The Ultima V manual has a journal kept by "Remoh" (read it backwards), the scribe to Lord British. It describes the journey that Lord British undertook to the underworld, accompanied by knights named Arinois, Meridin, Geraci, Shaana, Noin, and Roin. The journal describes how they reached the underworld by following a river east of Spiritwood and plunging down a waterfall, and it gives detailed directions of their path once they reached the first underworld cavern.
The narrative describes assorted horrors that assailed the party, generally accompanied by Lord British kicking some serious ass--something he never does in any of the other Ultima games. One by one, the knights fell until only Lord British, Shaana, and Rehom were left. Then the three Shadowlords arrived, blasted British unconscious, and hauled him away. The fates of Shaana and Rehom are unknown, as is the method by which the journal reached the surface.
The obvious thing for my Avatar, Invictus, to do would be to retrace the expedition's steps and see if he can find any clues, or even Lord British himself. I don't fancy getting stuck down there, but it'll be ages before I have a character with enough spell points to cast "gate travel," so I'll have to take my chances.
To follow the path, I first needed to buy a skiff, so I spent a little time grinding against bridge trolls until I had the 175 gold to afford it. Their loot also provided a decent supply of weapons, food, and keys. When I had about 500 gold, I bought the skiff from Hawkwind in East Brittany and stocked up on rations in Britain.
I had this idea that I could carry the skiff with me, but I guess not in this game, so I boarded it for a long trip south, around the cape, and back north to the mouth of the River Maelstrom. The skiff, I soon discovered, is only good in light coastal waters. If you try to take it into deep water, the game tells you "rough seas!" and you lose a bunch of hit points.
I stopped in Paws on the way south, where I patronized an inn owned by the enigmatic "Dr. Cat," a figure who appears in a little more detail in later games and is based on a real-life programmer. I bought some torches at the guild, but keys, at 3 for 224 gold, were too dear. An adventurer named Glinkie told me that he thought the Shrine of Spirituality was destroyed (in Ultima IV, you could only find it by entering moongates at when the moons were full). Just for the heck of it, I searched a random tree stump and found a ring of invisibility.
A mage in a field of horses was looking for Smith, and when I told him that he could find Smith at Iolo's place, he "rewarded" me by telling me that I could find a magic flying carpet in Lord British's chambers at the top of the castle (the place the guard evicted me from yesterday). I briefly considered going back and trying it, but I figure I need some more resources for that kind of caper.
Then I made the mistake of stopping in Trinsic, a walled city. The gates closed at night, and a guard demanded a 40-gold-piece tribute to Lord Blackthorn, which I refused. Then he demanded my arrest, which I also refused. That didn't work out so well for my party:
Waking up in Lord British's castle again, I vowed to be more careful in towns at night. I walked back to Trinsic, picked up my skiff, and continued south.
Ultima V has a lot more little keeps and houses to explore than its predecessor, and I soon found myself in a lighthouse called Greyhaven. A poor confused boy was studying Blackthorn's version of the eight virtues, and when I told him they wouldn't make him an Avatar, he told me to piss off. In the keep was the fugitive royal coinmaker, Sir Arbuthnot, who apparently minted the codex coin that called me to Britannia in the first place.
Also living in the lighthouse was the court composer, Sir Kenneth, who taught me Britannian musical notation, which is similar to standard western musical notation except that the staff has only four lines. The notes corresponded with numbers from 1-9, and I was able to sit in front of a harpsichord and play a little bit--if you watch the video with sound, you may recognize the tune. Afterwards, I wandered around the lighthouse a bit and then went to bed. Lord British appeared in my dreams and healed everyone, which was nice of him.
At last, I made my way around the cape, up the west coast of Britannia, down the River Maelstrom. I plunged down the waterfall shown at the beginning of this screen capture and landed in the underworld, in the middle of a small lake. I ignited one of my few torches, noting that the game started me with enough sulfurous ash for about 6 "light" spells.
From here, I started following the directions in Remoh's journal. He noted landing his skiff on the western shore of the cavern and erecting a sign, which I soon found:
I'm starting to re-develop the ability to translate runes without referring to the documentation: "HEREUPON BEGAN THE QUEST OF HIS MAJESTY LORD BRITISH TO EXPLORE AND CHART THE NEW UNDERWORLD ON 11/27/137."
I continued following the directions down a couple of rivers, winning battles with sea serpents along the way, though at considerable damage. Other creatures I was able to outrun. My party started to wonder if visiting the underworld was really a good idea, given that, you know, Lord British couldn't make it.
On the southern shore of a lake, I found Lord British's party's skiff, right where the journal said they abandoned it:
Beasts began attacking me. Giant rats weren't so hard:
But a group of mongbats was so large as to be ridiculous. I had to flee, probably taking a hit to my valor. I found myself having to camp a lot to heal.
I had several fights with regular bats who were as numerous but not so hard, and I dared hope I was racking up experience points (although I don't quite yet know how to level up).
At length I came to a large cavern in which almost every square was swamp, which of course poisons your characters. Poisoned characters lose 2 hit points with every action. The game started me with a reserve of AN NOX spells, but there was no point using them to cure characters who were going to just get poisoned again two steps later. I carefully made my way across the cavern, using AN NOX and MANI (healing) sparingly, and I reached the other side nearly bereft of mixed spells, reagents, and spell points.
Finally, nearly out of health and resources, I came to a cavern in which I found the remnants of Lord British's party. They encountered a battle against a legion of mongbats, and only three survived.
"Today the tree of us remaining buried the valient knights Arionis, Meridin, Geraci, Noin, and Roin, here upon the underground battlefield where they fell. Tomorrow we shall seek our way back to our own world; our disastrous quest here is finished."
On the battlefield was Lord British's amulet, which I took. I have no idea what it does. When I put it on, it made some kind of icon in the middle of the character stat screen. I searched the graves and found nothing. There were no other exits from the cavern.
Just as I was about to start retracing my steps to see if I could find a way out of the underworld, an earthquake shook my characters down to their last few hit points, and I was attacked by dragons.
Aside from making devastating attacks, dragons can summon demons, who can in turn summon other demons and possess your party members. Moments later, I was resurrected in Lord British's throne room, minus 50 experience points for each character.
I now know Lord British's fate, and I still have his amulet, but I face a difficult journey to restore my experience and repair the damage to my valor caused by running away from so many mongbats and other assorted beasts. Right now, my best bet seems to be to seek out the owner of the Arms of Justice in Yew and find out news about the Resistance.
From now on, I'll highlight gameplay innovations as I continue my quest to rescue Lord British. Despite the limited amount of time I have to play it, I'm really enjoying this game.