Part 19: The Black Gate - special.
You may be right about the cannon turning itself. I'll be honest, I have kind of a compulsive desire not to try something I already believe to be impossible, so I've never actually tried to fire a cannon at a point behind the cannon, even though it makes perfect sense that you'd be able to since nothing else you can target in this game has an arc. As to the venom, I think it does give a temporary combat stat boost, not sure about the side effects, but if it gives stats it probably takes them away later.
As for Chuckles, I'm still plotting. He's died to a cannon once before. I need something special.
The Dragon: Nature's Most Majestic Asshole
"Congratulations, Avatar, and our thanks to thee for successfully delivering our package to Elynor of Minoc. Now we have another task at hand before thou canst join The Fellowship. Because thou didst deliver the package thou hast proven thyself worthy of performing another mission."
Note that if you opened the package, Batlin would be mad at you, and tell you to perform another mission to "restore trust." So yes, you're required to do this even if you didn't give in to curiosity. Which just proves you always should do the opposite of what NPCs in games tell you, because they usually give you another chance anyway.
"Thou shalt visit the dungeon of Destard, which is in the mountains just west of Trinsic. Do not worry, it is completely deserted. There thou shalt find a chest of Fellowship funds which was hidden for safekeeping just a few days ago. Thou wilt know the chest because it will contain not only gold but two Fellowship medallions. The site is also most likely marked with a Fellowship staff. Bring these funds back to us without losing a single coin and thou wilt have successfully completed thy mission. No need to bring the chest, just the gold. Now, thou must be on thy way!"
And here's Destard. Or is it? Well, it is one entrance.
And here, just inside, is... uh. A unicorn.
You see a creature the size and shape of a horse. From its head protrudes a single straight horn. It looks at you with eyes that shine with intelligence.
"What the hell is that? God, tell me you're not Smith."
The creature speaks. "My name is Lasher." Lasher looks at you and blinks. "Come now, Avatar! I do not live by the rules that govern the society of Mankind. There is what I am, which is a unicorn. Then there is my purpose, which is another thing altogether."
"You're a... unicorn?"
Lasher stares at you, stupefied. "Tell me, dost thou know what a unicorn is?"
"Steve... doesn't know a lot of things."
"Yeah, sorry, I don't keep up on all the different kinds of talking horses."
Lasher stares blankly at you. His mouth hangs open. "Very well. Then I shall tell thee what a unicorn is. A unicorn is one of a family of nature spirits that were once called upon to aid a very powerful wizard many, many years ago."
"I've never heard this one before. Go on."
"I do not remember the wizard's name, for much time has passed since then, but suffice it to say that he was a royal bastard. Anyway, for one reason or another, the chieftain of our clan, who at that time was a horse's ass named Sharp-Hoof, decided that rather than heed this wizard's rightful and properly performed ritual of calling, he was going to take the herd and chase after this bevy of really fine fillies. Where was I? Oh, yes, Sharp-Hoof! The next morning, after we had had our way with these fillies, this wizard called us again. This time Sharp-Hoof realized that we had best answer, and were we sorry that we did! The wizard was horribly angry! And, well, I will just say that our agreements with such people are very, very binding. Not only were we bound in service to this wizard for a thousand years, but he also placed a dreadful curse upon us."
"What kinda curse?"
We nature spirits used to be renowned for our randiness, and this wizard had called upon us to assist him in the seduction of some maiden. When we stood him up... Well, let us just say that he was one magician who was having a problem convincing his magic wand to work. Anyway, in a pathetic attempt to bolster his diminished feelings of manhood, he ruined us with an awesomely powerful Curse of Chastity. It was a terrible curse. First, it drove us to kill all of the female members of our clan. Then it afflicted us with the particular sensitivity for which we have become known. As it fell out, we did not actually have to serve the wizard for a thousand years. He reduced the time by a few weeks after placing that curse on us." Lasher snorts sarcastically, "I was heartbroken."
"So what is it that you guys, uh... do?"
"Oh, do not be coy with me, Avatar. Thou dost know very well the purpose of a unicorn. We are foolproof virgin detectors!"
"That is correct. So sensitive are members of my race to all forms of sexual energy that we can only tolerate physical contact with one who has not yet had any experience in that form of procreation - or recreation, if thou dost prefer."
"Yes, I find it most unpleasant to actually come into physical contact with anyone who is not a virgin, and I will avoid doing so whenever possible. Yes, well, I did not wish to get this personal with thee, but if thou does not mind, art thou a virgin?"
"I don't... know?"
"There's no shame in it, milady," says Iolo, looking very serious.
"No, it is perfectly understandable. Thou hast been so busy lately," says Shamino. You sense he is struggling to maintain a straight face.
"Why dost thou not go and pet the nice horsey. We would do it, but I think he prefers thee." With that, you hear an explosion of snorts and giggles.
"Oh you guys are assholes."
"I don't get this, but I do get that I probably shouldn't."
"Surely, Avatar, thou knowest that thou dost magically regain thy virginity each time upon returning to Britannia!"
"That's... kind of not a good thing. You know I'm a woman, right?"
"Hast thou remained a virgin since then by choice or by circumstance?"
"Uh, let's just blame circumstance."
"That is too bad, I am very sorry. I would love to be able to help thee, but that is no longer my purpose."
"Sounds like a pretty shitty line of work."
"Actually, the part of being a virgin detector that I find the most intolerable is having to perform upon demand for some clever mage or bard or hero who wants a potential wife to try to touch me. It is a tragedy. The man always gets nervous, then places a condition on the marriage that his bride must be a virgin. They call me to put her to the test, and the man's bachelorhood is granted a reprieve. I have destroyed more engagements than the Bubonic Plague."
"I can see how that would be depressing."
"Just like those fools who are wandering around down here looking for me for the same reason, I would wager. Well, they can lose that notion. I like women, I truly do, and frankly, I am sick and tired of being used as the instrument of their humiliation. I am a magical creature. I can avoid them down here as long as I want. They will die of old age before they catch me. I refuse to assist them in weaseling out of some breach of promise. Thou canst tell them that if thou dost see them."
Maybe we'll find these guys he mentioned. In fact, we will.
The fountain grants Protection. Or maybe it's Might. Or it could be Curse. I kind of forget which one the white aura is. I think it's Might but honestly it lasts so little time I don't even bother.
Some headless. Headless are seriously fucking everywhere in Ultima VII. They're the orcs or goblins of Ultima. Except they carry gold nuggets most of the time, so they're at least more interesting.
Dead end. It's not all bad though, with a little money and some magic arrows. The part we want to find is off in another entrance.
"Avatar, can you not see you are walking into a trap!"
"I already know Batlin is on your side, dude."
"So what, you think this is reverse psychology?"
"Well... yes, yes it is. You know what? Fine. I don't owe you anything. Have a nice day, Assvatar."
"Oooh, real clever."
The dungeon entrance is right here, by the way.
Here's the dudes looking for the unicorn. They're trying to help a friend get laid, so they want to prove to his girl that he's a virgin. If you tell Lasher this, he's intrigued (and maybe a little bit aroused) and decides that he might actually try to help out.
"Alright, so, there's the chest Batlin wanted. Let's grab the gold and get out of here."
"How would he know if it's the right gold, considering we have about 6000 coins exactly like it?"
"I don't know. Somehow, he'll just know. Fortunately, there's nothing wrong at all with this scenario!"
Except the gold is missing. Also, you might notice something is hidden off to one side of the screen here.
Now normally when you arrive here, you're going to check the chest, see the dragons, and run. Well, if you're a big wimp, that is. Obviously, not everybody has the Black Sword and other super weapons by the time they arrive here. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to deal with the dragons here and earn the treasure and experience they provide. Here's just a few.
Glass swords work, obviously. Dragons are one of the few enemies worth using them on, as they have a ton of HP (the Black Sword, not counting instakill mode, won't even finish them in one swipe most of the time). You could also put them to sleep with blue potions, but dragons tend to shake off magical sleep remarkably quickly. Death Bolts work sometimes, Mass Death is reliable, and Death Vortex will finish them off. But those are high-level spells, spells you probably can't cast the first time you get here. I did Forge of Virtue and stuff and I'm still not high enough.
But the best method, by far, is the dirty diaper. Dragons, like all NPCs, are horrified by the stench of soiled diapers, and will enter permanent flee mode. You can kill them with ease at that point, for all the delicious experience they yield. The major problem will be running out of diapers.
However you decide to kill a dragon, the reward for doing so is considerable. Look at all those gems.
I want the experience (though I'm not sure experience is still given to the killing blow lander anymore), so I've set everybody to "flee" AI. The good thing about this setting is that your allies will retreat as if they're critically wounded, but they won't drop any stuff, which they would do if they were involuntarily forced into a panic mode.
There are various little caches of gold and gems as you wander through the dungeon. Make sure you come in here with empty packs if you're not using the hack mover.
This place pretty much solely justifies the existence of the Reveal spell. There are several spots where invisible caltrops (pictured above the Avatar) lie in wait to damage you, and worse yet...
Dragons can turn invisible. Not such a good thing if you have no way to target them. You could still use area attacks though, and Death Vortex doesn't seem to care if they're invisible.
Drakes are the younger cousins of dragons. They put out less damage and give less experience, but the same number of gems.
With the game paused whenever we open an inventory screen, we're welcome to set up any old elaborate deathtrap we please.
Combine a blue potion with the aforementioned pause-supported deathtraps.
Woohoo! The dragon actually survived that, by the way. Several of the kegs failed to go off, but it turns out dragons are just that hard to kill.
More small treasure troves. A Fire Sword would be great if you hadn't found any of the "cheat" spots before getting here.
Sometimes the dragons in here are asleep. Dragons are heavy natural sleepers, but they don't keep asleep with Sleep spells or blue potions for long. If they're asleep when you find them though, they tend to stay that way, sometimes allowing you to beat them to death without retaliation.
Finally, here's the main cache. Gold bars, gold nuggets, gems, and a spellbook in a chest.
There's our (considerable) haul. The spellbook is fairly poor; it doesn't have all the Linear Spells, which while useless drive a completionist like me crazy. And it has almost no spells past the Second Circle. The free one Lord British gives you is better-equipped than this one.
Yeah, dragons are worth a lot of money. 30 gold each brings us to...
...well, a lot. 3300 if you can't do math. The dragons respawn, so it's an excellent source of experience and money. If you want, you can ditch all your party members, load up on blue and black potions, and sneak around while you're invisible drugging dragons and killing them with Arcadion like some kind of medieval Solid Snake.
By contrast, all those gold bars and nuggets barely approaches a grand, and they're heavier and higher-volume than gems besides.
"I feel halfway guilty about having ten times as much money as the entire government. We really need to find something to spend this on."
"I have a suggestion, actually."
"You're saying I can pay somebody money, and Iolo will stop sucking?"
"Well, I don't know about Iolo, but the rest of us can probably benefit."
"Very well then. To the trainer!"
Off to Serpent Hold. Two of my favorite NPC trainers are in Serpent Hold and Vesper. Each trains in Combat and Strength, +1 of one and +2 of the other, 3 training points each, 40-45 gold per session. It does leave you a little dex-poor, but most of your allies have decent (20 or higher) Dexterity to start, but rather poor Strength and Combat. Strength also allows for carrying capacity, and NPCs don't need Intelligence, so we'll just blow all their training points here.
"It's the eye of the tiger, something something the fight. Something something the challenge something something..."
"What are you doing montage music for? You've got perfect stats, you're not even working."
"I have to do something to pass the... wait, has it only been 6 hours? How the hell did you guys train in six hours?"
"Maybe we're just natural learners."
"Maybe you're just wasting my money."
"Wait wait wait a second."
"We all trained for about the same amount of time, but somehow Spark, who was weaker and more pathetic than all of us started, is now better than everyone but you, Steve."
"I knew I saw something in that little shit."
"Are these muscles? They're kind of... awesome."
Spark is special. Sure, he's just a kid. But then again, he's just a kid. His Dexterity is good to start with, and while his Strength and Combat start out lacking, Spark gains tons of Training points when he levels. Lots of points translates to lots of stats, and since Spark doesn't need Intelligence or Magic, he can swiftly eclipse the regular goon squad in effectiveness. I might not be able to get him to max Strength and Combat, but I almost certainly can get one of the two.
Steve, of course, being perfect in every way and doubly perfect in others, cannot use her training points on anything. Shame I can't donate them... or can I? With the F2 cheat, I could, I guess. But screw it, let's talk to Batlin.
"Ah yes, thou hast returned from Dungeon Destard! But wait! I do not see the Fellowship funds that thou wast to bring back! What has happened?!"
"Monsters! There are monsters lurking in dungeon Destard?! Well then, I do apologize for thine inconvenience. Well, thou didst certainly attempt to complete the quest. I cannot understand why the chest in Destard was empty. But we shall forget it, shall we? Now that thou hast worked a little for The Fellowship, and hast learned what we stand for, dost thou still wish to join?"
"Uhhhhhh, yeah, sure."
"Then thou art most welcome to The Fellowship. Thou wilt officially be inducted during our nightly meeting this evening. Please come, and thou shalt receive thy medallion then. Once again, we thank thee, Avatar."
"When I said 'come back for the meeting,' I didn't quite mean this."
Steve wakes up at about 8:37 in the evening. With time to kill until the meeting, she breaks into Batlin's stuff.
The ceremony begins as Batlin stands before the gathered members of The Fellowship in Britain. He begins his sermon. "My friends, I originally created The Fellowship to help ready Britannia and its people for the future. Today one of the greatest symbols of its past has come here to join our Fellowship. This is a great day, for as our past and present intertwine we shall send a message which shall be heard throughout Britannia. Soon all of its peoples will strive together for unity." The gathering breaks into loud cheers. "When they hear that the Avatar has become a member of The Fellowship those who were at first distrustful of us will come to see the truth of what we stand for. Then we may bring about a day when all of Britannia is worthy of the ample rewards it shall receive."
Iolo whispers to you. "Art thou quite certain, Avatar, that thou dost wish to join with these people?"
"Yeah, for sure."
"I am not certain if thou art brave or simply foolish."
"Now is the time when our members give their testimonials of how they have been applying the Triad of Inner Strength to their lives. Who shall be the first?"
"The Fellowship has taught me to live with the shortcomings of others," says Gaye.
"I had lost all enthusiasm for life before I joined The Fellowship," says Candice.
"Thank thee for sharing, Candice."
"The Fellowship helps me to be more honest with people," says Patterson.
"The Fellowship has taught me not to let others push me around," says Figg.
"The Triad of Inner Strength has helped me to improve my skills and build better weapons," says Grayson.
"The Fellowship has put me back on the path to prosperity," says Gordon.
"Yes! Thank thee for sharing, brother!"
"The Fellowship has taught me not to be afraid of success," says Sean.
"The Fellowship has given my life a whole new purpose. Just today I have recruited two more potential members!" says Millie.
"The Fellowship has taught me about the evils of the class structure," says Nanna.
You notice Iolo is whispering to Shamino. "I do not think that she doth realize the significance of the situation. She cannot be dissuaded. Perhaps thou shouldst give it a try."
"All right, I shall give it a try." He nudges you and whispers. "Perhaps we should get out of here, Avatar, before one of us does something they may later regret? Let us leave these premises, all right?"
"Nah, I'm good."
"Then I guess it is too late for I already regret coming here."
"Now is the time to welcome the newest member of The Fellowship to sit at our table." Batlin beckons you to join him at the podium. He pours a glass of wine into a crystal goblet and takes a sip. The goblet is passed around the hall, each member respectively taking a sip. Finally, the goblet is handed to you. You look at it thoughtfully as you feel all eyes in the room upon you.
You hear Shamino desperately whispering to Dupre as they stand behind you. "Dupre, we are having no success in showing the Avatar the mistake she must surely be making. Thou art our last hope."
You feel a tapping on your shoulder and you turn to see Dupre as he whispers in your ear. "I know a much better place to get a drink than this one. Perhaps thou wouldst like to join thy comrades there?"
"God, just shut up, we're staying."
"Then I hope this game amuses thee, for it makes thy comrades sorely worried."
"Now there remains but one more test of thy loyalty to The Fellowship. I presume thou hast read the Book of Fellowship by now. I must ask you two questions. The answers may be found within the book." Batlin smiles modestly. "I am the author, didst thou know? Well, never mind. Here we go."
"Is this copy protection?"
Several copyright questions later...
"Excellent, Avatar!" Fighting a tremble of hesitation you take a long deep drink from the goblet. Batlin steps up to you. "May the news spread far and wide that our newest member is none other than the Avatar!" The other Fellowship members cheer with pleasure. "Allow me to present thee with thy Fellowship medallion." Batlin gives you the medallion. "Please -- wear thy medallion at all times for it shall be a symbol to all who see it that thou dost walk with the Fellowship. Ready it to thy neck immediately! Oh, and... welcome to The Fellowship, Avatar."
"Dun dun DUN DUN DUNNNNN DUNNNNNNNNN."