Part 13: The Black Gate - Blood From A Stone
Blood From A Stone
It's not a terribly good secret door, but if you were curious the way to the Test of Love is in the back of Erethian's bedroom.
Unlike the other two tests, this one has no combat or monsters whatsoever. Just a quiet little valley.
With a quiet little hut. The hut seems to belong to a wizard named Astelleron with an interest in golems and the strange properties of the Isle of Fire, but he's nowhere to be seen. In fact, the whole place looks like it hasn't been used in a while...
The valley also has a lot of quarries and mines.
And where there's mines, there's powder kegs. A good haul of about 8-10 are in the region, but more importantly, we need to grab a pick for later.
Not far from the hut is this strange little spectacle.
The stone statue stands with a lowered head. Despite its granite features, a downcast look is apparent on its face. Surprisingly, it turns to speak with you.
"Why, by the stars, I believe it is a creature!"
Slowly, as if with great effort, it raises it head. "What dost thou... want?" it asks slowly.
"Now that I have this sword, not a whole hell of a lot. Who are you?"
"My master named me Bollux. I am a guardian of the Shrines of the Principles. We were... created to protect the Shrines of the Principles. Only the... Avatar should use their power. Adjhar and I were... keeping watch... when the wall fell on Adjhar. And the loud noise came... I carried him here so that I could restore him, but I do not... know how."
"What are you, some sort of golem?"
"We are called stone golems... because we are made out of stone and rock. Astelleron made us. He is our master. We were... fashioned... out of the rock from the quarry on this small island. I know nothing about the process, but Astelleron once told me he used something called... magic to give us life and... animation." The golem pauses, obviously conscious of his next thought. "He did not like his... solitude. He said he was... lonely."
"Astelleron said it was how... a person feels when no one is around. He told us how... happy he felt after we were... born. He called me... a son."
"so... what are you doing here again? This is your-"
"Help him?" it asks carefully, pointing to the fallen statue lying beside it. "My companion... Adjhar... He is dying. Thou must help repair him. Please, I beg... thee."
"He's another golem?"
"He is my brother... and my friend. We protected the... Shrines together. We cannot let him... stay like that. Help me... assist him. I have a book here that Adjhar said told about... our... creation. This might help bring him back." He hands to you a very old tome. It is evident the book has seen much use, for the leather covering is wearing away to reveal the wood beneath and the pages are quite dog-earred. "I have already set up five... rocks to mark a spot for the... blood. I did not... understand the book, but I remember... blood... There are several... more books lying about the house. I do not... know what they are about. Adjhar read them."
"I can't imagine you taking time out of your busy schedule to help these two, Steve."
"Oh Shamino, you're so naive. If I weren't intensely interested in saving idiots from themselves, why would I still keep Iolo around?"
"Yeah! ...wait, hey!"
"Sit tight, Bollux. We'll be right back."
So we need to help Bollux's brother with blood from the Stone of Castambre. We'll get there through one of the mines.
This patch of ground is a teleporter. I don't know why it's a teleporter, but it is. Make sure to grab the two powder kegs in that backpack before you step onto the warp spot.
We wind up in a dark, but finished hallway that leads out to the stone.
"Is the tree bleeding, or is the stone bleeding, or what is going on here exactly?"
"I don't know, but it's kind of awesome in a metal sense."
"The only thing more metal would be hitting it with a pick until it bleeds."
Which is exactly what we do.
Now we set up the blood on the stones here, and read the book Bollux gave us about the whole ritual thing.
Not foreshadowing! But we do need that page.
"According to the tome, a `heart' will be necessary to perform this ritual."
"I will give him mine!" You watch in stunned horror as Bollux pierces his chest open with his fingers. He pulls forth a heart-shape stone and, with a final flurry of action, drops the stone upon Adjhar's chest as he falls dead to the ground.
"He gave up his heart... so that Adjhar may live! Well, not to be morbid, but I suppose the incantation should work now."
"Right then. Here goes."
Place the heart inside...
"In Ylem... In Grav... In Mani... Kal Por..."
"You have no idea what you're saying, do you?"
The stone sparkles for some reason.
"Greetings to thee, honorable one. I can but assume that my presence here was thy doing." It becomes quickly apparent that this creature possesses a greater capability for speech than his fallen companion. The recently raised golem stares down at the prone, lifeless body of Bollux. Quickly he looks up at you. "Wh-what has happened?"
"I'd kinda like to know that myself."
He kneels over the body and inspects the other golem. As his fingers trace around the gaping hole in Bollux's chest, an expression of understanding fills his visage. "H-his heart is gone!" He stares down at his own chest. "He sacrificed himself by giving me his heart... the fool!" His words are insulting but his tone is affectionate. "I must help him, as he helped me! Wilt thou assist?"
"Very good," he says, noticeably relieved. "I thank thee in advance. I am the golem called Adjhar, at thy service. I am one of the guardians of the Shrines of the Principles. That was exactly what Bollux and I were doing when the wall fell and crushed me. I do not remember the incident clearly. However, I will relate what I can recall. Bollux and I were standing guard in the Shrine Room of the Principles when we detected an intrusion into the the castle. I remember nothing more than being aware of great heat, and then part of the wall crumbling atop me, crushing my legs. I suppose Bollux was more forunate. Was it he who carried me here?"
"That's what he told us."
"Then it is imperative that we find a way to bring him back! If nothing else, I owe him my gratitude. He is my older brother, and my friend. Master Astelleron -- we actually called him our father -- created him before he did me. And he instilled Bollux with a personality first."
"So what is it that we did wrong?"
"Poor Bollux did not know of the Stone of Castambre. His sacrifice was, perhaps, unnecessary. Hast thou, perchance, come across MacCuth's 'The Stone of Castambre?'"
"Uh, yeah I guess."
"Dost thou have it with thee?" His eyes reveal his hope. As he takes the book from you, it almost appears as if he is smiling. "'Tis as I suspected. Bollux thought he must sacrifice his own heart to return my life." If you were to believe it possible, you would feel positive you had just seen a drop of water fall from the golem's right eye. "The poor fool gave his life for mine. I can only hope I would have done the same. "Doing so now, however, would help nothing, for once I was gone Bollux would simply repeat his act." You hear a sigh come from the golem.
"I don't mean to be irreverent, but did the matter not involve death, 'twould be a humorous sight: the two golems popping up and down as each one passed the `heart' to the other..."
"However," smiles Adjhar, "'tis not necessary, for had Bollux known what is covered by this smudge, he could have told thee that a new heart may be cut from the Tree of Life. Look here," he says, pointing to a line in the tome smeared with dried mud. "I remember this from before. Thou canst take the very same pick with which thou didst collect the blood and procure a `heart' for Bollux. Of course, after thou dost place the heart upon Bollux's body, thou must again perform the same ritual of blood."
"Didn't need to tell me twice!"
Hitting the tree makes it wither, but it produces a heart. Don't forget to get another bucket of blood while you're here.
"I have never felt more alive than I do at this moment."
We do the ritual again, and...
Now both golems are alive!
Adjhar appears to have resumed the stance of a more traditional golem guardian -- staunch and unmoving. However, it is impossible to miss the glimmer of intelligence in his eyes. "I was created to be one of many protectors to the Shrines of the Three Principles. However," he pauses, "my duty also included being the keeper of the Talisman of Love. Dost thou want the Talisman of Love?"
"I was put here to protect the Shrines and prevent any from acquiring the Talisman. Any except the Avatar who demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Love. The Talisman is thine, Avatar." He brings his stone hand to his heart and opens a panel on the front of his chest. Reaching inside with his other hand, he brings forth a beautiful yellow talisman. He places the Talisman in your palm. "Thou hast earned this and the honors and powers associated with it. Thou art truly an Avatar."
"Mark the wisdom of the Shrine of Love well, Avatar."
Back at the main keep, we've got our stats maxed now. Your stats can't go much higher than this without either getting the double strength from Lord British or cheating. Exult doesn't seem to let you cheat up to 255 in stats like the original games did, but 255 in any stat is kind of ludicrous and hilarious. Even then, it doesn't do much to help keep Iolo alive.
"My heart is gladdened to learn that Love is a Principle thou dost hold dear, evident by thy successful completion of the Test of Love. Now, then, shall a blessing of quickness and skill be thine. Now hast thou earnestly experienced all that is Love. 'Tis a benefit never to be taken lightly, for Love is a formidible motivator. Remember always the lessons in Compassion, Sacrifice, and Justice thou hast mastered." The voice of the Keeper of Love fills with compassion as she speaks. "Do have a care, Avatar. For a great evil stirs within Britannia, I know not the source."
And now we just have to banish the Dark Core. Can Erethian be tricked into helping us?
"I just thought I'd let you know that I kind of accidentally blew up the gargoyle world, so the psyche of Exodus may be coming back, possibly. It's true because a statue told me."
"Could this possibly be true?" Erethian's blind eyes light up with unabashed glee. "What an opportunity I have here." He once again notices your presence. "Now, do not let any strange ideas of destruction enter thy mind, Avatar. I shan't let thee deprive me of this chance to experience a true wonder of the world. Run along now... Is there not a right to be wronged, somewhere else?"
"You are aware that this is a great evil, right? This isn't a good thing."
The elderly mage frowns. "I sense no great evil, but then I never did quite get the knack of cosmic awareness. Nevertheless, don't worry thyself over much. These things tend to work themselves out." You feel as if you've just been patted on the head and asked to go play elsewhere.
"On a completely unrelated matter, do you know much about the Talisman of Infinity?"
"Ah, yes. I once had a scroll that told of a talisman by that name. If only I could remember where I put it. Dost thou by chance have the parchment entitled Scroll of Infinity with thee? Here we are. Now then, it appears to be written in a strange format. One might even say a code of sorts... I have it! Apparently, the Talisman currently resides in the Great Void. A plane somewhat removed from ours. If thou wishest to gain access to this void, thou shalt need to craft two lenses: one concave, the other convex. Light focused through the properly enchanted lenses will open a conduit between our realm and the void. I believe this treatise speaks of three Talismans of Principle that send out a call to the Infinity Talisman and bring it here. Once here, it would seem that its sole purpose is to coerce a powerful force into the void." A thought hits the mage like lightning strikes a tree. "Oh no, Avatar... Thou shan't gain any more aid from me. I may be blind, but I see through thy sham. I'll not help thee send the Core into the void." Erethian falls silent, and it would appear that he'll speak no more.
Arcadion's voice whispers to you like a ripple in a still pond, "Fear not, my master. I have some knowledge of these matters."
"Oh yeah, I forgot I can just ask you. So what do we do?"
Arcadion's voice is smug as he replies to your request for assistance. "Yes, I can help thee if thou wishest to exile what remains of Exodus to the Void. Firstly, thou shalt have need of the lenses of which the doddering, old fool spoke. Next thou needs must have the three Talismans of Principle. And finally, make sure that there are lit torches upon the walls to either side of the pedestal upon which the Dark Core rests. The concave and convex lenses which thou used to place the Codex of Infinite Wisdom within the Void, I believe now sit forgotten in the Museum of Britannia. They must be placed between the Dark Core and the torches on either side of the pedestal."
"This doesn't seem right."
"Hey, if they're not gonna use this shit to seek ultimate wisdom, then I'm going to keep using it to banish things that annoy me to the Void."
This is starting to look familiar. Lenses between the object to be vanished, and the amulets form a conspicuous pie-shaped thing atop the core.
As soon as we unpause, the Talisman of Infinity appears in the missing wedge. Erethian also appears, and he is rather pissed off.
"Vas Ort Rel Tym..." He stops mid-spell and begins another, pointing towards the Talisman of Infinity. "Vas An Ort Ailem!" You immediately recognize the resonance of a spell gone awry, and apparently so does Erethian. A look of horror comes to his wrinkled features which appear to become more lined by the second.
"He exploded into a shower of skeleton parts!"
"Did you enjoy that?"
"Is it bad if I say yes?"
With Erethian dead and Exodus's chewy nougat center banished for good, the Forge of Virtue expansion is complete. All that remains is to get our last reward.
"I felt the passing of the remains of Exodus from this realm. It has lifted a great weight from my shoulders. And so Avatar, I cannot let this accomplishment go unrewarded. Please kneel, my friend." Lord British holds out his hands as you obey his command. "I congratulate and thank thee, Avatar. Thy deeds continue to speak well of thee."
Now that's what I'm talkin' about.
"Maybe we should get back to the plot now, Steve."
"This game has a plot?"
We've got a twofer today. First, one of the best treasure troves in the Forge of Virtue expansion. Oh sure, the Black Sword is probably the best thing you'll ever get in Ultima VII, but only the Avatar can wield it. Everybody else is feeling a little left out.
Almost imperceptible off the top right corner of the Stone of Castambre is a lever. In its "off" orientation you can only see a couple pixels of it, but if you go back to the other screenshots in this post you may notice I've flipped it to the right already and it's much easier to spot.
It opens this secret passage in the hallway.
Which leads to this other hall.
A bizarre ritual. A mysterious main gauche. A Firedoom Staff. And, perhaps most importantly, a Death Scythe, which goes to Dupre because I hate him less than the other two Companions.
The Death Scythe is an excellent weapon. Its base damage is by far the highest for any melee weapon, and it will kill essentially anything in a single blow. It's not absolutely guaranteed, like the Black Sword's special properties, but its damage is just so high that most things can't survive it. It is two-handed, but until Serpent Isle most of the best weapons are.
Funny enough, it is nearly beaten out by Iolo's Triple Crossbow with Magic Bolts. The triple crossbow is mean. Shamino with a Magic Bow and Serpent Arrows in SI is going to be pretty brutal too.
A torn-up and bloodied corpse at the end of the hall is stuffed full of glass swords.
My weapon/armor crate is full in the porthold, so I'll just take the corpse.
Alright, and now for Method #2 for killing Lord British. He's impervious to most normal weapons. But the Black Sword is no normal weapon. Can Arcadion be asked to slay Lord British?
Why, he'd be delighted to!
"Yes! I have long sought the end of Lord British, my traitorous master."
"Steve, for what reason art thou brandishing that black sword in my presence?"
The daemon responds, using your mouth. "This blade is thy doom,..." You spit the words, "Lord British!"
Lord British looks truly taken aback, his eyes narrow calculatingly. "What foul treachery is this?"
You find yourself unable to respond, and your muscles are clenching as if to lash out with the wicked blade in your hand.
"Perhaps when thou art sitting in a dungeon, thy tongue will loosen. Guards!"
The upside to this method is that it's hilarious. The downside is that it causes the entire castle to attack you.
And now, finally, let's check what's on his body:
Of course none of this actually happened. Probably.