Part 10: To Hell and backvdate, Fenrir and, I assume, Nemo2342 win the unannounced "Guess the ingredient" contest.
Wizardry IV is a kind game at heart even if it doesn't always show it. If we were to take the stairs up from the Maze of Wandering, the game would ask us if we have forgotten something. This is an important hint, because once we go up, there will be no turning back for awhile.
There are actually a few things we can now get from the previous floors that we couldn't earlier simply because we didn't have the necessary items, and they even line up in a quest chain of a sort.
The lowest floor we are capable of teleporting to is the Catacombs.
Even better: we can teleport straight to the stairs leading up to the minefield on B8F. We do have some unfinished business to attend to in the Catacombs, but it'll have to wait a bit.
With the help of the Winged Boots, Werdna can levitate over the minefield like a boss, so if we hadn't gotten all the items on this floor earlier, this would be a good opportunity to. Since we already did, however, our destination currently lies elsewhere.
Namely, we fight our way to the ziggurat-like Temple of a Dreampainter. Most fights on these floors are trivial now that we have higher-level demons by our side, but there's no way to avoid an occasional one-hit kill or two in Wizardry IV even on higher levels.
If you remember, last time we were here there was no way for us to retrieve the item at (6,18). It was floating just out of reach.
But now we can fly, so the situation has changed. No item can elude Werdna's grasp.
Amusingly, we continue to get random encounters even when flying several levels above ground. These do-gooders sure are persistent.
You have obtained THE ORANGE ROD.
Gotcha, you orange rod.
The flying orange rod we couldn't reach earlier turns out to be a Hopalong Carrot. In the universe of Wizardry IV, flying magical carrots make sense.
Naturally, now that we're able to fly we can also explore the area to the east of the ziggurat, but there's nothing useful here apart from this advertising blimp at (17,14). Yeah, I know.
The blimp is carrying an advertisement for Boltac's Trading Post, the famous item shop that first appeared in the Proving Grounds.
To go back to the Hopalong Carrot, you might recall the clue that the wandering oracle gave us in the previous update:
It is, of course, a Bugs Bunny reference. Bunnies and carrots go together, so is there anything on this floor we've missed?
Actually, we have. On the map, there is an enclosed 2x2 area with an item at (7,8) that has a one-way door leading out of it but no apparent way in. Like all puzzles in Wizardry IV, this one is a bit obtuse. There are, however, at least three more oracle sayings related to it that make it considerably easier when pieced together: "Hop high to enter", "The temple holds an ancient secret", and "Take a step to the left, and a hop to the right!" (Incidentally, the latter is a nod to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as Nemo2342 points out.)
In other words, to access the enclosed area we must stand at (5,8) and use the carrot to hop over the wall.
This is the only spot where the carrot works, by the way. Elsewhere you only get the "Powerless" message if you try to invoke its power.
Will You Search (Y/N)?
The only thing in the room is the Dreampainter statue. We choose to search it, and a battle ensues.
The "ushabti" was an Ancient Egyptian funerary figurine meant to act as a substitute for the deceased should he or she be required to do any labor in the afterlife.
In a way, that means we're fighting the Dreampainter himself, but he isn't particularly strong for a god. He's only a Fighter, and as such isn't much of a threat.
There is "A Feather" among the items he drops, which we pick up.
The feather is the Dreampainter Ka. "Ka" is the Ancient Egyptian concept of the vital spark, breathed into each person at the moment of their birth, the part of the soul which makes them be alive and also a person's "double" that travels into the spirit realm during dreams or out-of-body experiences related to the divine realm or the underworld. The feather also alludes to the "Weighing of the Heart" ceremony, a trial in the afterlife where if the heart weighed more than a single feather of Maat (the personification of truth and justice), it was consumed by the man-eating monster Ammit. A person's Ka had thus to be in perfect balance with Maat.
There is one further oracle clue related to this: "Seek the Dreampainter's soul". Well, we've just found and taken it. Does it mean the god is now dead? Not really, he'll respawn.
Apart from being a key item, the Dreampainter's Ka, in keeping with its "life force" nature, casts Madi when used, which is a 6th tier Priest spells restoring all hit points to the caster. It is extremely helpful, particularly in the heat of the battle.
Now that we have the Ka, it's time to revisit the Catacombs.
Earlier we chose not to explore the central area on the map, with the entrance at (11,6). Now, however, is the perfect time to.
This area is the Gates of Hell. Literally.
Intourist was the official state travel agency of the Soviet Union, responsible for the majority of foreigners' access to the country. Even Wizardry IV has its share of Cold War humor.
Overall, the game is just packed with all kinds of references, much more so than the first three Wizardries.
I don't suppose this might hint at the marshmallow hell?
EDIT: Naturally, Tallgeese is correct to point out that the reference is in fact not to anime, but to roasted marshmallows. I.e., it's pretty hot in here; have you brought some marshmallows to roast?
At (9,8), the heat and glow are getting intense. We are approaching the Abyss.
Will You Search (Y/N)?
There is, however, a Hell's guardian in the way.
This particular Hellhound isn't one of the Hellhounds that we could summon at B5F's pentagram. It is considerably stronger -- but nothing we can't handle.
Defeated, it leaves just bones behind, weirdly shaped.
The bones show up as Demonic Chimes in Werdna's inventory, a kind of hellish bell.
Will You Search (Y/N)?
Another guardian of Hell is placed at (10,9).
It is even something cute!, and nothing cute can do without an exclamation mark.
Aw, a puppy from Hell. Not much of a threat (unless it gets a critical and decapitates you), and no useful loot either.
Kadorto is the name of a level 7 Priest spell that attempts to resurrect a character reduced to ashes, but also that of a god first mentioned in Wizardry III, where the High Elder of Llylgamyn wishes the adventurers luck by saying "may Kadorto smile upon you." We will come across this name again at a later point, so remember it.
Having gotten this far, Werdna is unlikely to turn back. The Abyss has its uses for him, if he can survive it.
But how are we supposed to even enter it in the first place?
Unfortunately, we can't seem to bribe our way into Hell. Werdna's gold is useless here.
In that case, perhaps we should ring the Demonic Chimes...
...then read from the Arabic Diary...
...and finally light the Black Candle...
...to blast the gates away.
A bell, a book, and a candle. Sounds familiar? In Ultima IV, a game on which Roe Adams worked as well (he collaborated with Garriott in designing the system of Virtues, and was the official scribe of the History of Britannia), you were required to read from the Book of Truth, light the Candle of Love and ring the Bell of Courage to enter the Abyss and recover the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. A similar procedure showed up in Zork and Nethack, the original source being the Catholic excommunication ceremony.
Anyway, let's have a go at entering the Abyss. What harm could it possibly do?
Oops, too hot.
Plunging into the depths of Hell unprepared. This kind of recklessness wouldn't end well for anyone, and Werdna is no exception.
Note the fruit that Werdna can't reach. It's kind of important.
But even being burned to ashes in Hell doesn't give Werdna peace, for he must restart his quest for the amulet, over and over again.
But what if he equips the Winged Boots -- will they be able to protect him from the flame? Unfortunately, I can't find some of the screenshots I thought I'd taken, but here's the transcription of what happens in this case:
You plummet into Hell, and the flames lick towards you. Slowly, your fall begins to check itself as your boots of levitation begin to arrest the powerful attraction of the infernal regions! The heat from the flames becomes more intense, until it is almost unendurable!
Just as your fall is arrested, and you begin to rise again, you are able to reach out and pluck the Jeweled Fruit from the Tree of Liquid Fire!
Upward you rise, until the shattered Gates of Hell are once again visible through the flames and smoke!
So close! And yet...
From far below, a mocking voice calls out to you: "You are getting warmer, but you aren't nearly hot enough for my tastes! Hahahah!"
Suddenly, a huge jet of flame washes up and over you, immolating you in an instant! There is an instant of pure agony, and then you feel no more.
Without protection from the flames, Werdna easily becomes the Devil's plaything.
Good thing we've obtained the Dreampainter's Ka, then. But what if we equip it without the Winged Boots?
The flame doesn't burn us, which is a plus.
But we can't reach the fruit without the boots.
At least this is educational for Werdna.
However, unable to escape from Hell, Werdna slowly goes insane.
It looks like it simply cannot end well, unless we equip both the Ka and the Winged Boots.
We even pluck the Jeweled Fruit, and exit the Gates unharmed.
The Hell is mocking us, but we're good. The mocking itself is actually a clue, hinting that the item we've just received is just what we need to beat the upper floors of the dungeon.
The Gates of Hell are back, and we can be on our way, too.
You have obtained A JEWELED FRUIT.
The fruit is a grenade. The Holy Hand Grenade of Aunty Ock, to be precise -- a pun on Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (which is itself a joke about this thing, as Bobbin Threadbare informs us). A "Holy Handgrenade" was also an item found in Bard's Tale. In this spelling, as "HHG of Aunty Ock", it seems, however, to be exclusive to Wizardry, if you don't count the official Touhou manga Inaba of the Moon & Inaba of the Earth, which features a "HHG of Aunty Ock" as a shoutout to both Wizardry and Monty Python.
Interlude: Death by credit card fraud
Finally, to conclude this update, there is one particularly silly way to die in Wizardry IV that I've been long wanting to show off and finally got the opportunity to on the way back to B4F.
Surprisingly enough, it has to do with the Wandering Oracle of Mron.
It only happens if you have the Mordorcharge card on you (you may recall we got it from Thorin of Thorin's Tramplers earlier), and choose to pay the Oracle with it.
It doesn't take him long to notice the cardholder's name is a bit different from Werdna.
And that's where Karl Maudlin* steps in, sending Werdna back to his grave.
* A reference to the actor Karl Malden, who famously delivered the commercial catchphrases "What will you do? What will you do?" and "Don't leave home without them!" in a U.S. television commercial for American Express Travelers Cheques.
Next time: The Return of Werdna, now in 3D!