Part 35: The Black Gate - This Place Was Downright Respectable Before YOU Showed Up
This Place Was Downright Respectable Before YOU Showed Up
I'll probably get to the Caddelite subquest as a separate thing, before I finish out the game itself. For now though, I think it's best we keep moving along and address the plot. If there's a lull we'll just Cheater's Corner that part, if only for the hydra conversation.
In the meantime!
"It's odd that we never came here before."
"Yeah. All things considered, you would figure this would be the first place Steve would go and then we'd never actually leave."
"I felt some unexplained compulsion not to come here until now, but if Colin Baker says it's okay, I guess we might as well."
"Tom. Tom Baker."
"I thought it was Colin."
"No, there were two actors named Baker."
"That seems really confusing."
"I thought we were done with this joke."
"Not until we resolve this mystery!"
"There was no mystery, you just got it wrong. Is that so hard t- AUGH!"
"Ha ha! You forget I'm still making you cart around blackrock."
"I just exploded, you asshole!"
"Maybe that will teach you to tell me things."
In case you for some reason don't know where Buccaneer's Den is. Note that Bucc's is the biggest it's ever been in any Ultima game, to my knowledge, although it's probably this size or bigger in Ultima Online. What was once a small island on kind of a diagonal between Britain and Paws is now a huge island somewhere between Paws and Trinsic.
The people here live in relative luxury compared to most Britannians. Most of them aren't pirates anymore, though. They've moved up to more organized forms of crime, by which I mean organized crime.
It's 1pm, so most of them are here at the bar, getting ready for work.
No, that's not a typo. People don't start work here until late in the evening. Because this is a shady place of criminal intent. I just wanted to make that clear.
This is about as far as you're going to go with the city until you have the Cube. With that, people are surprisingly more helpful all of a sudden for some reason!
You see a woman in her fifties who might have been a pirate wench in her earlier years. Though she is coarse, she has a certain motherly quality.
"Hi, we're... not... the Avatar and companions. And we're not conducting a certain investigation."
"...uh-huh. I'm Mandy. I run the Fallen Virgin Inn and Tavern. We are open for breakfast, dinner, and late night hours." Mandy looks at Dupre and says, "Don't I know thee?"
"Yes, milady. I was here a few months ago."
"I remember! Thou art working for Brommer's Britannian travel guides! Thou art a pub critic!"
"That is right, milady."
"Welcome back! Please try anything on the menu. It is all still very good."
"I thank thee, milady."
"Thou art swine, Dupre."
"Shut up guys, we're incognito!"
"One hopes they won't notice the magical armor we wear, though I suspect it will be hard considering it glows brightly enough to blind the average gangsta rapper."
"Have you been here long, Mandy?"
"Yes, I have run this tavern and inn since my wenching days." Mandy laughs. "I was quite a beauty back then, but thou canst not tell it now. I know everyone in town and they all know me. If thou dost need to know something about anyone, let me know."
"I'm looking for a man named Hook. That may not narrow it down too much in this town but you know what I mean."
You feel your Cube vibrate, but somehow you know that Mandy would have told you the truth without it. Mandy whispers to you. "I know who thou dost mean. He lives somewhere on the island, but I am not sure where. He rarely comes in to the tavern, but I have seen him on occasion. He scares me to death."
"Well, he is a killer. Some think he is the one responsible for the murder that happened last year. There was a thief named Duncan who had stolen funds from the House of Games and The Baths. I believe he may have broken into the Fellowship Hall as well. Anyway, he was arrested. But one morning, when the guard brought the man his breakfast, he was gone! Everyone thought he had escaped until his body was found in the house where old Blacktooth lives. This was before Blacktooth lived there. It was mutilated -- his arms and legs had been cut off, and he had literally lost his head! To this day, no one knows who did it. But when Hook is around, people talk behind his back. He is certainly capable of doing it!"
So Hook does come around, but Mandy doesn't seem to know where he is the rest of the time. Maybe the manager of the Baths and House of Games will know something.
You see a pirate who is elegantly dressed and obviously rich. He reeks of pomade.
"I am Gordy." He grins widely offering you his hand. You notice that it is none too clean.
"I'm... not Steve the Avatar."
"She knows this is really transparent, right?"
"You try correcting her."
"Oh yes, by all means, be my guest."
"...right. I am 'The Mister' of the House of Games. Inside mine House thou mayest challenge thy skill at games of chance." He eyes you carefully, measuring your worth and gullibility. "I hope to see thee there during business hours. Ah, thou art a Fellowship member. Thou wilt surely find thy reward at these tables!" Gordy winks and nudges you, then guffaws loudly.
"Tell me about the place."
"The House of Games was established six years ago with the funds of... an interested party. It attracts people from all over Britannia who wish to live dangerously with their money. The business is very profitable." He pats his pouch, and coins clink. "Very profitable." He grins. "Each game requires a definite skill in determining the most profitable way to place a bet. Many visitors to the House of Games find that they have a skill. Others, sadly, do not." He gestures toward your Fellowship medallion. "Thou shouldst not have any problem." He winks and wiggles his eyebrows.
"Not picking up on this one."
"The games are rigged."
"Cool! But why put it here?"
"Well, Buccaneer's Den is not in the jurisdiction of the Britannian Tax Council. We are not subject to Britannia's taxes." Gordy smiles wickedly. "And that... is very profitable!"
"So who was the 'party' who established all of this?"
The Cube vibrates a moment. "That would be the Fellowship, of course."
"Do you know Hook?"
The Cube vibrates a moment. "Yes, I know Hook very well. He lives beneath the House of Games. Talk to Sintag. He can direct thee."
Alright, we shall do exactly that! He's in the pub right now, but both of them will be headed to the House of Games by about 6pm.
You see the meanest, toughest-looking guard you have ever seen in Britannia.
"What?" Sintag grunts.
"And you would be, beefy boy?"
"Sintag," the man grunts. "I am the guard at the House of Games. I rid the place of trouble-makers. I have worked for the House of Games since The Mister agreed to pay me and asked me to stay. I know all who go in or out. I see everything."
"Sounds like a tough job."
"We see all sorts of trouble-makers in this place. I especially do not like people who claim that they are the Avatar. I find it blasphemous. The last fellow who claimed to be an Avatar was caught cheating. He'll not be doin' that again! There is a man named Robin who used to come in here and cheat at the games. He had his two varlets named Battles and Leavell intimidate anyone who tried to stop him. One day my brothers came to visit and we ran Robin, Battles and Leavell all the way off the island! We have not seen them since!"
"Why won't the fake Avatar be doing it again?"
The Cube vibrates a little. "He is in the caverns, in the torture chamber. What's left of him."
"What torture chamber? Did I say torture chamber?"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure you did."
The Cube vibrates. "It is where The Fellowship interrogates their prisoners. He has been in our care for a while now." Sintag smiles enigmatically.
"Would Hook be back in those caverns too?"
The Cube vibrates as Sintag speaks. "Hook lives in the cavern behind the House of Games. There is a locked door from the gaming room which leads there. I have the key. There is also a secret door in Gordy's office which Hook uses to get home."
"Give me the key."
"Here it is."
"That was kind of easy."
"She has a magic box that makes me do what she says."
"Actually it just prevents you from lying to me. You were under absolutely no oblgiation to give me the key, but hey, thanks all the same."
There is also a sidequest of sorts that is fairly easy to resolve between a couple pirates in town:
You see an aging pirate who might have looked extremely dangerous at one time.
"What is it?" Mole asks.
"Who are you?"
"My name be Mole, it be! Do not ask me how I came by it. 'Tis a long story."
"This I've got to hear."
"Thou dost really want to hear it? 'Tis very long."
"We're not really in a hurry."
"I thought we had until the Astronomical Alignment."
"Who the hell knows when that is."
"All right. I was born in a cave. So my mother named me Mole."
"I thought thou said it was a long story."
Mole shrugs. "I thought I would make a long story short."
"You got any better stories?"
"Just me own. For years and years I roamed the seas, pillaging and raping and terrorizing. Now that I am past the age of fifty, I want to live the rest of my life in relative peace and quiet here on Buccaneer's Den. It is a good life. I grew weary of pirating. I grew weary of the salt water and the raw meat and the sewage on deck and the parrot droppings and the fact that every other word one heard was 'Har!' Now I spend my time at the House of Games or the Fallen Virgin. I love the sound of the die as it bounces against the felt. I love the taste of warm ale as it splashes down my throat! And... I have The Fellowship."
"You're a member!?"
"The group has given me a new lease on life. I thought I had mates when I was an active pirate, but they were nothing compared to my brothers in The Fellowship. Mine old mates, like my friend Blacktooth, have fallen by the wayside."
"Blacktooth lives here on the island. We used to be the same link on a chain, knowest what I mean? But since I joined The Fellowship, he does not give me the shadow of a sundial! He acts as though I had the plague or something. I do not understand it. Makes me want to cut something up into mincemeat! Blacktooth was like my brother. Not like my brothers in The Fellowship, but a 'real' brother, knowest what I mean? We did 'everything' together. We would share booty! We would share wenches! We did it all! Well, he is not a brother now! He hates me! If he wants nothing to do with me, so be it!" But Mole quickly adds, "He does not realize what I did for him. I made his life livable! Who was it that nursed him when he had scurvy? Me! Who was it that patched him up when he was sliced to bits by that butcher Silverbeard? Me!"
"Oh, he was some old pirate with a temper. He's probably dead now, if he knows what's good for him! Yes, it was a different life in those days..." Mole reflects on some past memory as his eyes glaze over temporarily. Finally he says, "I may have dwelt too strongly on my Fellowship business. Perhaps I pushed him too hard. I am sorry. If he would give me another chance I would probably leave The Fellowship. They are not as wonderful as I made them sound. They are more crooked than the pirates I used to sail with!" Mole frowns. "Thou hast put me in a foul mood."
"Now we're talking."
"This place has been like a giant metaphysical magnet, hasn't it?"
"It has taken every fiber of my character not to come here straight out of the moongate, yes."
"So that's where it's all going."
"Well, the pull wasn't that strong or anything."
The cash on hand at the House of Games takes the form of a meager one gold bar. Wonder where all the money goes?
Anyway the place is deserted in the afternoon, save one old pirate.
This tall, middle-aged pirate looks at you with suspicion.
"Before I will look twice at thee, I must know who thou art." His voice is menacing.
"Oh, you know, Steve. The Avatar... shit, I mean. Nevermind."
The pirate looks as if you have just insulted his mother. "I... do... not... like... Avatars!!" The pirate spits on the ground. "But thou dost not look as much like fishbait as the last Avatar I spoke with. All right. I will speak with thee."
"Now there's a guy with common sense. So who are you?"
"I am Blacktooth. See?" The pirate smiles, revealing his teeth.
"Do you, you know, have a job?"
"Making fishbait out of Avatars!" He laughs aloud. "I have had all I can stand of puny weaklings running around claiming they are an Avatar! I am seeking a particular Avatar that was here last week. A particular Avatar that is a Fellowship member! He was through here a week ago. Tried to filch some gold off of me! Imagine! The nerve of that bastard! He was gone before I had realized what he had done."
"Oh, do go on."
"We were playing cards in the pub. Damn me if he did not deal from the bottom. I can usually spot tricks like that, but he was good!" The pirate notices your Fellowship medallion. "I see that thou art one of them, too! No offense to thee, but between thou and me, I do not trust 'em. I think they are all hiding something. I think they are all tricksters. Take mine old friend Mole, for example. Well, mine old ex-friend Mole. He has changed a great deal since joining them."
"He is another aging pirate that has retired and lives on the island. We were mates for years, but then he joined that damned Fellowship. Now he thinks his droppings do not smell foul, if thou knowest what I mean. He has abandoned all of his pirate ways! He is a bloody saint now, and whenever he sees me he tries to convince me to join The Fellowship. I avoid him at all costs now. I cannot stand to see him this way. It burns my blood!" Then, in a moment of weakness, the tough pirate says in a small voice, "I miss him, too. We were best mates." You could swear there are tears in his eyes.
Spark whispers, "Oh, come on, be a man!"
Dupre turns away to suppress a smirk.
You can see that the pirate is upset, so you decide to leave him alone. "Yeah, go away. That's right! I never can keep any friends! That would be just like an Avatar to leave me like this! Typical Fellowship member! That's right! Leave me alone! Go away! I shall just remain here alone and destitute! Where is my dagger? I shall slit my throat!!"
"Dude, would you just shut up? Mole says he doesn't even like them that much. He... haha. He misses you."
"He said that? Really?" Blacktooth looks as if he may cry again. "I must go take a look for him. I thank thee, Avatar, for considering my feelings in this matter." Blacktooth gives you a big hug, then turns away to look for Mole.
"That was awkward."
And then back to Mole, though we'll probably regret it.
You tell Mole what Blacktooth said. A change comes over the salty pirate, as if you had just given him a bouquet of flowers. "Thou must be kidding me! Blackie misses me? I thought he hated mine innards! I shall have to go for a little walk and maybe I will run across that old dog! I thank thee, stranger, for imparting this information to me." With that, Mole turns away from you, doing a little jaunt.
So here are the various games. There's a game called Triples or something on the left, you try to spin three wheels to the same number, there's some kind of craps-like game, there's 'Virtue Roulette' which is just spinning the wheel and trying to match the colors.
(I can't claim credit for this revelation, so go check out Doug the Eagle's writeup of this to learn how badly it breaks the DOS version)
And then there is the rat race. You use the table and four rats race from the left to the right. You stick your money on the green square, and if you win, it's 4:1 payout. If you bet the same amount on every square, you break even every time.
But that's only if you're not a Fellowship member. Because the games are rigged. If you're a member, you get a 6:1 payout from a rat race win.
It doesn't take a lot of understanding of statistics to figure out that if you put 400 gold on the table (100 per lane), you are guaranteed to win 600 gold. 200 gold profit. You cannot lose. This is free money.
Just bet this, and you get...
...this. And as Doug discovered, your bet is valid not only on the green squares, but anywhere else on the race lane, except the very leftmost spot. You can stick up to 100 gold on every square of every lane.
And as your wins increase...
...you will rapidly see...
...that this is of the utmost necessity.
Just five races and I've turned this much gold (about what I started with)...
...into this much gold. And there is no risk at all.
Doug provides advanced forms of cheating, where you actually keep reloading the game after placing a full bet. The game just dupes every bet 5x on the square, so if you leave it there, the game will count it as a new bet.
So say you have 600 gold (the max "default" bet). You stick it all on one lane, save, and reload until you win. That's 3600. Save it, leave it all there, 21600. Do it again, 129600 and the original DOS version breaks. I'm not sure about Exult, but if it can handle that much gold, it probably can't handle the next step, which would yield 777600, then 4.6 million.
Congratulations. If DosBox and/or Exult doesn't implode, you've just performed the greatest money-making scheme in Ultima history. And you can't even lose at it.
Where could you spend all of that money?
How about the Baths?
You see a handsome, muscular man with an air of mischief about him.
"Yes, may I help thee?" Glenno asks.
"Are you in charge here?"
"Glenno at thy service! I am the manager of The Baths. The entrance fee is 300 gold. Everything is included in this fixed price. No tips are necessary. Dost thou want to enter?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Excellent! Here is thy key! Enter! Please relax! Enjoy thyself! Allow one of our hosts or hostesses to make thy stay more comfortable." He notices your medallion. "Fellowship members are especially welcome! Please! Make thyself at home. If thou dost want a drink, let me know."
"Uhm, wait a minute. How old art thou, boy?"
"Thou dost not look eighteen."
"All right, I am sixteen."
"Thou dost not look sixteen either. Well, never mind. Thou canst enter. But make sure the management doth not see thee." Glenno scratches his head. "Yes, but... no! I am the management! All right, come on. Just don't cause any trouble."
"All right! Wenches!"
Iolo whispers to you, "Methinks young Spark hath learned a lot whilst adventuring with thee!"
"The Baths exist for the pleasure of visitors to Buccaneer's Den. Thou canst bathe in our spring pools. Thou canst lounge in our Community Room and socialize with our attractive hosts or hostesses. Thou canst drink fine wine and ale. Thou canst view our collection of fine artwork. Thou canst... escape into a dream-world! The hosts have come from all over Britannia to serve thine every wish! I, Glenno, have assured them that The Baths is the most prestigious establishment of its kind anywhere in the known world. It is probably the only establishment of its kind in the known world! The water is guaranteed to be pure, warm and cleansing. Thou canst lie in comfort among the many soft cushions and pillows. Get to know thy neighbor. Get to know thy neighbor 'very well'!"
"Why is that sculpture shaped like-"
"Ah, yes, those are erotic masterpieces from the brush of Britannian artist Glen Johnson. Notice how the curves on that one are extremely naturalistic, dost thou not agree?"
"I'm... not sure."
Of course, before doing anything else, we'll meddle. There's a not-very-well-hidden switch under a bookshelf leading to the back office.
"Damn, this place is even more profitable than I am!"
"Clearly, we're in the wrong line of work."
And on the lower floor is the, uh, staff.
You see a gorgeous young woman with seductive eyes.
"Hello. Art thou sure thou dost not really want to speak with Roberto?"
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Fine, sweetheart. Whatever makes thy blood boil... Who art thou?"
"Oh, you know, just the Avatar."
"Oh ho! A real live Avatar? And female, as well! And I thought I had seen it all..."
"But... the Avatar is female? Everyone knows that. Stop breaking the fourth wall!"
"Thou canst just call me... Wench." She blows you a kiss.
"That's kind of a strange name for a bath attendant."
She laughs aloud. "Thou must be kidding!" She composes herself and says, "It is my duty to see that thou art comfortable whilst at The Baths. I have been working here since it opened. I love it. I am not exploited in the least. I make piles of gold and live a great life."
"So what do we do?"
"Well, we could have a swim in the spring pools, or thou couldst have a massage. Or we could just talk. Or... thou couldst come with me into the Community Room and I'll 'show' thee my 'job'!"
" Thou dost want to join me in the Community Room?"
"I'm a little busy. Hey Spark!"
"Can you keep this nice young lady company?"
"Are you sure that..."
"TOO LATE, SEE YOU IN A FEW HOURS!"
You see a beautiful young woman with a tropical air.
"Hello, dear. Art thou sure thou dost not want to speak with Roberto?"
"Why does everybody keep asking me that? Is he important or something?"
"Thou had best speak with him! He is probably more to thy liking."
"Huh, wonder what that means?"
"The name I use here is Martine. Thou dost understand..." She winks at you. "My job is to serve thee. 'Tis important that thou art comfortable whilst visiting The Baths."
"You're not going to invite me to the Community Room, are you?"
"If that is what thou dost want."
"I'm a little preoccupied at the moment. Hey Dupre, would you go check on Spark and Wench with this lady?"
You see a strikingly handsome man with eyes that pierce your soul.
"Ow, my soul."
"That's 'the gorgeous Avatar' to you."
Roberto does a double-take. "The Avatar, eh? And I thought I had heard it all... I am known in these parts as Roberto." Roberto takes your hand and says, "And thou art the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon!"
"You don't get out much, do you?"
"I was told to talk with you. I think. Those nice ladies suggseted you would be able to help me."
Roberto smiles. "That is all right. What shall we talk about? Adventuring? Secret passages and dungeons?" Roberto leans closer and whispers, "Didst thou know that there are secret passages connecting the buildings on Buccaneer's Den? 'Tis true! I am fairly sure the entrance is through the House of Games, and I am quite sure there is a way into The Baths." You and Roberto speak of a number of other subjects until you realize that you are spending far too much time in the spa. There is a quest to fulfill!
"Well, I guess I'd better get moving."
"Art thou sure, milady? We could get a bit more comfortable."
"Oh no, that's okay. But hey, Iolo's wife dumped him recently, maybe you guys could go hang out in the Community Room with the others and keep him company."
"Hey, whatever does it for thee. This way, Mr. Iolo..."
"I hate you more than I think I have ever hated you, Steve."
"Wonder what he meant by that?"
"It's probably best if we don't think about it."
While the others are distracted, we'll Telekinesis the switch on the other side of the wall here.
A treasure trove indeed! Those stacks of coins aren't quite as big as you might figure (only about 30ish tops), but it's money, and those gems are worth a lot despite their size. There's also, if your eyes are sharp enough to notice, another secret door on the far wall. You may be able to get through there from here, but I don't think you can, and either way we'll want to go through the caverns in the opposite direction instead of this way, so it's back to the House of Games for us. But first...
"What the hell were you guys doing in there all day?"
"What didn't we do!"