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Iolo, from Ultima Underworld II
Species: Human
Ultima Underworld II
Location: Castle Britannia
Ultima IX
Iolo (U9).jpg
Iolo, from Ultima IX
Location: Despise
Transcript: Iolo
Ultima VII Part Two
Iolo, from Ultima VII Part Two
Ultima VII
Iolo, from Ultima VII
Ultima VI
Iolo U6.GIF
Iolo, from Ultima VI
U6 Transcript: Iolo
The Ultima 6 Project
Iolo, from The Ultima 6 Project
Ultima V: Lazarus
Iolo, from Ultima V: Lazarus
Location: Iolo's Hut
Ultima V
Iolo, from Ultima V
Location: Iolo's Hut
U5 Transcript: Iolo
Ultima IV
Iolo U4.png
Iolo, from Ultima IV
Location: Britain
Description: Companion of the Avatar
U4 Transcript: Iolo
Ultima III
Iolo, from Ultima III
Location: Castle of Lord British
Ultima II
Location: New San Antonio
Ultima I
Iolo, from Ultima I
The Forge of Virtue
Location: Hawksnest

Iolo FitzOwen [yoh-loh], a well-known bard, bowyer and adventurer, is a recurring character in the Ultima series and numbers among the companions of the Avatar. A native of Earth,[1] Iolo possesses a longevity typical of many Terrans dwelling in Britannia, and has lived many centuries as a citizen of the realm.

In the opening dialogue in Ultima VII: The Black Gate he is described as a "rather large" man.


Age of Darkness[edit]

Originally having been a native of modern Earth, Iolo was brought to Sosaria by his friend and fellow Terran, Lord British. Once settled in the new realm, Iolo could be found in many of towns across its eight kingdoms during the days of Ultima I, jesting and singing "Ho eyo he hum".

Iolo from the Apple II manual for Ultima I

Later, during the Golden Age of Time Doors, Iolo and his wife, Gwenllian Gwalch-Gaeaf, adventured through the Time Doors and ended up on the dystopic Earth created by the sorceress Minax when she waged war against the Stranger's home world. Here, they could be found in the city of New San Antonio in the year 1990 AD, where they were strangely enclosed within a doorless building which bore their names. To what end the couple was thus confined has never been explained, although it is certain that they escaped and made their way back to Sosaria before the Time Doors disappeared.

Returning to Sosaria after these baffling events, Iolo eventually joined in a project known as the "Great Work", in which Lord British commissioned a series of exploratory travels to provide detailed maps of his shifting kingdoms. To assist in this endeavor, the bard compiled both a map and a song in celebration of the capital city of Britain. [2] Later, during the Stranger's struggle against Exodus in Ultima III, he could be found in the halls of his sovereign's castle, with "Gwino" (an archaic bastardization of Gwenno's name) at his side once more. At this point, the composition of the bard's classic tune had seemingly evolved, with Iolo still singing "Ho eyo he hum!" as was his wont, while Gwino added an accompanying "Muh eh oye oh!" to the song, reversing its phonetics.[3] [4]

Following the destruction of the hellspawn by the Stranger and their company, the bard chronicled Exodus' fall in an epic tale of the third Age of Darkness, giving tribute to the final defeat of the Triad of Evil. In this poem, however, Iolo was forced to omit the exact details of the moment of triumph over the daemonic machine, as the heroes refused to speak of anything which transpired in Castle Death.[5]

Age of Enlightenment[edit]

Iolo explains events, Ultima V
In the years that followed the closing of the First Age, Lord British sought to dedicate his lands to virtue and learning, and during this renaissance of the newly named Britannia, Iolo and his wife came to settle in Britain, which had by then become dedicated to the pursuit of Compassion. Here they sang and performed for all who would listen, and if asked, the bard would extol the ethic of the city. When the aspirant Stranger came to Britain on their quest toward Avatarhood, Iolo joined with them, eventually helping them to plumb the depths of the Abyss and to attain enlightenment from the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.[6]

When Blackthorn came to power, however, Iolo's association with the Avatar of legend condemned him to a life as an outlaw, as the Dark Lord and his regime persecuted all who had traveled in the hero's company. Driven into hiding as a fugitive, Iolo came to dwell in the Deep Forest outside the city of Yew, where he awaited the champion of virtue's return. During this span, he managed to earn a living through his work as a bowyer, selling his wares covertly through Gwenno, who tended a shop for him in Britain along with his apprentice, Gwenneth. It was around this time that Smith, the fantastical talking horse, came to be stabled on Iolo's land - although whether or not Iolo ever actually owned Smith is a matter which has never been entirely clear.

Eventually, the Avatar was summoned back to Britannia through the Codex Coin, which the various companions had commissioned in the hopes of securing the hero's return. After manifesting near to Iolo's forest home, the hero was attacked by the Shadowlords in a skirmish which left Shamino, another companion, badly injured. As Iolo helped the Avatar to tend to the wounded ranger, he explained the woes which had overtaken Britannia in Lord British's absence - and was quick to join the hero thereafter, seeking to end the tyrannical grip of the Oppression over the realm.

After the eventual return of Lord British and the exile of Lord Blackthorn, Iolo retired for a time from bowyery to pursue his endeavors as a musician, passing his shop to Gwenneth.[7] Being at hand during a crucial moment in the opening stages of the gargoyle war, Iolo was among those sent to rescue the Avatar from ritual slaughter at the hands of a gargish priest, and along with Shamino and Dupre, halted the first attempted sacrifice of the False Prophet, shooting the gargoyle holding the knife to the hero's throat. After narrowly escaping with the freed Avatar to Castle Britannia, the bard once more joined in the hero's questing, having been put under orders by Lord British not to leave their side until the war had been resolved.

Age of Armageddon[edit]


In the years after Lord British and Lord Draxinusom's accord, Iolo ended his retirement, expanding his business and opening a second shop known as Iolo's South near Serpent's Hold. He also took on another apprentice in this span: Coop, a young man who shared his master's enthusiasm for music as well as bowyery.

It was Iolo, now graying and aged, who met with the Avatar immediately after their arrival in Trinsic two-hundred years later, after the hero was summoned once more to Britannia by the Time Lord. The bard had come to the city previously to speak with his acquaintance, Finnigan, and was discussing the details of the sudden and horrific murder of the town's blacksmith, Christopher, when the hero appeared. Iolo urged the Avatar to investigate the manner, joining his old comrade immediately to offer what assistance he could.[8] During the quest that followed, which came to reveal Britannia's first brush with the Guardian, the venerable companion received word from his wife that she had encountered an old pirate who had offered her a map to the legendary Serpent Isle. Thrilled at the opportunity to explore the strange new land, Gwenno took off on a voyage of exploration, leaving Iolo behind in Britannia after extracting a promise from Lord British to conceal the method of her passage from him.

After the destruction of the Black Gate, Iolo spent much of his time in Serpent's Hold, overseeing the new branch of his business there while awaiting the day when he would finally make the trek after Gwenno. In this interim, the old bard attended an ill-fated fête at Castle Britannia to celebrate the Reconstruction, where he was briefly trapped inside of the Guardian's blackrock dome until such a time as the Avatar was able to free him and the other revelers.

Six months later, Iolo, Shamino, Dupre, and the Avatar at last set sail for Serpent Isle, hoping to find the bard's lost wife and chasing after the fugitive Batlin, who had formerly headed the Guardian's cult, the Fellowship. Throughout the journeys the group endured in this strange land, Iolo spoke continuously of his deep love for Gwenno, eventually gaining the attention of Lady Yelinda of Fawn with a song composed to reflect his yearning. When it finally came to be revealed by that Gwenno had been slain in the course of her journey, the bard was heartbroken.

Pressing on despite this tragedy, Iolo came to follow the Avatar to a shrine deep within the ruins of the ancient Ophidian civilization, where the bard became became possessed by the Bane of Insanity in the midst of the hero's final confrontation with Batlin. His body taken hold by this warped aspect of the shattered Chaos Serpent, Iolo went on to slaughter the people of exalted Fawn who had once praised him, ripping the very skin from Yelinda's body as he overran the streets with pestilence and vermin. Eventually, this creature of madness was struck down by the Avatar, killing Iolo in the process.

Through the ministrations of the Xenkan Monks, the bard was eventually restored to life, although his brush with the Bane had left his mind shattered and wandering. Eventually, the Avatar was able to restore him to sanity by bidding him drink waters gathered from the Temple of Logic, and the old man awoke to reality to find that his wife was now restored at last—like him, having once been possessed, slain, resurrected and maddened.

The last hours of the hero's quest on Serpent Isle left Iolo, as well as Gwenno and Shamino, stranded on the now bloodied and desolate world, as the Avatar was abducted by the Guardian's hand to suffer further in the dark realms of Pagan. It is unknown how the three eventually returned to Britannia, but it is known that such a homecoming did transpire before the time of Ultima IX. In that time, Iolo and Gwenno moved to the East of Britain.

Upon the Avatar's final return, Iolo, like many of the other companions, had been seduced by the power of the Guardian's great columns, taking on the name Ooli and with it, the mantle of the Wyrmguard. Warped by the powers of the red titan, the old man guarded a column near Dungeon Despise, threatening to kill the Avatar when the hero approached him.[9] Easily defeated by the still young warrior, the hapless bard would plead for his life once defeated, and should the Avatar choose the path of mercy and go on to restore the Shrine of Compassion, the spell binding him would be broken. Returning to his new home near the outskirts of Britain, the aged arbalister would train the Avatar in an advanced shooting technique—known as the "cloud of death"—in gratitude for having his life spared, bequeathing to the hero also his personal bow.

Later, Iolo would aid in the final defeat of the Guardian, journeying to Despise again to cleanse the corrupting column linked to it, helping to cut off the Guardian's power and to divert the catastrophic collision of Trammel and Felucca.[10]


Iolo the bard has been a companion to the Avatar since the days of Mondain's assault. Like the Avatar and Lord British, he was born on Earth, although he has chosen to spend his life here in Britannia.

The Tale of Iolo and the Brigand: A Parable of Compassion[edit]


Iolo was Bard, bowman and freeholder, as well as the trusted friend and champion of Lord British. It was not strange, therefore, that his neighbors should turn to him in time of crisis.

The nature of the crisis at hand was a single man named Edric, a brigand by trade, who had come to haunt the trails that cut through the wild forests and hills of that region. He was a most cruel villain, with no thought for the lives or honor of his victims, and robbery was the very least of his depravities.

See the complete tale at: The Tale of Iolo and the Brigand: a Parable of Compassion


Austin-based bowyer David Watson, upon whom the character of Iolo is based.
A reinvigorated Iolo after stepping through a time gate, as depicted in concept art for an earlier draft of Ultima IX.
  • Iolo's counterpart in reality is David Watson of Austin, Texas, a personal friend of Ultima creator Richard Garriott and an actual bowyer by trade. Iolo FitzOwen is the name of the persona used by Watson throughout his activities in the Society for Creative Anachronism's barony of Bryn Gwlad. Watson also appears as Triolo and Dr. David Yellin in the Worlds of Ultima series.
  • David Watson actually did compose the song "Stones," which appears frequently in the Ultima series. His wife, the late Kathleen Jones (Doña Gwenllian Gwalch Gaeaf to her SCA friends), wrote the lyrics.
  • Within Britannia, Iolo is the author of the book Crossbow Marksmanship,[11] and also writes the foreword to Devonallion's The Compleate History of the Lute.[12]
  • In Ultima VI, conversing with Iolo can allow the player to access the cheat menu. See Cheating in Ultima VI for more information.
  • A modification for the Exult utility for Ultima VII renders Iolo lactose intolerant, causing him to refuse all milk-derived food products.
  • In Ultima Underworld II, Iolo can provide training in the Swimming skill.
  • In Ultima IX, the Avatar may opt to slay Iolo when encountering him as a Wyrmguard. If this happens, Gwenno will become furious with the Avatar and Iolo will later appear as a ghost, thanking the hero for releasing him from his bondage to the Guardian. He will later be restored to life along with Dupre and any other slain companions once the Shrine of Spirituality is cleansed. [13]
  • In earlier drafts of Ultima IX, developed under Bob White's tenure as lead designer, Iolo could be found taking refuge in Cove along with Gwenno and fellow companion, Jaana. Decrepit in this version of the game, the elderly bard would have been under the vigilant care of his wife and could recapitulate the events of Ultima VII and Ultima VII Part Two, as well as discuss the Avatar's subsequent adventures on Pagan and the circumstances surrounding the hero's return to Britannia. Later in proceedings, Iolo was to have traveled with Gwenno, Jaana, and the gargoyle Vasagralem to Valoria's Citadel of Courage in order to oversee preparations for an assault against the Guardian's stronghold on Terfin, the Tower of Exaltation. Finally, in the penultimate moments of this iteration of the series' ninth chapter, the venerable bowyer would have volunteered himself for a plan formulated by Hawkwind, the Time Lord, to restore the twisted Glyphs of Corruption to their former state as the Runes of Virtue by carrying them through a time gate. Suggesting himself to be of sufficiently advanced age to withstand the extent of the gate's temporal reversal, Iolo would successfully execute the maneuver, consequently regressing to a youthful man in the process.[14]
  • Iolo's surname in Lynn Abbey's The Ultima Saga is "Arbelest". This is a variation of the word arbalest, which accurately describes the bard and crossbow enthusiast.[15]
  • Iolo is in Felicia Day's Fictional Five.[16]


  1. Garriott, Richard et al. The Book of Lore (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny). Origin Systems, Inc: 1988. Page 3.
  2. Garriott, Robert. Ultima III Clue BookOrigin Systems, Inc: 1983. Page 43.
  3. IoloUnderworld Dragon's Ultima III TranscriptUltima III: Exodus.
  4. GwinoUnderworld Dragon's Ultima III TranscriptUltima III: Exodus.
  5. Albert, Dave. "Political History". The History of Britannia (Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1985. Page 2.
  6. IoloUnderworld Dragon's Ultima IV TranscriptUltima IV: Quest of the Avatar. "compassion, job".
  7. GwennethUnderworld Dragon's Ultima VI TranscriptUltima VI: The False Prophet. "job".
  8. IoloUnderworld Dragon's Ultima VII TranscriptUltima VII: The Black Gate. "Trinsic".
  9. Null Pointer. "Let's Play Ultima IX - Chapter 3, Part 5". Let's Play Archive. Retrieved 2010-10-09.
  10. Null Pointer. "Let's Play Ultima IX - Chapter 12, Part 1". Let's Play Archive. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  11. Iolo FitzOwen. Crossbow Marksmanship (Ultima VI: The False Prophet - in-game).
  12. Devonallion. The Compleate History of the Lute (Ultima VII: The Black Gate - in-game).
  13. Iolo's GhostQuill Dragon's Ultima IX TranscriptUltima IX: Ascension.
  14. White, Robert. Ultima IX: Ascension - Plot Treatment. July 17, 1997. Pages 14, 31, 38, 47.
  15. Abbey, Lynn. The Forge of Virtue. Questar Fantasy: 1991. Page 8.
  16. Felicia Day. "Felicia Day with a Chainsaw! Plus, adorable baby animals! - The Flog". YouTube. Apr 30, 2012. Retrieved Aug, 13, 2012.

External Links[edit]

  • New World Arbalest: The website for the crossbow shop run by David Watson, the real life counterpart of Iolo FitzOwen
  • Karelia's Song/Iolo's Song: A website containing the lyrics of a parodic song written in honor of David Watson's SCA persona, Iolo FitzOwen. Set to a tune composed by Iolo, himself. The MP3 is available from this page.

The Companions of the Avatar
The Companions Mariah Iolo Geoffrey Jaana Julia Dupre Shamino Katrina