Part 43: NORTHERN PASSAGE - Get Used To Snow, Folks
Get Used To Snow, Folks
And now, finally, it's time to head north. Really. I mean it this time. And when I say north I don't mean just "moving north," because of course we've been doing that for a while. I mean heading into the wasteland, the frozen tundra, the big nasty open empty frigid hellhole Serpent Isle calls its northern third or so. There, we'll chase down Batlin and stop him from destroying the world through whatever means it is he's plotting.
What's the worst thing that could happen?
West of Hazard's Lodge and a little northeast of Morghrim's house is the cave to the north. Yes, this is the only way to get there short of cheating. No, they don't give you very good directions to get here. You just sort of have to walk along the great northern mountain ranges until you spot it.
Because Serpent Isle thinks you're stupid, plenty of cloaks and other warm gear are strewn throughout the caves leading to the tundra. You seriously need to bundle up. Seriously.
"It would be nice if these random witches who keep trying to kill us were ever explained."
"Perhaps they're servants of the Guardian, like we met in the past. You know, the ones who randomly tried to kill us?"
"Sounds like a weak retcon to me."
"Or at least a shoddy justification."
"Or possibly a flimsy rationalization."
She's also got an Enchant Missiles scroll if you still don't have that.
And down we go.
"Strangely enough, we're actually very close to where their village is."
"Well, yes, was."
"Everything was going swell for them. And then came Steve."
"Didn't you used to be a druid?"
"Yeah, but I was never the wishy-washy balance of nature kind of druid. I always favored the 'large birds of prey scratching out woodcutters' eyeballs' kind."
"This explains so much."
The cave is full of monsters and strange markers. For the most part, it's easy stuff, but you do get a lot of monsters coming after you in tight quarters. Proceed carefully.
"A staircase going down! Everyone knows the lower one goes in a dungeon, the better the loot!"
"As I remember it, the dungeons in Britannia didn't have any loot, and everything in the Underworld just wanted to slaughter us."
"It's true in every other game, and if I keep insisting on it, maybe it'll be true this time."
"I've got a good feeling about this strange demonic Moongate surrounded by corpses."
"We gave up people talking to us for paragraphs on end for this?"
"Shut up and go in there and don't come out unless it's something non-fatal."
Wow, go figure, it isn't.
"It seems that this is someone's tomb."
"Who would be buried this far out in the middle of nowhere, though?"
Gannt is a bard of some degree of legend in the Serpent Isle. You can find books of his lame poetry around. But what happened to him? If only his ghost were to show up and leave us a scroll detailing his fate?
"Hey look, his ghost showed up and left a scroll detailing his fate!"
Hark, adventurer, and read these words well.
Many know me as Gannt the Bard, singer of songs, and writer of fine poetry for all to enjoy. Though many know of me, most do not know of my life, or at least of how I came to this end. Read, and read well, dear adventurer.
If thou hast any justice in thine heart, or any pity in thy soul, then thou wilt seek vengeance for mine untimely death. If thou, hearty adventurer, hast any sense of duty to avenge evils, then thou must seek out the craven and cowardly Captain Stokes of the rusty old bucket 'The Mustang' and exact just payment, for alas, since I am not of this world, I cannot.
One day as I was at the Inn of Sleeping Bull, plucking my lute, not bothering anyone, but practicing my trade, in walked the swine, Captain Stokes, billowing foul fog upon us with his ill-smelling fag.
Seeing that no one in the fair establishment could stomach the pungent smell of his tobacco-like rot, I dared to ask him to put it out, for the sake of all our healths. He stared at me, then turned a blind eye. I went back to strumming my lute, 'til again the smell began to bring tears to mine eyes. Again I asked him, begged him to stop, but again he turned away.
Finally, as gentle ladies began to leave for air, and good children began to cough and cry from the Captain's reeking root, I tried once more. This time, though, he answered with the blade of his dagger. He thrust well through my lute and into mine entrails, stuffing it deep into my belly.
He grinned and twisted the blade, not once nor twice, but thrice! Being but a humble bard and quite mortal, I had little choice but to expire. I fell in a pool of mine own blood, mine hand strumming my last chord as I fell.
I ask thee, I beg of thee to give me peace, and exact vengeance for my death. Before thee is the key to his rotten hovel which thou mayest find to the west of Fawn, above the forest of Knight's Test. Many ill-begotten instruments doth he hide in his house of ill-wares. Beware them! Please, noble adventurer, exact justice for my death, and exact the toll from that evil Captain Stokes. Do this and let my spirit rest peacefully...
"I dunno, it sounds like he kinda had it coming."
"But we scarcely need an excuse to hunt down a murderer and his ill-gotten wares, which we hopefully can then make our neutrally-acquired wares."
"Aren't we supposed to be chasing Batlin?"
Movin' right along, goblins aplenty as we fight on through.
Oh boy, caltrops! I like how little spikes somehow hurt more than open flame and actual weapons, but these are fortunately not invisible.
As we approach the end of the tunnel, we stumble upon a dying man.
"Oh, the pain... The end is near..."
"Whoa, a dead guy!"
"He isn't dead."
"He's about to be. Who are you?"
"Me name's Fitch. Me and me mates were trappers for Hazard."
"What happened to you, man?"
"Several days ago we were camped in a nearby cave when we were attacked by a terrible sorceress. Evil she was, striking men dead before we knew what was upon us. We slew her, though she took many men with her even as she fell. Only I survived, though I fear not for long."
"An evil sorceress? Well, at least we won't have to deal with her. Rest easy, buddy."
"I am glad thou didst find me. I'd have hated to have died out here alone..."
"I'm not sure dying out here with some total strangers who are going to strip your body of anything valuable is any better, but I guess you're dead and don't care anymore."
"Will we ever be able to go somewhere and not violate the sanctity of the dead?"
"Well, here we are. This reminds me a bit of Mars, only bleached white."
"Yeah, kind of."
"Oh, I bet you know a lot about Mars, huh?"
"I mean, well, you know, I'm sure that's what it was like."
"...staring at me isn't going to make me admit to it."
"Fine, next order of business."
"Time to put on your stupid looking hats."
Wandering around the north will cause characters to gradually take damage as they freeze to death. There's no spell to equalize the temperature like Chill, so your only choice is to equip everybody with a full suit of warm gear. Warm gear includes fur boots, a fur hat, and a cloak of some sort (I don't think capes work, but apparently any kind of pelt-based cloak does, so you don't need Gwani cloaks). If everyone's so equipped, they'll be fine up north. However, fur caps have lousy armor, so you take a small hit from that. The exception is the Avatar who can wear the Helm of Light and laugh at the Companions, not that I'd do that.
Polar bears wander the wilds, doin' bear thangs. Like all animals in Ultima, they eventually decide you must die and charge you.
Now that this bear's slaughtered corpse reminds me, we should ditch all our Gwani cloaks. I don't think the Gwani care if you aren't wearing the cloaks, and the major Gwani NPCs don't care at all, but we might as well not stand up for murder.
The second thing we must do is use the Hound of Doskar to track Batlin from his amulet.
Batlin is somewhere to the east, still in the wastes.
Unfortunately, that doesn't really narrow it down.
But you still need to do it. You're required to do this. You cannot gain access to Skullcrusher until you track Batlin from his medallion. You'll be told you're forgetting something. This can be particularly maddening if you've already got a good idea of where Batlin actually is. More on that in a while.
North of here is the cave Fitch and his companions were hanging out in. It looks like Fitch was telling the truth. Somebody torched these assholes something fierce. But whoever it was, they're nowhere to be found now.
Instead of snakes, we now have snow snakes. And you thought Ultima was too good for palette swaps.
In one of the caves along the southernmost "finger" of the Skullcrusher mountain range is the entrance to an Ophidian city. Unfortunately, the gate is locked on us, and there appears to be some kind of magical passcode preventing entry. Several runes have fallen off their pedestals, but you can match them with what's written on the plaques (one instance where Translation isn't useful). However, even if you know where the runes go, and what order to activate them in, you can't get in here. Yet.
For your reference. Unfortunately there's nothing further to do here until we do a few more things. Time to head north again.
Let's take a trip back to the south. Remember that House of Wares? Gannt's given us the key. West of where we'll be focusing on today is a hut with a jester in it. For some reason, initating combat mode causes the Avatar's party to beat the everliving shit out of him for no reason.
"And here we are... the House of Wares. Captain Stokes's lair."
"Oh my God."
"He's more than just a pirate, he's a monster."
"No mere pirate. A software pirate!"
"This is going to be so topical 15 years from now."
Now we've got the run of Stokes's place (and his corpse, I guess). Not a whole lot of interest here besides his, well, computer, and some loot upstairs.
Also there's a parrot, and a convenient gavel right next to him!
"I think you just got told by a parrot."
"Only Stokes's PC can assauge my pain now. Let's play some Privateer."
Keep using the computer, and it explodes. Don't look at me, I just write these updates.