Well, I did not make as much progress as I had hoped yesterday. As it turned out, there was a decent chunk of level five that I had not thoroughly explored, and I had to spend a lot of time navigating my way all the way back to level one to fetch some spider thread. Most of the ghoulish quests are now completed--carrying ten fish to one of them was a pain due to the fact that fish way one stone each--but they are mostly easy to appease. The result is a set of dragon boots which assist me in wandering around lava pits. Yay! Well, except for the flute guy. I also dropped by Shak's shack on level two, in order to give him the two halves of the broken Sword of Justice to repair.
Wait a minute. I forgot to mention where I found the hilt. Well, I dropped into the tombs behind the bullfrog puzzle on level four, and explored, and lo and behold, it was the hilt! I didn't expect to find it, it was just there. The rest of the tombs were not so exciting. I sliced up a bunch of ghosts (killing ghosts with weapons never made any sense to me, but digress) and skeletons, and saw a bunch of graves. Two questions arose immediately:
1) Why are there crosses on some of the tombstones? Wouldn't ankhs make more sense in the Ultima context? The same goes for grave crosses in earlier games.
2) Who in the world, when choosing tombstone inscriptions for their friends, chose the "Evil Looking Skull" option? You can see one in the screenshots I have for this blog.
So I did a lot of exploring, even finding a secret door to connect those tombs to the rest of level five (sadly, I am still missing a door connecting that section to the northern part, because getting from one location to another is annoying). I also encountered a wizard who was collecting zanium from the local mines. As it turns out, the local mines are just Pac-Man, complete with colorful ghosts. I managed to collect most of the zanium from the mine, and I will be rewarded with a big useless gold nugget. However, I am inspired to offer it to the Dwar.....ahem, the Mountainman king in the hopes that he will give me something cool in return. He seems obsessed with gold.
What else? I did some exploring on Level 6, beginning by meeting with the wizards. I've always found the wizards hilarious--you walk into their room, and they immediately begin telling you to take books to people, how to pick up the VAS runestone, etc. There's even one lady who goes on a long-winded blabbering about mantras, totally apropos of nothing. I guess they are just obsessed with their work. I was informed of an evil wizard living to the...northwest? His name is Vilus and I guess then next thing I will do is kill him. I was also told to retrieve the book of honesty from the old Acadamy's library.
Some of the remaining quests are too easy because I remember them from the last time I played. Fortunately, my memory of level 7 is mostly gone. I am planning to take it the hard way, and try and kill off the mad wizard's entire orc/troll/fire elemental/etc. army. Wish me luck.
WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
-Not much to add here, though I found a reference to gargoyles in the tombs. The wizards on level six also describe the library having been shut down and overrun for years, but again they don't say how many years.