Before leaving Monitor, I tied up one remaining loose end and got Dupre’s shield back after defeating Luther in a duel, then asked him to join just to see the companions’ horrified reactions.
While travelling through the northern caves, Shamino died after stepping on caltrops one time too many, which prompted a visit from Beatrix, in a far more forgiving mood this time. She healed her ex-fiancee and gave him a book of angsty love sonnets.
Near the very exit, you find a dying trapper who, as you find out later, belonged to the group of men who killed Gwenno. Well I guess he’s been lying in horrible pain all alone for days, so he’s paid a price.
I love the variety of terrain in this game, and the north is very pretty to walk around, with the white icy plains and bright blue water.
Apparently, no one in the Gwani village minds that my entire party is wearing Gwani cloaks, which by all rights should be a source of friction. I talked to Yenani, the chieftain of the tribe, and learned the circumstances of Gwenno’s death. To save her daughter from a mysterious sickness, I had to travel north on a nifty ice raft and kill an Ice Dragon for its healing blood.
The dragon cave itself is full of gold bars, which are pretty redundant at this point in the game, and a fire sword, which for some reason is blue. Further in the cave, there are annoying teleporting magical traps and a few magical items.
With Yenani’s tips, I made it past the brass gate and inside the city of Skullcrusher. I’m not really sure why the Ophidians insisted on building their cities underground – unless all the surface cities got wiped out in the war? Who would want to live so… gloomily? The Gwani you meet inside are more like the savage creatures the Monitorians believe them to be, rather than peaceful live-with-the-nature hippies from the village.
Skullcrusher also turned out to be the dwelling place of Vasculio, the feared dark mage from Moonshade who had risen from the dead after his execution and for all purposes is a vampire, down to sleeping in a coffin. His gallery of magical objects includes a few useful items, and… a living toupee? Vasculio asked me if I would sacrifice one of my friends in order to save my own life; I said yes for funsies, which didn’t amuse my companions one bit.
Other places of note in Skullcrusher are a weird building where a bunch of Chaos ghosts are performing a Dirge, large brass doors that I don’t think you can ever get past, and Vasculio’s laboratory where you recover Rudyom’s Wand.
On the other side of the mountains, I found the Moon’s Eye in the Temple of Emotion, and watched the vision of Batlin and his cronies.
Sheesh Ophidians didn’t go for friendly-sounding names did they? Did they also have cities called Eyegouger and Sternumsmasher by any chance?
I gained the entrance to the library and spent time reading books on the Ophidian history: how the Lands of Danger and Despair got separated from the other continents during the time of Mondain, how, thanks to the Great Earth Serpent, they got their new religion, and how everything went to dogs after the war between Order and Chaos, with Chaos decimated and Order leaving this world forever. It’s really quite tragic, and it’s amazing how much effort went into creating this detailed backstory for the game. I also decided that, while Order has its virtues, it comes off as far too stick-in-the-bum joyless for my liking and given an option I’d probably choose to follow Chaos… which would put me on the losing side I guess.
Batlin’s companions kept on popping up and making threats throughout, with Palos the gargoyle the only one who seems to have a personal reason for wanting Avatar dead.
They all finally get to attack right before the entrance to the Shrine of Order, and you find a handy Dispel Field spell on Selina’s body afterwards.
Because things are about to go south, I prefer to be organised. I undressed all of my companions and dumped their backpacks on the ground, to avoid the mess their inventories create after they all disappear. I also dismissed Boydon for a while, to avoid him getting killed in the mayhem; it’s nice to have a familiar face around after you lose your friends.
Inside, Batlin paralysed my entire party and attempted to open the Wall of Lights, but things didn’t go as he planned. He dies, and Iolo, Shamino and Dupre get possessed by the Banes. Even though Dupre is sporting a serpent head, Mad Iolo looks the scariest by far:
The Banes are off to kill 95% of the population, so I got Boydon to join me again and enlisted three automatons to be my companions’ substitutes, while the Great Earth Serpent told me to seek the Gwani horn back in Skullcrusher.
As to what the heck just happened, I always found it a bit confusing. As far as I understand, Guardian’s original plan was for Batlin to release the Banes imprisoned in the Order temples, and trigger the Imbalance that would eventually wipe out the Serpent Isle and Britannia with it. So far so clear. But then Batlin got power-hungry, and decided to somehow use the Banes in order to attain immortality and god-level powers… or something. Because the Bane cages weren’t constructed properly, the Banes escape and kill Batlin… so where does Guardian and his see how I reward those who fail meeee! fits in? Did he have something to do with freeing the Banes? Also, didn’t Batlin notice that his blackrock chaos serpent curves the wrong way and doesn’t fit into the slot inside the Shrine of Order?
While I love the storyline with the companions corrupted by the Banes, it sucks that, when you do end up saving the world, there’s a handful of survivors left who are likely to inbreed badly within a couple of generations. Actually, how many female characters of child-bearing age do survive? If only they had time to finish the game properly!