of someone who lives far to the north?"
"I don't see anyone around. I wonder who the dreamer is."
"...although I think I just got an idea."
This place is some kind of temple. The outside environment suggests where it might lie in the real world. There's even a Serpent Gate here, although it's not functional. But maybe the real one is?
Deep inside the temple, Thoxa comes to us in her own dreams.
"Greetings, hero from another world! I foretold that we would meet again, though I had not expected thee in the realm of dreams."
"I guess I'd say the same to you. What's up? What is this place?"
"That which thou dost see before thee is the Moon's Eye. It is thy goal in the waking world. Seek out the true Moon's Eye in the Temple of the Ancient Ones in the icy wastes to the north. It will show thee what thou must know..."
A snake of fire. Does the Moon's Eye lie in the ruins of one of the ancient Temples of Chaos?
In the middle of the dream realm is a big pit of fire. If you come to Gorlab too soon (lacking the Helm/Rose/Mirror), you have to die to wake up and leave it. The pit is sort of an emergency escape hatch in case you can't seem to get yourself murdered properly.
"Your dream? You're already here in my dream."
"I am so freaking out right now."
South of Iolo's dream freakout is a house falling apart in the dream chaos. And there, finally, we find Cantra. Well, okay, Cantra's dream.
"Iieeeee... Help me! I cannot escape... It will catch and devour me! Canst thou not see it? Please, help me!"
What is she talking about? We'd better hurry north to find her before we find out the hard way.
Finally, in an isolated corner of the world, we find a peaceful forest with a nice little cottage in it. A woman is milling about, one we've not yet met anywhere in the waking world. And never will.
"Thou hast come at last! I am Siranush. I have been expecting thee... I knew that thou wert the one destined to free us from Rabindrinath's evil spell."
"Do I know you?"
"As Edrin hath told thee of me, he hath dreamed of thee. I knew that thou wouldst come... 'Twas only a matter of time."
"Then you're the woman he dreamed about when he was a parrot. So what do you want with me?"
"In mine own dreams, I saw that thou wouldst need the Serpent Necklace. I knew that thou wouldst have to come here before thou couldst complete thy quest. 'Tis a thing of power from the people who settled this land after the village of Gorlab existed. It is to be thy reward."
"Do you have any idea what all this serpent crap is for?"
"I do not know what it will do... I only know that it was part of a set of such jewelry. And it was a symbol of authority of some sort. I have been trapped for a very long time, Avatar."
"Long indeed, if Gorlab existed before the Ophidians. How is that possible?"
"The ruins that lie within the swamp are those of my village. Though Gorlab was not always a swamp. Long ago, Gorlab was once a prosperous community, Avatar. When I was Gorlab's healer, the village stood on firm ground. We held back the swamp and farmed the rich soil. But after we became trapped in this forsaken place, the earthworks we had built crumbled and the swamp rose to engulf the village."
"That must have been ages ago. So what's going on? What am I supposed to do?"
"Thou art our only hope, Avatar. Our souls are trapped here, unable to go to what awaits beyond the realm of life. Thou art the only one that can hope to save the land from tearing itself apart, Avatar. I do not know what thou must do... I only know that thou must possess the Serpent Necklace before thou hast hope of succeeding. But first, thou must free us."
"Free you from what?"
"Of course. I shall explain it to thee. A haughty mage named Rabindrinath moved into our town shortly after I became the healer there. He was very angry when we did not immediately name him to the village Council. Rabindrinath stormed back to his keep, swearing that we would soon see that he was no one to trifle with. I wish I had understood what he was planning when he began collecting the crystals."
"Rabindrinath bought a vast quantity of Dream Crystals. I thought them harmless... Small Dream Crystals were often exchanged by lovers. So that they might see each other in their dreams. I had no idea that he could pervert them so."
"What did he do?"
"I am no mage, Avatar. The Dream Crystals were little more than hedge magic. I had no idea that Rabindrinath could use them for anything sinister, else I would have brought him before the Judicar... And had his powers riven from him. Rabindrinath thought to harness the villager's dreams, hoping to gain great power. He intended to use that power to make the village submit to his rule. But his spell went awry..."
"I do not know if Rabindrinath thought that he would tap our dreams and exploit what we feared. Or if he planned to steal some of our essence while we lay dreaming. Whatever his true plans, when he cast his spell the power was so great that a rift opened into the Dream Realm. The people of Gorlab, including the spellcaster himself, were trapped within this land of altered reality."
"He sucked the entire village into a dream?"
"Our minds, at least. We became trapped here, unable to return to our bodies that still lay within the village. Most of the villagers quickly went insane here -- where things that are not, are. Those who resisted initially soon joined their neighbors in insanity when their bodies died. I have done what I can for them. But I cannot cure insanity. And it was all I could do to keep Rabindrinath's insanity from destroying us."
"So the mage who drove you all mad went mad himself."
"Rabindrinath soon discovered that he could alter the Dream Realm by will alone. I repulsed his attacks until his body at last died too. And with this, what little sanity he had departed. Rabindrinath blamed the people of Gorlab and swore to destroy us all... Our bodies are long moldered away, and our souls remain bound here. If any of us should die here, we will be lost forever. Without thine aid we are doomed to eternal limbo, not dead and never to be alive again. Trapped forever in insanity. Wilt thou bring me the Dream Crystal so that we may at last find peace? I fear that soon my strength will fail, and the people of Gorlab and I will be far worse than dead."
"I get the feeling I'm not going anywhere until I do."
"Thou art truly as brave as Edrin pictured thee! I can tell thee how to defeat Rabindrinath... Rabindrinath hath styled himself a god here. He cannot be killed as thou wouldst a normal man. He can only be overpowered by the application of Truth, Love and Courage. In order to do this, thou must be armed with three artifacts... the Artifact of Courage, the Artifact of Love, and the Artifact of Truth. Bring to me the Dream Crystal from Rabindrinath's keep and we shall at last be free!"
"So this crystal is what he used to bind you all here?"
"Yes. Although it was Rabindrinath's spell that trapped us within the Dream Realm, it is the Dream Crystal that keeps us from leaving. It is also the Crystal that traps any who enter the swamp. If thou wilt give me the Dream Crystal, we will all be freed."
"So we go to find Rabindrinath and get the crystal, alright. What does it look like?"
"Thou hast already seen a small part of the whole... The crystal that Edrin wears is a shard of the Dream Crystal. That is how I was able to speak with him. To find the Dream Crystal, thou must venture into Rabindrinath's Keep somewhere within the Dream Realm. I would go with thee, if I could. But I am all that keeps Rabindrinath's madness at bay. Without mine opposition, all our souls would have been destroyed long ago. Rabindrinath will have the Crystal well-hidden, and I doubt that thou canst take it from his keep without killing him. Be wary, Avatar. He is quite mad."
"I'm sure he'll find Steve more than a match for his insanity."
The inside of Siranush's home. Talk about a crazy cat lady. A crazy dead cat lady.
"Look! A chest loaded with gold!"
"A pity we can't bring it with us."
"Or... can we? Thanks, Serpent Bond!"
At least someone around here is having a normal dream about tropical resorts and naked women.
"Ah, Avatar! This is as it should be... The food is good, the wine is sweet, and the company is warm! Wouldst thou care to join me?"
"Uhhh, a little busy here."
"Yes, of course. Always running about to one thing or another. And Avatar, thou shouldst learn to relax."
On a random pedestal is a Juggernaut Hammer. A fantastic two-handed weapon, it's magical, high damage, infinite ammo, and ranged. A good choice for Boydon, although I'm not totally convinced it does more damage over time than a Magic Bow with the right arrows.
Some scrolls and an Electric Whip. Most of this stuff is just here to make your job easier in the dream realm, but with Serpent Bond you can sneak it all out of here as well.
Not that I really needed another Electric Whip.
"Oh boy, the theater! And it's playing my favorite: People who hate me struggling in vain to screw me over."
Today, the role of Guys Who Hate The Avatar will be played by Batlin! The role of the Avatar will be played by some blonde white guy. I guess they didn't want to bother accounting for the Avatar being a different gender or skin tone.
"Fool! Dost thou think thou canst actually kill me? I am forever! I am eternity! Puny Avatar! Thou canst not defeat what is undefeatable!"
"I dunno, from where I'm standing that cheap Avatar knockoff isn't doing so bad against you."
"Ah, Avatar, thou hast come! Thou wert ne'er a match for me..."
"Except that time we kicked your ass and blew up your Black Gate."
"Soon I will have power to rival even the Guardian himself! And thou wilt be powerless, just as thou art now. I will bury my blade deep within thine entrails, twisting it ever so slowly, enjoying each of thy pitiful screams. Farewell, hero of Britannia. Though thou wilt beg for a quick end to thy life, I shall resist. I want to enjoy thy death..."
Hilariously, the Dream-Avatar is immortal, so Batlin eventually just gives up and warps away. I wonder if that was intentional.
"This place looks suitably keepish, don't you guys think?"
"Yes, I can sense a definite keepy air about it."
"Should we be careful, or something? Is this Rabindrinath guy actually dangerous?"
"Man, I don't know."
The courtyard and stables of the wizard's keep are the stuff of nightmares. Literally. Those things are nightmares. They're somewhat tough, but not all that aggressive, and pretty easy to just dodge if you're alone. And if you're not alone, you can just gun them down.
This is an encounter people seem to miss. You need to be able to either walk on the battlements or unlock magically unlocked doors to get back here into the rear corner of Rabindrinath's keep. There's a solitary nightmare here who, quite unexpectedly, initiates conversation with you.
"Avatar! How good it is to see thee! How long hath it been since we last met?"
"Ahhhh... errrr... well...."
"Do not tell me that thou dost not recognize me? Come now, Avatar, it hath not been that long."
"It is I! Smith the Horse! Only the finest steed in all of Britannia."
"Why is your portait a human skeleton?"
"Lazy art staff. Oh, I suppose thou wouldst not recognize me such as I am. This is the appearance I take here at the Realm of Dreams. Ah, this is the life. Mine own keep, as much hay as I could want, no insects to bother me... Who could ask for more?"
"I was really hoping not to run into you this game, but I should have known better."
"Where are my wits! Avatar, I have something important to tell thee. But what was it? Oh, yes! Avatar, thou must take Rudyom's wand to the Isle of the Avatar! There thou wilt find a monolith made of blackrock that Batlin is using to create a gateway to bring the Guardian into our world! The future of Britannia doth lie in thine hands, Avatar!"
"Ahh, Smith, the Guardian hath been stopped. Everything is safe."
"Except the teleport storms and cataclysms, apparently."
"Oh... I feel like I have made a mule of myself. Never mind... Now I remember! Thou hast left Britannia and hast journeyed to the Serpent Isle in search of Batlin! Poor Iolo, he must be distraught to have found that Gwenno left on that voyage with that fiend. I hope that thou wilt find her before that evil man doth do something to her. She, at least, hath always been kind to me. Wait! Avatar, I do have some information thou canst use!"
"Really? This would be a first for you."
"Batlin and his band of hired swords are waiting for thee at... Yummie! Here comes someone with more hay..."
Nothing left to do but enter the keep and face down Rabindrinath.
Boy, I hope he's not a total lunatic.
"Who art thou? Hast thou seen the firebird's death or followed thy dreams to seek power? Canst thou touch the face of a dream that clutches thee with bony claws? How wouldst thou know the power that leaps from dream to dream, devouring death as it went?"
"Dost thou have the protection of Courage to face thy dreams? Can thine helm face the power and kiss the lips of sweet death?"
Rabindrinath then attacks us. If you went through Gorlab early in the game, you'd die here and be sent out of the dream. But if you have the Helm of Courage, his spell fails.
"Curse the pot metal protection that thou dost call Courage! Thou hast not danced with the maker of dreams upon the cold stone grave of power..."
And with that, he warps away. So much for the lunatic thing. Note that his imagery is not totally insane, though. "The firebird's death" is something we have seen.
Approaching his stately fireplace, the leopard-skin rugs turn into snow leopards. Get used to these guys, they're the wolves of the tundra and we'll fight plenty of them later in the game.
Rabindrinath is a lonely old lunatic, with only one occupant in his keep of dreams. We call people like this "losers."
Meanwhile, in the convenient prison/torture chamber directly adjacent to the kitchen...
"Dost thou have the glass petals of Love to bind thy dreams? Canst thou swim the seas of death and come forth the father of power?"
Again we are attacked. With the Crystal Rose of Love, the spell does nothing.
"A thousand plagues upon the putrid flower thou dost call Love! Thou canst not walk amongst the clouds of dreams and reap the withered souls of weaklings..."
And gone again. There's a key on the corpse and a Fire Sword on one of the imprisoned bodies. And again: What is it with wizards and caged lamias?
Off to the bedroom for the final showdown with the mad dream wizard.
"Dost thou have the reflection of Truth to make thy dreams real? Canst thou mirror the ride of the spiraling serpent of death down to the peak of moonlit dreams?"
"As a matter of fact, I do!"
"Damnation to the false reflection that thou dost call Truth! Thou didst not fly to the vaulted tombs of vilified saints to grasp at the reins of the sun..."
Remember. Nothing he's said is completely random. This last line is particularly important. Naturally, it won't come up until the very end of the game.
Also, Rabindrinath for some reason gets mad about having been outwitted three times.
And dies. I don't get it either. But we'll not look a gift key in the corpse. To the dream crystal!
"I guess this is it. It's kinda heavy. Shamino, hold all my stuff again."
"Oh you scamp."
Again, let me stress this, give away all the Avatar's equipment if you brought it into the dreams with Serpent Bond.
We find Siranush outside her patch of dreams, staring into the void.
"Thou hast returned. Hast thou brought to me the Dream Crystal, Avatar?"
"You betcha. Here it is."
"After all these centuries of waiting... I had almost given up hope. But there is one that I must see one last time, before our paths forever separate."
"Edrin! Thou hast come..."
"Siranush! I had despaired of seeing thee again! How I wish I could be with thee always..."
"Thou hast filled my world with the love I never knew while my body lived. For that, I have called thee here for one last sight of thee..."
"Then the Hero hath succeeded in destroying the Dream Crystal?"
"You know I am still here, you could acknowledge that at some point."
"No, dear one, only I can undo what Rabindrinath hath done... The Hero hath defeated Rabindrinath and brought me the Crystal. It is mine to destroy it."
"Although I know it would be wrong, I wish with all mine heart that thou wouldst not. If I could join thee, I would gladly."
"I'm sure you'll see her again soon."
"I know that, dear Edrin. But thou hast life yet to live. I must destroy the Crystal. My people and I must move on to what lies beyond... I will look for thee, and hope that thou dost join me in what waits ahead."
"I have no wish to bind thee here, for all that I love thee. I will live my life and pray to meet thee beyond this world."
"Thou canst add my prayers to thine, Edrin. I love thee, now and always. Although we will not meet here again, dream of me... Farewell, my love."
"I love thee... And I shall dream of thee all the rest of my days. Farewell..."
"Ewwwwwwww, make out on somebody else's time, guys."
"Thou hast freed the tormented souls of my people, Avatar. Thy good deed shall be rewarded as promised. I wish thee luck in thy quest. May thy sleep be peaceful..."
"I thought I already was asleep."
"Oh. Then may you wake up right now."
"That would be better, yes."
Which returns us to the real world, having broken the curse on the ancient village of Gorlab. The only sign that anything we did was real is the Serpent Necklace we now have.
But if Gorlab existed before the Ophidian civilization rose to power, what was the Serpent Isle before the serpents? There's no record in the modern parts of the isle, but we're entering a place which is largely untouched. The answers all lie beyond the swamps.
Whoa, I do NOT remember that. Nakar, do you have any dialogue trees? Who is the dreamer?
Also, I assume you know: Attacking the dream-denizens gives extra dialogue as well, including Cantra and Lord British.
Can't find anything specifically about Boydon and it's hard to find anything implicit, but since you mentioned it, this is what Lord British says if you attack him in the dream:
"This nightmare hath become too much to bear! The Avatar himself hath turned against me! The Guardian's foul deeds have even corrupted our last bastion of virtue. Britannia is lost without its hero! I must awake..."
What's it mean that he's dreaming about looking for Gwenno and not, you know, finding her? Freud, you wanna take this one?
"This mental construction of opposites - Herr Iolo wishing to meet his wife yet unwilling to imagine himself finding her - is most likely a sign that his wife is fat."
"Yeah yeah. God, you're pushy, talking snake head guy."