History of Britannia

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This article chronicles the in-game history of the main world of the Ultima series. For the actual book that came with Ultima IV, see The History of Britannia.


The History of the land now known as Britannia is a very long one, full of turns and surprising events. This will be a rough overview over the history so far (through Ultima VII Part Two, and including the events of Ultima IX for informational purposes).

For a timeline of these events, see Timeline of the Ultima Universe.

Ancient Sosaria[edit]

The first to settle Sosaria was a race of beings, known only as the Ancient Ones, who managed to defeat the Daemons that were trying to claim this world as their own. Binding them to their will, some of these beings vanished to a higher state of being, while others became mortal. They settled the land, in harmony with nature and magic. However, on one fateful day, over half a million years ago, the Xorinite Wisp traded with the mage Zog, giving him the Armageddon spell. Zog was foolish enough to try it. All life died on Sosaria, wiping out every sign of the Ancient Ones. Zog, alone in his empty world, died shortly after.

It would take a long time before life returned to Sosaria, but eventually the land was re-settled by different races, mainly humans. Eight kingdoms surfaced on the four main continents, and civilization started to develop once again.

One day, the youth later known as Lord British entered the lands of Sosaria. Under the guidance of Shamino, he grew up to be the youngest ruler in Sosaria's history. And it was good that he came, because Sosaria was about to face the darkest times ever seen in history.

The Ages of Darkness[edit]

Akalabeth[edit]

Main article: Akalabeth

Mondain, a young, very troubled, yet very powerful magician and prince, murdered his father, Wolfgang, in jealousy over his elder brother's birthright and out of desire for his father's ruby gem, a powerful artifact capable of harnessing the power of the Sosarian Sun. Creating horrible beasts and recruiting bloodthirsty monsters to do his bidding, Mondain came to war with the kingdom of Akalabeth, although his forces were routed by the youthful Terran knight, British of the White Light.[1]

In exchange for this deed, British was granted kingship over half of the nation, and put out the word for heroes to come, that the last of Mondain's monstrous creations might be ousted from the land. Mondain in the meantime, lusting after limitless power, turned the magic of the Sun Ruby Gem against itself, creating the black Gem of Immortality, such that his life and works might become endless.[2]

The First Age of Darkness[edit]

Main article: Ultima I
Gem of Immortality

A thousand years separated the creation of the gem of immortality, and the coming of the hero who would eventually put an end to it.[3] During this time, monsters and beasts plagued the tumultuous lands of Sosaria, with the eight kingdoms of the fractious lands falling into civil strife and petty feuds. The wizard, in the meantime, made strange alliances with creatures that lived among the stars, turning the very heavens hostile. Throughout the harried Sosarian landscape, high technology intermingled freely with the medieval devices of the time, with crafts for skimming the heavens and weapons that could shoot beams of light taking their place along the standard devices of war and sorcery.

Now an established ruler, Lord British held his serpentine amulet and wished that a champion might come to at last free the lands of their travail. Miraculously, a Stranger, native to the king's own Earth arrived in Sosaria,[2] and after a long quest, managed to secure a device capable of traveling through time to the point before Mondain's gem was complete. It was here, in the wizard's fortress, that this hero shattered the mystic gem and slew its would be creator.

The total impact this event had on the remainder of Sosaria's, and later Britannia's, history cannot be said for certain, and it is not known how much of the world's course had been changed with Mondain's demise. The land of Sosaria, however, transformed dramatically, with three of its major continents vanishing as though they had never existed, leaving only the Lands of Lord British amid the sea's waves.[4]

For the next thousand years, the Stranger slept, to be reawakened by the grateful young British when the ages turned to such a point as they were when the hero had first left in the machine. The savior of Sosaria was greeted by an assembly of thousands and promised by British the service of all of his realm for time immemorial.[5]


The Revenge of the Enchantress[edit]

Main article: Ultima II
The White Moongate

Unbeknownst to many, Mondain had taken on an apprentice and paramour: Minax the Enchantress. Enraged by her mentor and lover's death, this sorceress vowed revenge, using her mastery over time to warp the course of humanity on the Stranger's homelands of Earth. Drastically altering Terran history, Minax created a world which ended in the year 2111 A.D., with the foremost nations of the planet obliterating one another in a catastrophic holocaust.

Despite such a grim future, some were able in some way to survive this calamity, through means of magical time doors which opened onto various points in the world's time line, allowing travelers to escape to ages less perilous. Some of these survivors, under the leadership of Lord British, managed to collaborate such as to trace the disaster of the twenty-second century to Minax's interventions from her stronghold, Shadowguard, within the enigmatic Time of Legends.[6]

The Stranger, presumably back on Earth and once more summoned by British's intervention,[2] partook of a desperate mission to destroy Minax. Crossing both time and space to gain the blessing of the mystic Father Antos, and with it the ring necessary to lay siege to Shadowguard, the hero entered the sorceress's keep and slew her with the Quicksword, Enilno. Upon her death, the changes which her machinations had wrought faded from existence, and time resumed its normal course.

Exodus[edit]

Main article: Ultima III
Exodus

What no one could have foreseen was that Mondain and Minax had created an even greater evil. Part Daemon and part Machine, he was more powerful than both. His name was Exodus. For twenty years, Exodus gathered information about his enemies, calculating the best way to strike and defeat them all. When no one suspected a third Age of Darkness, Exodus launched his attack.

First, the Isle of Fire rose from the ocean, where Exodus located his castle. Ripping the Great Earth Serpent out of the Ethereal Void, he used it to guard his fortress, a vile act which would have bitter consequences later. Then the evil started to feast on Sosaria. Pirate fleets and sea monsters swept clean the seas, while hordes of monsters roamed the land. Exodus himself started to poison the very soul of the land itself, slowly starting to twist it to his bidding.

The Stranger returned for a third time. This time, three companions fought at the hero's side to defeat Exodus. Meeting the Time Lord, the Stranger knew that Exodus couldn't be defeated by normal means. Going to the lost island of Ambrosia, the Stranger recovered the Four Cards. Sailing to the Castle of Fire then, they fought their way through Exodus' guards, before reaching the core of the machine. Inserting the Cards, the Machine exploded, thus being the end of Exodus and the last Age of Darkness.

The Age of Enlightenment[edit]

The establishment of Britannia[edit]

Fall of the Castle of Fire

Following Exodus' defeat, the land was re-formed again when the forces bound in him were set free, forming the land to its current shape. Long years of poverty and need ensued as the land recovered from the horrors of Exodus. The local city-states were united to a single kingdom in the end, under the rule of Lord British, thus, the kingdom of Britannia was born.

And while the kingdom became politically and economically stable again, after all the horrors, something was missing within the people. Lord British finally saw what was wrong. While the material wealth was secured, the people of his kingdom lacked a spiritual path at which they could direct themselves. Thus, he established the system of the eight Virtues, building the eight shrines, for that they would bring enlightenment to the people and help them through life.

This did not go without conflict, as several groups did not want to accept the new ways the land was going. In the end the mages of Moon, the warriors of the Montors and the beauty-worshippers of Old Fawn left Britannia under the nominal leadership of the mage Erstam for a land unknown at that point in history.

Quest of the Avatar[edit]

Main article: Ultima IV
Quest of the Avatar

However, Lord British realised, that the people also needed someone, who would serve them as a role model, living the Virtues, and helping them to understand how the Virtues helped in their lives. An embodiment of the Virtues. A man or woman, who would show the people the boons of a virtuous life. So he called out the Quest of the Avatar: A quest to master all eight Virtues and reach the highest wisdom in Britannia.

Many tried, and while some had partial success, they never reached the goal. Most failed. But the call also reached the Stranger on Earth. Following the call, the Stranger went on the Quest of the Avatar. Becoming a master in all eight Virtues, the Stranger showed the people how to use the Virtues practically, to master life and find inner peace. The Stranger gathered friends, before going on the last part of the quest. Entering the Abyss on what would later be known as the Isle of the Avatar, the hero reached the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. The ancient book gave the final blessing to the Stranger.

And so the Stranger became the Avatar, the hero of Britannia and embodiment of all the eight Virtues. The people of Britannia had found their role model for a virtuous life. They themselves had found their spiritual path.

The Closing of Doom[edit]

After the Quest of the Avatar, Lord British reformed Britannia. A democratic element, the Great Council, was established, to gradually democratise the monarchy. One of the first acts of the Council was, to draw the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom out of the Abyss, so that it could bring Britannia its wisdom, and enshrined it on the Isle of the Avatar.

This act created magic resistance from the Abyss, resulting in it throwing out much mass, which in turn resulted in the ground of the dungeons collapsing, freeing the path to the Underworld. Horrible creatures ascended from it, so the Great Council sealed the seven remaining dungeons, so that their evil never again should taint Britannia.

Warriors of Destiny[edit]

Main article: Ultima V
The Shadowlords

However, no one could have known, that these acts would lead to the freeing of the three Shadowlords. Born from three shards of the Gem of Immortality, they personified the three anti-thesis of the Principles: Falsehood, Hatred and Cowardice. They kidnapped Lord British during an expedition in the Underworld, and twisted the mind of Lord Blackthorn, who ruled in Lord British's absence.

Blackthorn, once a virtuous man, became cruel, and installed a tyranny, twisting the virtues into diabolical laws. He outlawed the companions of the Avatar, while installing an inquisition and the Oppression, to suppress any opposition against him. At the same time, the Shadowlords terrorised the cities of Britannia, forcing the people to follow their will like puppets. It was in this time of need, when the Avatar returned to Britannia.

The Avatar fought against the forces of evil, destroying the three Shadowlords after learning how to destroy them once and for all. The hero then travelled into the deepest pocket of the Underworld, dungeon Doom, where Lord British was found, imprisoned by magical means. Freeing him with the Orb of the Moons, it was the end of the tyranny. Blackthorn, freed now from the forces twisting his mind, chose to leave Britannia forever, to give the people peace and redeem himself, after outside forces had tainted him so much.

The False Prophet[edit]

Main article: Ultima VI
The False Prophet

The rescue of Lord British caused horrible earthquakes, which, ignited by the clashing magics, started the collapse of the Underworld. This caused a catastrophic effect on the Realm of the Gargoyles and thus to the Gargoyles themselves. And also, they feared the fulfillment of a old prophecy, the prophecy of the False Prophet. Two of the three events had taken place, the Codex was gone, and their world was in shambles. In great fear that the last part, the destruction of the Gargoyles, would take place, they attacked Britannia.

The war was horrible, with many deaths and bitterness on both sides, but time was against the Gargoyles, their world collapsed more with each day. So finally they tried to lure the Avatar into a trap and sacrifice the hero, to stop the prophecy. Freed by the companions in last minute, the Avatar fought against the Gargoyles, freeing the Shrines, liberating the Moonstones.

But then, the truth came into the open. Feeling obliged to end the war, and rescue the Gargoyles from destruction, the Avatar sent the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, the biggest point of bitterness between humans and Gargoyles, back into the void. Only visible with two special Lenses, both kings learned the truth about each other from it, and the war finally ended with peace. The prophecy had proven to be wrong.

The Stygian Abyss[edit]

Main article: Ultima Underworld
The Stygian Abyss

A difficult time began, in which the Gargoyles had to be integrated into Britannia, and the bitterness of the war was very deep. During that time, Sir Cabirus planned a colony on the Isle of the Avatar, and IN the Abyss, to promote Virtue. The colony was approved by Lord British, and at first everything went all right, but with Cabirus' death, all went downhill, and the Abyss became a prison.

When the Wizard Tyball murdered his brother Garamon, and kidnapped the daughter of Baron Almric, Arial, the Avatar returned, called by the dead Garamon. But the Avatar was accused of the kidnapping, and thrown into the Abyss. There the hero learned the truth: Tyball wanted to kill Arial, to free the Slasher of Veils, a mighty Daemon, which would have been Britannia's end. Killing Tyball and rescuing Arial, the Avatar banished the Slasher into the Void.

Britannia was safe, and the Abyss colony destroyed in the process. The survivors returned to the mainland.

The Age of Armageddon[edit]

The peaceful centuries[edit]

No great disasters followed in the 200 years following the Gargoyle war. Although that didn't mean that it was totally peaceful in Britannia.

Skara Brae was lost through a big fire, and the city then declared off-limits, after it was revealed that a Liche now ruled over it. Minor internal wars were fought, albeit without much danger to the kingdom. Society became pleased with itself, and Virtue seemed less and less anchored in the people. 180 years later, the Fellowship was founded. A seven year long drought ruined many farmers in Britannia. Magic became less and less reliable, mages became insane. It seemed, Britannia was about to leave its legacy of magic behind.

No one knew of the new evil that arose.

The Black Gate[edit]

Main article: Ultima VII
The Guardian

The Avatar returned to Britannia in this seeming time of peace, to follow the lead of a series of brutal murders. The Fellowship became suspect in the duration of the quest. It attracted the people of Britannia to leave the eight Virtues behind, but it acted like a closed sect, with the higher-ups being secretive. Going deeper into their secrets, the Avatar discovered, that they were only a decoy for a planned invasion of a mighty being from another dimension, called the Guardian.

Contacting the Time Lord, the Avatar learned the whole truth of what had happened. It was the Guardian with the help of three generators, who disturbed magic and Moongates in Britannia, weakening the land for his take-over. Most of the people in the Fellowship were clueless, and would end as the Guardian's slaves. The Avatar destroyed the generators, restoring magic, but destroying the Moongates in the process. Then the Avatar traveled to the Isle of the Avatar, to destroy the Black Gate, with which the Guardian wanted to enter Britannia. Confronted at the Black Gate, the Avatar and the companions killed the most of the inner circle of the Fellowship.

The Guardian was stopped, and the Gate destroyed. But the Avatar was stranded in Britannia, and the Guardian was still very active, swearing to come back and end what he had begun. The Fellowship became outlawed, when it became known that they were tools of the Guardian.

Labyrinth of Worlds[edit]

Main article: Ultima Underworld II
Labyrinth of Worlds

One year later, Britannia was still on its way of recovery. Many hardships had to be overcome. The Avatar was invited to a party in Lord British's castle on the first anniversary of the destruction of the Black Gate. But at the next morning, the Guardian struck, sealing off the castle and its inhabitants in a blackrock sphere.

Finding a mysterious jewel in the sewers under the castle, the Avatar traveled to other worlds, worlds the Guardian had already conquered or destroyed. Many things and truths were revealed about the Guardian and his methods. There, in the other worlds, the Avatar found out the means to destroy the sphere and cut the power connections of the Guardian in these other worlds, which weakened the sphere significantly. After eight smaller Blackrock gems were absorbed into the big gem, it became unstable.

The Guardian by then tried to send his people from Killorn Keep, led by Mors Gotha, through the jewel, to invade the castle. In the last moment, the sphere was destroyed with the Horn of Praecor Loth, and the portal to the other worlds closed.

Britannia was once again safe from the Guardian.

Serpent Isle[edit]

Main article: Ultima VII Part Two
Serpent Pillars

Half a year later, the Avatar left together with Iolo, Shamino and Dupre for the Serpent Isle, where Batlin, former leader of the Fellowship was sent by the Guardian to further other plans to conquer Britannia. Shortly after that, the Imbalance Storms started in Britannia.

The crisis on the Serpent Isle affected Britannia as well (for more about the nature of the crisis, read under Serpent Isle). The teleport storms caused much destruction and damage. The Gargoyles all fell into a deep, unnatural sleep and the Emps start to die out because of the imbalance. The crisis threatened to destroy Britannia. Thankfully, in the end, the storms were stopped by the Avatar, who restored balance to the worlds, but Britannia would need a long time to recover from them.

The Reconstruction and the Great Cataclysm[edit]

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The reconstruction efforts went on, but it would take a long time before the land would fully recover from the Imbalance Storms. But people were still very fearful of the Guardian. It had become public knowledge that the Avatar had vanished into the Ethereal Void, probably abducted by the Guardian. People also feared that the Guardian would now try to invade Britannia. A fear that didn’t seem so far fetched, knowing of the feats the Guardian had managed up to now....

Yet almost two hundred years passed in peace. The reconstruction went well: new forms of magic were discovered, Moongates began to function again and people had forgotten all of the misguided ways of the Fellowship and had turned back to the way of the Eight Virtues.

But unexpectedly, the Guardian finally attacked the land, by conjuring 8 giant columns and unleashing the Great Cataclysm which ripped the land apart, and brought death and despair over the people. Over the next twenty years, they poisoned the minds of the people, twisting their ways, while the Guardian prepared to destroy Britannia by letting the moons crash on the planet.

Ascension[edit]

Main article: Ultima IX

The Avatar returned for a final time, to prevent this disaster. He restored the eight shrines of Virtue while showing the people of Britannia their true meaning, and thus freed them from the evil influence of the Guardian.

Then upon learning of the true nature of the Guardian, the Avatar finally used the spell Armageddon while protected by the Barrier of Life, to fuse with the evil being, destroying him and his columns, and thus ending the Age of Armageddon.

References[edit]

  1. Garriott, Richard. "The Annals of Akalabeth". Akalabeth Manual (Akalabeth). California Pacific Computer Co.: 1980. Pages 1-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Garriott, Richard et al. "Folklore". The Book of Lore (Ultima V). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1988. Pages 4-5.
  3. Barkeeper. Underworld Dragon's Ultima I TranscriptUltima I. Note: The exact chronology on this point is somewhat unclear. While Ultima I explicitly states a thousand year gap between the gem's creation and the events of the game, later game manuals do not appear consistent with these events, with documents such as Ultima V's Book of Lore implying that the span of time between the creation of the gem and events happening after Mondain's death may only be separated by a handful of decades. This discrepancy is likely due to Richard Garriott's lack of a cohesive vision for the series when working with earlier installments, which has left several features of these early games disharmonious with later portions of the series' narrative.
  4. Morris, Andrew. "Lessons of the Past". Beyond the Serpent Pillars (Ultima VII Part Two). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1993. Pages 3-4.
  5. Lord BritishQuill Dragon's Ultima I TranscriptUltima I.
  6. Rollo, Mary Taylor. "The Story of Minax". The Second Age of Darkness (Ultima II). Sierra On-Line, Inc.: 1983. Pages 14-15.

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