Part 27: The Black Gate - The Most Deceitful Deceit of All is Still Not Very Deceptive
The Most Deceitful Deceit of All is Still Not Very Deceptive
Dungeon Deceit has a weird history in Ultima. You would assume that, being Deceit and all, it would have puzzles and tricks and traps and stuff. But for reasons totally unknown, it was really no more deceptive than any other dungeon in Ultima IV. In V it was remarkably straightforward, with Shame probably the trickiest dungeon. I don't remember anything altogether amazing about it in VI either, but all the dungeons kind of ran together in the shared underworld of U6 so it's hard to blame Deceit for that.
Ultima VII, finally, after almost 10 years, makes Deceit actually deceptive with a series of dead ends, invisible caltrops, hidden switches and walk-through walls.
And then kind of ruins it by being in a box 80 feet in every direction. Well, you can't win them all, Dungeon Deceit.
"The Shrine of Honesty's in pretty decent shape."
"Yeah, no harpies or anything."
"You know, you'd figure that after decades of nobody really caring about the Virtues anymore, this shrine would fall into disrepair like all the others."
"I think it's just that nobody gives enough of a shit about this place except us to come deface it."
"We give a shit about it?"
"Well, not anymore. But if it still gave us stats or something, sure."
"How did you become the Avatar, again? I was there and I still don't get it."
As intimidating as this arrow gauntlet looks, it's surprisingly weak. The arrows have to actually hit us, which seems to require an attack roll or something because the party takes a collective damage of about 6 in a series of occasional -1 hits.
"I might just camp out here, you know? Spend about 8 hours with the wind and arrows whistling through my hair."
The Tetrahedron Generator is to the northeast, but we have to go northwest first (of course). Any wall this close together is just an illusion. Unfortunately, you can't use the Reveal spell to dispel most false wall illusions because they're not actually illusions, they're just non-solid wall objects. You may ask, "Doesn't that make Reveal kind of useless?" Yes. Yes it does.
"Well, that was briefly fun."
"I dunno, I'm just not feeling it anymore after that shit Batlin put us through."
"Ah, to be young and shooting dragons with a magic wand again."
For a dragon treasure, this one's actually not bad. Magic armor, plenty of gems, a couple rings, and underneath the big pile of stuff, a glass sword. That may be useful later, especially if you come in here without the Black Sword.
Yet another fake wall. This will eventually lead to the generator, but let's backtrack for a second.
There's an exit in the middle of Deceit that leads into a little valley. The valley has three deer in it, which means 15 legs of venison ( ). It also has a cyclops. The cyclops doesn't attack, and you won't attack him even if you enter into combat mode. Which means he's not a monster at all!
You see a large cyclops. It looks at you and blinks its eye in irritation.
"What dost thou want?" says Iskander.
"Oh, nothing much. Don't worry, I have excellent rapport with cyclopses."
"I thought it was cyclopes or something."
"He might be right. But he might not be right."
"Which is it?"
"I'm not really sure. Is it like cactus? Or octopus?"
"But those end in -us, we're just talking about -ops here."
"Right right. NAME?"
"I am of the clan Ironheart, the eleventh son of Valador. They call me Iskander. My cyclopean people say I am a hero. Many of you humans say I am a monster. No doubt, the truth is somewhere in between."
"Yeah, I've dealt with this moral ambiguity thing before."
"One hundred and eighty-nine years ago I slew the seven Gazer Princes when they used their magic to steal the eye from the leader of our tribe, but such things are now ancient history and are no longer of any consequence. Yet on numerous occasions I have caused the unpleasant end of human interlopers who mistakenly believed our race was fit for nothing save to be plundered. But I have no quarrel with thee." He pauses to scrutinize you. "For the moment."
"That makes you smarter than most of the people I meet and offend so far."
"Thou dost know my name, but I still do not know the name of thee. I like to know to whom I am speaking. What is thy name?"
"Nothing, it's just the first time anyone has ever politely asked my name before. People call me Steve, but my name is actually-"
"Hey, anybody try this fifth deer leg? It's got kind of a weird taste."
"-and that's why everybody shortens it. Can I offer you some bread?"
"Thank you. I have heard of thee, Avatar. Thou hast come into conflict against our kind before, I know. But I have also heard the tales of thine heroic and spiritual quests and I believe thee to be a just and noble man."
"Well, you're two-thirds of the way there."
"Thou mayest call me friend. Those of my tribe are a quiet people. They farm the rocky soil, but are also very good tool makers. I was sent to find them a new homeland."
"What's wrong with the current one?"
"My village lies a great many days' journey away. The people there desire a place where they can live in peace with their surroundings. I have not found such a place yet, but I will search everywhere until I do. While I am two hundred and six, not long in years for one of my race, I already have the heart of an old man. A hero's adventures have no more attraction for me. I long to settle down with my people and spend my days tending the fields or in my workshop building things."
"I know that feeling."
"My searches have brought me to this dreadful place. I incorrectly surmised that since magic does not work it would be relatively safe. It is here that I have been perplexed by a terrible riddle."
"If this is about Mister Ed, I hear they used peanut butter to make him talk."
"...not quite. Standing at the doorway of one room in this place, I saw an enormous image of a tetrahedron. As I tried to near it a wave of amnesia passed over me. Once more I was standing in the doorway. I could remember nothing more. This same wave of amnesia struck me every time I tried to approach the tetrahedron. I do not know what sort of foul magic this is. Perhaps thou shalt be able to solve this mystery. I have been unable to as of yet. But I shall remain here until its secret is revealed. I warn thee, however, that this place is not safe. It holds unknown perils. Perhaps thou wouldst do better to leave this place."
"You mentioned earlier that you once took revenge for some gazers stealing your chief's eye? What was with that?"
"Ah! The eye of a cyclops is considered quite a delicacy to some of the less genteel races of Britannia. Twice have foul creatures tried to take mine, and twice have I dined on their hearts. In that day they called me 'Wonder Boy'. For nearly a hundred years that was the nickname by which I was known. I was most grateful when they stopped doing that!"
"Hahahahah. Wonder Boy?"
Iskander squints his eye at you. "Do not start that again!"
Iskander is not a throwaway NPC, but you have to meet two others before you can get his final perspective on something. I kind of forgot where those NPCs are however. I'm pretty sure they're in a dungeon somewhere, possibly Destard, but if anyone remembers let me know. I guess I could use the F2 menu to teleport to their location.
Walking through more walls, wading through Gazers and headless, and weaving through Force Fields.
Get used to these whitish boxes of tomfoolery, as they are prominent in Serpent Isle and also a huge pain in the ass there, since it takes forever to get Dispel Field.
"Awwwwwww hell naw."
The guardian is somewhat correct about this. I still don't get why he warns the Avatar about how to foil his own plans. Maybe he just likes playing around. Anyway, you'll get zapped if you walk into the Tetrahedron room without the Ethereal Ring on. You've got to ditch your companions, since there's only one Ethereal Ring. After that, just walk into the room and up to the tetrahedron.
I don't have a screenshot of that because I couldn't linger in the room; being shot by the Tetrahedron, even when protected, causes Exult to crash for me. If you're fast it won't shoot at you and you can get inside.
"Well, this isn't too bad. Kinda reminds me of Mars and stuff, except without the giant dream monsters."
The big red monster in here is tough, because you have to fight him alone. He has perfect stats, 15 armor (equivalent to having a full suit of magic armor on or thereabout), is immune to normal damage (including spells that do normal damage, which means Death Bolt), and doesn't bleed out and flee.
Fortunately, the Black Sword or a Glass Sword can dispatch him more or less instantly.
You may be curious why Iolo, Dupre, and Spark are still in the party. That's because I failed to get a screenshot the first time and just teleported here from an earlier save to get this picture. I didn't remove anyone from my party as I ripped through Spektran and Deceit and I think the others are asleep outside the Tetrahedron. Well, whatever.
"That was an ordeal. Now I just need to figure out what to do with this mysterious object."
"Careful, Frau Steve! The slightest disruption in the functioning of the generator could cause a tremendous ethereal backlash!"
"Since when are you an expert on magical fields, Freud?"
"Call it a hobby, ja?"
"Yeah well I'm messing with this anyway."
"See? It exploded and nobody I know or care about was hurt in the slightest. I really am the greatest."
Pick up the little tetrahedron. Pick up the little tetrahedron. Do not lose this object. It is a plot-critical item. If you fuck up you can go back and get it from the Trinsic cheat room, but that should be a last resort for failure loser Avatars.
One generator down. Three to go. Each generator has a different purpose, as we'll be told much later. The thing about what I'm doing is that it's entirely plausible to destroy the Tetrahedron at this point in the story, and indeed there is really no logical reason why you shouldn't, since Penumbra tells you what to do and where it is. However, the game itself assumes you're going to go look for the Time Lord first for some reason, even though you have no real need to go to Yew yet. It also assumes you're going to follow the Time Lord's instructions and try to meet Nicodemus.
Nicodemus, however, will have been driven mad by the ether disruption (as all mages are), and won't be able to help you. The Tetrahedron was responsible for that, and so by the time we meet Nicodemus, he will have always been sane.
Okay, this isn't really a cheat so much as something you might not look into or investigate very closely. Destroying the Tetrahedron restores the flow of the ether and frees the mages of Britannia from their addle-minded state. This changes their dialogue considerably.
If you do Forge of Virtue after the Tetrahedron, Erethian's text when summoning the forge itself is slightly different.
As you may recall, it was:
You feel a great surge in the ether, which seems to temporarily stabilize it in this area.
But it instead would be:
You feel a great surge in the ether as the mage draws power from his surroundings.
We originally spoke with Mariah here.
"Mariah!!! GUESS WHAT!?"
"Nghhhhh, what the hell do you want? I just got to sleep for the first time in SIXTY YEARS."
"Yeah, I'm sure. I just wanted you to know I fixed the ether. You're welcome."
"Yes, I'm well aware of that."
"And now I want to hear how your dialogue is different."
"You won't leave until we do this, will you?"
"No, I will not do that."
You see your old friend Mariah.
"Yes, Avatar? How may I help thee?" Mariah greets you.
NAME: "Surely thou dost recognize thine old companion, Mariah?"
JOB: "I sell spells, reagents, and sometimes a few potions here at the Lycaeum. Dost thou wish to buy any of these, Avatar?"
POTIONS/REAGENTS: "I am afraid, Avatar, that I have a very meager selection."
LYCAEUM: She shakes her head sadly. "I have not been `myself' for so long that I no longer recognize this town." Her eyes widen. "There are so many buildings around the Lycaeum now, hast thou seen them?"She pauses, looking at you."By the way, old friend. I assume thou art responsible for returning the ether to its normal state. I thank thee."
Rudyom was first spoken with here.
This elderly mage looks older and more senile than when you last saw him.
"Hello again, Avatar!" Rudyom says, beaming.
JOB: "I am a powerful mage! Magic is my milieu! I can sell thee spells or reagents."
MAGIC: "The ether is flowing freely! Magic is with us once again!"
By the way, Rudyom will hang out in his office all day cooking up potions and leaving them on the table for you to steal. You can't control what he makes though.
And finally Nystul, whom we met here, not pictured. Pictured: Holy shit that is a fuckload of bread. Bennie and his wife have been busy.
You see your old friend Nystul, now a decrepit old man in mage's robes. He seems lost in thought, far away.
"Yes, Avatar?" Nystul asks.
NAME: "Why, 'tis Nystul!"
JOB: "I am Lord British's personal mage!"
MAGIC: "The magic is much better now. My spells all work very nicely. I thank thee, Avatar, for clearing the ether. Interested in any spells or reagents?"
LORD BRITISH: "He is the greatest ruler this land has ever known and I am proud to serve him."
Lord British, as usual, doesn't seem to notice or care what is going on. He still mentions that healing is "one bit of magic that still works for me" even though pretty much all magic should still work. I'm not sure if he says anything different if you avoid talking to him entirely before fixing the ether. I'm not about to go check.
Dialogue changing due to certain events is not common in Ultima VII, but it usually makes for quite the change. For the mages, it's minor, although it makes buying spells easier because you no longer have to jump through Nystul and Mariah's conversation loops just to get to the purchase menu. There is one more coming up later in the game that is much cooler.
For now, it's off to the Medtitation Retreat, Serpent Hold, and surrounding (treasure-laden) islands!