(This is part of my journey playing through Ultima VII. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
I’m still trying to get a handle on what Ultima VII is, really, because it’s so very unlike most CRPGs I’ve played. There are stats and combat and quests, but all of those seem to be pretty downplayed. Heck, I haven’t even finished a quest that I can tell so far. But there is a grand sense of world, an attention to detail, and a story that is coming at me from so many directions: books, discussions, events, scrolls, settings, and observations.
So where were we? Oh, that’s right, still strolling around the poor community of Paws, looking for a thief and feeling a little bad for the beggars in the street. Even with the lead about Morfin, his key, and that secret back room, I’m going to finish my tour before heading back.
Our next stop is at the Fellowship shelter which, like everything Fellowship-related in this game to date, has the veneer of good intentions covering a butt-load of creepy attitudes. The wife helping to run the shelter is quite dismissive of those who don’t buy into their philosophy and the husband has a mental file on everyone in the town. Everyone. Is he just a people person or is this something far more sinister? So far you could sort of make a case for the good side of the Fellowship — after all, I haven’t seen any Avatar-related shelters around — but they’re definitely a “if you’re not one of us then you suck” kind of group.
We go around and talk to the shelter residents. One of them, Alina, has quite the story to tell. Her husband was arrested for stealing fruit, but she’s convinced it was a false accusation — especially since it was done by one of the Fellowship. But now she’s trapped between starving and leaning on the Fellowship for help, plus there’s a baby in the mix.
I am no closer to solving the mystery of the thief or the Fellowship at this juncture. Ultima VII doesn’t exactly hold your hands with these quests and there is a LOT of getting to know the dozen or so residents through dialogue exchanges, so I have no idea which one might have done it.
One last stop before I leave, then. I head back to Morfin’s and chat some more about the theft, eventually coaxing out of him the market for the silver snake venom (an apothecary in Britain sells it) and what it does. It’s a good news/bad news sort of drug: makes you all super-duper for a while, but eventually rots you like a zombie. And I guess the FDA hasn’t run trials on it, because the venom is pretty controversial to use and sell.
Based on a tip from one of the locals, I poke around the room and find a key underneath a bucket. It’s really hard to see the teeny tiny pixels. I head to his house and find another key underneath a potted plant. It’s still no confession, however.
Dejected, I run a little errand for a window to deliver grain from her farm. That does the trick, somehow, and opens up the next stage of the quest as the Fellowship dude rats out the window’s son as the thief.
The widow — the only Avatarist in town (is that a phrase?) begs me to find out the truth, but dude, I’m already on it. I’ve got virtues shooting out of my tuckus like a righteous unicorn.
The keys unlock the Slaughterhouse back room and a chest, which has a ledger of sales, gold bars (hey, more for me!) and snake venom. Morfin’s back in the tavern where I originally found him when I first entered Paws, and that’s where I head. He mentions that, hey, now that you say something, that little kid of the Fellowship folks has been showing signs of snake venom usage AND was hanging out around the slaughterhouse AND dropped a key. Gee. You needed me at all for this, ya lunk?
Sure enough, the little twerp has the stolen venom in his locked chest. His reasoning for taking it was to blame Tobias and thus force his Avatar-loving mommy to join the Fellowship. I rat him out to his dad who continues to blame Tobias anyway for being a corrupting influence. I now want to smack the unholy crud out of everyone in this town for making me run back and forth and back and forth for this incredibly unsatisfying conclusion to the dullest mystery ever.
Geez. Some people, am I right?