Well, the Stygian Abyss proved to be pretty hard! Well, some parts of it did, anyway. Getting there has to be the least coherent part of the game by a mile--you summon Pyros--PYROS--from a different planet (also, I thought he was dead), and he opens the Abyss for you.
Hey, wait, this is Day 9. I need to discuss Day 8. Let's backtrack...
In order to get to the Abyss, the final dungeon you have to clear, it is necessary to visit the now-destroyed (again?) city of Skara Brae. There, I spoke again to a statue of Shamino, who told me I needed to fetch the Bell, Book, and Candle and bring them back here, put them around him and use them to bring him back into this world. He also suggested that I fetch the Ankh of spirituality and visit the nearby Temple of Souls, a nice reference to the Well of Souls from Ultima VII. In order...
Book: Easy. I visited the oracle in the Lycaeum. It asked me who was to blame for Britannia's Guardian woes. I said the Guardian. The oracle told me to piss off. I reloaded the game, said it was me, and I got the book. Yay!
Candle: Off to the ruins of Empath Abbey, where a monk spouts platitudes and a dragon stands around on an ice floe about 50 feet away. A few ignite spells later, I have the candle, and swim back to Yew.
Bell: This proved more complicated. The ruins of Serpents Hold are, well, sparse. And much of it appears to be underwater. I swam through a force field (it took me forever to realize I needed to try this--I assumed I needed to do something to make the field go away), and faced an evil arch mage! He killed me rapidly with fireballs, and I tried again several times but could not reach his platform. Then I realized it was actually the swampy goo UNDER the platform he stoof on that was causing me such harm. From there I stepped outside the doorway and shot a dozen arrows into his head until he died. A lady who apparently never needs to go to the bathroom opened a wall she was hiding behind and gave me the bell.
Ankh: Ah, memories of Ultima V. The sandlewood resides on Lord British's desk in his bedroom. The king had since vanished to face off against Blackthorn, and I learned I needed to follow him. The box vanished after some harpsichord-ed Stones, and I got the ankh!
Back to Skara Brae, where I put the items around the statue of Shamino, and nothing happened. Hmm. Eventually I realized when Shamino says "bring them here and put them around me" he meant where he actually was, not where his voice came from. I leapt into the well of souls, chatted with some fairly cool characters about truth, love, and courage (though I never found the baby...) while in the background was some garbled, echo-drenched words similar to Robert Ashley's "Automatic Writing." I found Shamino in trance, then woke him as instructed.
The next part is, as I said in the beginning, totally off the wall. Shamino brings up Malchir for no reason (I think I missed a line of dialog somewhere), and I nearly scare him away. Shamino tells him his pain after death is a consequence of the hatred he holds for me after I caused Pyros to destroy him. I do not get the chance to say, "SHAMINO, YOU MORON, PYROS DIDN'T KILL HIM, I DID BECAUSE THE JERK ATTACKED ME!" From there it's off to the Isle of the Avatar, and the beginning of this post, summoning Pyros with a very conveniently placed demon skull on an equally convenient pentagram...
The Abyss itself consists of a long vertical drop, and four levels corresponding to the elements of earth, air, fire and water, bringing to mind Pagan. It would be cool if someone were to design a game based on our modern understanding of elements, with levels devoted to Hydrogen, Helium, Nitrogen, Boron, Lithium, and all the other hundred-something. I guess that would be a lot of work. In any case, you beat each of those levels, and teleport to some lands where you fight each of the elements to subdue them.
Air: Lots of floating pillars and a dragon. This one was tedious because it's easy to fall off the floating platforms, but the dragon is weak.
Fire: Hard! There's lots of daemons and even more lava. At the end, I faced a gigantic demon I must have hit with my lightning sword 100 times before he finally expired. I'm not sure what the issue was there; I may have needed to killed him inside the pentagram on which he appeared, because the final blow took place when he walked back in.
Earth: This was pretty easy. The big earth golem crumbled under my attack. I also picked up some nice armor.
Water: The plane of water was very attractive, with waterfalls everywhere, and raindrops splashing. The bad guy there was a big sea serpent, who flopped around a whole lot when I whacked him, but who died rapidly.
From there it was a quick walk to watch the extremely crash-prone sequence where British battles Blackthorn. I watched it about 9 times before I finally got through it without crashing, and the crashes dramatically lowered the drama. I found it amusing that Blacky's last words were, "Why won't you die!?" which is a question I think we've all asked about Lord British once or twice! I headed back to Raven, who took me to the Castle, and British sent me off to cleanse the shrine of spirituality.
So I guess this last dungeon was something of a Pagan homage. It seems like a lot of the Ultima games get a mention or two, or at least an homage, at some point during Ultima IX, from cleansing the shrines, the (granted, TOTALLY misused) gargoyle prophecies, Malchir, the well of souls, the sandlewood box, words of power, the bell, book and candle ritual, and even, dubiously, the city of Dawn. Too bad the spin-offs and earlier games don't get very much, especially U1 and U2. I was grateful to have an Ultima that finally acknowledge U2 took place on Earth, though!
To a commenter--no, I won't be listing all the pages dealing with a particular game on the right-hand side; it's easy enough to look at the archive listing below that. I just thought having the games by title or group rather than chronologically would make it easier to find the beginning of the posts dealing with each game.
Tomorrow, I will narrate the final visit to Terfin and the defeat of the Guardian. That, I guess, will end the blog. I'm not sure what I might do here after that...I could play the SNES Ultima VII at some point, but there's not much else. Sort of melancholy weekend I guess. For what it's worth, Ultima IX is not a 10-day game, unless you play an excessive amount during those 10 days. I estimate Ultima IX all in all took me 36 hours, basically as much time as Serpent Isle, which stretched out to 17 days. Take that how you will!