All right, let's jump right in. The moment I camped after getting the Orb of Evertime, Malifon showed up in my dreams and started with some jive-talk:
This continued the next time I camped, too:
Okay, so it turned out not to be jive talk, though: further explorations showed that all of the temples in Ymros had been converted to ruins. This sounds pretty dire, but since my god wasn't really doing anything for me anyway, I can't say that I'll miss him. Not to mention that when I returned to the ruined, temple the Ancient One made me a god!
Technically, all this did for me was to give me God Runes, which allow two spells: uncurse and imprison. The former gives me the ability to remove some glyphs that destroy anyone who try to walk on Malifon's island. The second will allow me to re-imprison Malifon. I have to do this by--get this--going back in time to the Dawn of Man and casting the imprison spell on the volcano. The Ancient One warns that I could never hope to defeat Malifon in combat.
God Runes came with 200 spell points, needed for the imprison spell, which I stupidly gave to my paladin instead of my wizard, who could have done something useful with them in the meantime. But he also got a bunch of experience points and rose two levels, so that was good.
From what the Ancient One had told me, there didn't seem to be any reason not to head directly over to Malifon's volcano, which I had already found in my sea explorations. But I knew of at least three dungeons I hadn't explored yet and I figured I'd better check them out.
The first, on the large empty island, turned out to be a trap-filled maze occupied by some random encounters and, at the end, a room full of dwarven blacksmiths enchanting objects. It transpired that the dwarves would enchant my weapons and armor, either by adding a + or a special power, for some pretty hefty gold. Still, this is exactly what I like to see in a CRPG: a game economy that always makes it worthwhile to collect gold. Well done, Demon's Winter. I enchanted some stuff, and leaving the dungeon, I had a couple of encounters with giants and dragons that provided me with so much gold, I turned around and went right back in.
The second "dungeon" turned out to be an old lady's stone hut on an island on the eastern side of the map. All I could do there was camp and sleep. The game made a show of my party being woken up in the middle of the night by a spooky noise and finding the old woman gone. I left the hut having no idea what this was about.
The third one was on the same island, south of the old lady's hut, and it consisted of a series of small dungeons joined by a small outdoor area. I found a map room telling me where Malifon's prison and the Dark Cathedral are, fought some giants guarding a dock, and kept getting a message that the sun was coming up. In one room, I killed a "bellkeeper" and entered the Bell Room where there were some carved ancient runes:
Well, damned if an early supposition of mine didn't come true. A few postings ago, I found a similar collection of runes with a translation. Using that as a Rosetta Stone, I figured out that this translation means "RIN_ _E__ __ MI_NI____. Some of the unknown symbols were identical, so soon I had RING BELL __ MI_NIG___, which I ultimately guessed as RING BELL AT MIDNIGHT.
This being a dungeon, I didn't really know what time it was, but the purpose of the old lady's hut became clear. I returned to it, slept, woke up in the middle of the night again, and hustled to the bell tower before I got "the sun his risen" message. When I rang it, I got a mysterious message about angels crying. It took me a while to figure out what this actually did, which was to open a gate at the southern part of the dungeon to Malifon's temple. Entering the temple, I was challenged by a guard who asked my name. Scanning my notes for names of Malifon's minions, I stupidly tried XERES first before achieving success with JESRIC. Later I had to use his heavy amulet to impersonate a high priest and get past his guard.
There was another set of runes that I interpreted as: AT COMETFALL CAST THE SPELL TO BREAK MY BINDING. Pretty much the opposite of what I want to do. Soon I found a room with the binding-breaking spell, indicating that it had already been cast. Bollocks. Maybe I shouldn't have stopped off at the dwarven dungeon first.
As I approached Malifon's high priest, Eregore, the Ancient One contacted me and told me that Malifon had stolen the Shard of Spring and was intending to break it.
Eregore turned out to be a bit of a spaz. After I slew his minions, I had a series of dialog options with him:
Each one offered me the opportunity to lie or tell the truth and reveal intelligence to Malifon. I told the truth anyway. The upside is that Eregore totally lost his cool and directly confronted Malifon (through a mirror) about whether he intended to use the Shard of Spring to destroy Ymros and thus leave nothing for Eregore to rule.
Eregore committed suicide by dagger while Malifon mocked him. Malifon then spouted some verse at me and shattered the Shard of Spring. I took the mirror, hightailed it out of the dungeon, to find...
...the titular Demon's Winter has at last arrived. (Other SSI titles: The Elder Scrolls IV: Martin the Dragon; Starflight: The Endurium Ancients; Ultima IV: The Answer is "Infinity.") And with it seems to have come the destruction of (near as I can tell) every town on the face of the planet. Does this mean there's nowhere to raise levels, heal, fix my ship, and identify equipment? Because if so, that's a bit of a raw deal. I'm sure I gained enough experience for at least two levels.
There were some tough battles with dragons, giants, master thieves, high-level mages, and a demon lord, but having two characters with spirit runes really helped with the healing and resurrections. When I got done with this island, I had some mad gold: more than 30,000 since I last visited the enchanting dwarves. I hope they're still around at least.
Will the next post be the end game? It sure feels like it.