I've made little progress, but have plenty to say about it.
Party deaths: 9
From the compassion shrine, Mariah Blink-spelled us to Cove, a tiny lakeside town. There, we saw a bald-shaven man wearing a trenchcoat and sunglasses. He had the cool name of Mentorian, and taught us how to cast the Gate Travel spell. Once we score the mandrake root necessary to cast it, our travel time should be reduced greatly. A bald, spoon-bending little boy named Allen told us we'd need a boat with a magically reinforced hull to enter the Abyss. Okay, I'm sure Stan's Used Boats has a bunch of them in stock. A kung fu master named Brother Zair told us that the lords of each of the three principle-towns knew one syllable of the word of passage. When I asked him to simply tell me all three syllables and save me the world tour, he jumped into the sky and was never heard from again. Sloven the Merovingian hermit told me that I should ask a ghost that haunts the Skara Brae inn for information about the white stone. As you can see, people in this town had a lot of relevant information for me, especially the shrine ankh:
While pretending to listen to the ankh's prattling, I searched the shrine for what I really came for: the Candle of Love. It had to be in this town. I even searched those fire squares that you see, melting my sandals in the process, but no luck. I looked up an online map of the town that revealed all the secrets. The detail I missed was that little round brick just to the left of that upper left-hand fire square: a secret door. It opened to a windowless corridor that contained the Candle of Love ... for those special moments! Before the ankh could break out into a Barry White song, I skedaddled out of there and left Cove.
As we headed back to Lord Swissmiss's castle, I carefully carried the precious candle with two hands. Jaana pointed at it, gave Shamino a gentle ribbing, and giggled. Shamino smiled conspiratorially. What was going on between those two? Not long after Jaana had shot me down, she and Shamino started walking close to one another, matching each other's steps, joking and laughing about nothing. Could her excuse about being a devoted druid have been a lie just to get rid of me? No way—not so she could go after Shamino, of all people!
From a walkthrough, I found that there was one person at the castle I hadn't met. I used a Magic Key to open a prisoner's cell, which had a secret passage leading to a hall where the person, an old coot named Zorin, was eating LB Snacks™ Twin MoonPies. They looked tempting, but I focused on my job and asked him what he knew. Through a mouthful of cake and cream, he said that the special artifacts I'll need to enter the Abyss are the candle, a book, and a bell. To find out about these three things, I should talk to a man named Antos, who I'll find at each of the three principle-towns. The same guy at each town? Poor Antos probably sprints hither and thither in order to beat me to whichever town I'll visit next.
I found another secret door that led back into the jail, but to a different prisoner's cell:
Yep, that's a reaper tree doing time. Jaana and Tubbs offered him legal representation, but he declined, preferring just to talk about his crimes. Like the stereotypical mass-homicide case, this guy was insane but brilliant. I was filled with questions for him, like, "How did you get away with it for so long? You're a tree! How many cops did it take to handcuff all your branches? And how did they fit you in the back of the squad car?" But to make the interview quick, I skipped that stuff and asked him what he knew that could help me. Ruffling his dried-up leaves with excitement, he said that there was a powerful object in Buccaneer's Den that could kill everything. Thinking that this object was Mondain's skull, we decided to travel to Minoc to find Jude, the beggar who would know.
On the way there, my mind replayed the confrontation in Lord Birdbrain's throne room. If he wanted keep his activities as LB Snacks CEO on the QT, then why would he insist on my becoming the Avatar? And why would he hamper my progress by stealing the rune of spirituality? It made no sense.
We made another visit to Minoc, the sacrifice town, and entered a poorhouse thinking that there was some second-rate musical being performed there...
Inside, we found Jude and talked to him. The skull, indeed, was what the reaper was talking about. After we promised (though not in writing) to only use it to destroy the Abyss, he told us where to find it. We also chatted with Julia, the poorhouse keeper. According to her, many of the occupants had lost their jobs when LB Snacks took over their town. She was happy to be serving them, but seemed interested in joining us when we told her about our travels. Perhaps she could help even more people as our pro bono attorney. But she wouldn't join until we proved ourselves to be as generous as her. We took her business card and promised to try.
We stayed overnight at the haunted Skara Brae inn, hoping the ghost that the hermit mentioned would pay us a visit. We weren't disappointed, much.
What the ghost said gave me hope that this game might have a little of the first Ultima's anachronistic touch.
In the morning, we found our food supply running low, so we alternated between hunting around Minoc and buying food at Skara Brae to replenish our stores. Geoffrey sustained a fatal blow to the duodenum during a hunt. I really need to buy some better armor; we're all wearing leather and cloth!
I declared that we would start raising money immediately to resurrect Geoffrey and buy him decent armor so that it wouldn't happen again. For the first time, Jaana pulled rank and said no. (Though I was still the nominal leader of the party, Jaana and Tubbs, as the principals of the law firm, could overrule me on anything. Even the associates had more authority, since they had law licenses and I no longer did. I was no higher than a clerk, really.) Jaana's plan was to bring Geoffrey back with our own Resurrect spell. That spell required mandrake root, which we had yet to find. I suspected that Jaana's druidic interest in herbs and roots is what motivated her decision to take the do-it-yourself route.
So, in our quest for eleven herbs and spices, we first went to Paws to buy a horse for faster travel. I'd given up on finding poor 'Orse by then. He probably expired long ago, either blown up by a passing ship or tied up to an orcish spit. At the stables, the horse dealer offered to sell six horses for 600 gold instead of just one for 100 like before. "There are six o' ya," he reasoned. Not having that kind of money, we said we just needed one horse since we'd all be riding it at the same time. That's when he asked us to leave. Hmph! What happened to "the customer is always right?"
Then, in nearby Trinsic, we paid Virgil a visit. Remember, he's the cad whose poison field killed me on my first visit to this town. He sneered at me behind the protection of his shimmering green field. But this time, I had friends in the magic business. Mariah deftly brought down the field by casting Dispel. Rolling his eyes, he sighed with defeat and asked what we wanted. Though he evaded our questions about mandrake root, probably to hide his ignorance rather than his knowledge, he told us where nightshade grew. We then sought out Skitle, the skinny skeleton from Shame who skulks shyly in the shrubs, and showed him the purple stone of honor. Eyeholes gaping wide, he said that he'd seen it used on the truth and courage altars.
We then went to Yew and found creepy Calumny, who we'd been told was the go-to guy for the root. Mandrake man gave us the coordinates where we could find it. To pinpoint the coordinates for mandrake root, nightshade, and Mondain's skull, we'll need a sextant, which costs 900 clams! How can we earn such money? I wonder if Stan's Used Boats is hiring salespeople.