Snakes

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Snakes
Snake
Snake, from Ultima VII manual
Also known as: Viper, Python
First appearance: Ultima I (as Viper)
Last appearance: Serpent Isle

Many snakes of Sosaria, Britannia and the Serpent Isle are both venomous and aggressive toward mankind. Unlike the often docile Terran serpents which populate the Avatar's homelands, these reptiles will actively seek out and attack humans.

Description[edit]

A viper from the FM-Towns port of Ultima I.

The two major families of snakes (aside from the legendary silver serpents) which have been found in the Lands of Lord British are the Britannian python and the vipers of old Sosaria. Unsurprisingly, on the Serpent Isle a further breed has emerged: the winged viper.

Sosarian Viper[edit]

The Sosarian viper appears, like many beasts of the early Age of Darkness, to have been a creature primarily encountered in the underground passages of the realm's dungeons. Much like the viperidae of Earth, these creatures possess a deadly bite, although they lack the venom-spitting capabilities that the Britannian pythons would later come to exhibit.

Britannian Python[edit]

A group which would no doubt prove a conundrum to Terran herpatologists, the Britannian python combines the deadly attributes of constriction, poison and projectile ejection of venom all in one creature. While these animals share their name with the non-venomous pythons of Earth, they nevertheless exhibit both the lethality and spitting behaviors of several of that planet's cobras, and may afflict a target with their poison from up to eleven paces away.

While not always hostile, and easily dispatched, these serpents often leave an adventurer and their party in need of magical curatives. They can be found in a range of locations in wilderness and dungeons alike, but seem in particular to congregate around swamplands and within the desert wastes of the Drylands. A similar species, possibly of common ancestry to the pythons, also exists on Serpent Isle.

Winged Viper[edit]

A creature seemingly unique to the Serpent Isle, the winged viper is marked by deep red coloration and a set of leathery bat-like wings upon which it may fly. Often found haunting the wildernesses of the realm, these beasts, like their land bound cousins, possess a venomous bite.

Snakes in Eodon[edit]

Numerous snakes inhabit the biologically diverse valley of Eodon - many capable of delivering a venomous bite. Given the exceptional range of previously thought extinct fauna throughout the region, however, little was written about these largely ordinary terrestrial serpents by the modern Terran party that accidentally happened onto this locale, presumably as other more "exciting" creatures attracted their attention. It is likely, however, that some genus of South American coral snake was present in the valley, given the presence of the half-snake/half-woman Coatlicues which seemed to share lineage with that particular breed.

Snakes in Symbolism[edit]

The Silver Serpent in Sosaria/Britannia[edit]

Main Article: Silver Serpents

The silver serpents of archaic Sosaria have long figured heavily in the symbolic and spiritual histories of both the Britannian and Gargish peoples - from Lord British's amulet to the Order of the Silver Serpent to the ritualistic use of the beast's venom, this creature has left an indelible mark upon the culture of Britannia.

The Library of Scars[edit]

Main Article: Library of Scars

In Ultima VII, the Jhelom-based fighting academy known as the Library of Scars used the serpent as its emblem, citing that the methods of the snake were similar to the fighting style of the Library: quick, silent and deadly. As such, all of the blades employed by the group were forged with a serpentine curve.

Ophidian Culture[edit]

Main Article: Ophidians

No culture has been as spiritually reverential of the serpentine as the Ophidians of the Serpent Isle. Their religion was focused almost entirely around the revelations of three metaphysical serpents dwelling in the Void: the Serpent of Order, the Serpent of Chaos, and the Great Earth Serpent of Balance. As such, the figure of the serpent became a recurring theme in their art and architecture, and numerous statues, carvings, and structures bore testament to this obsession even after the ruination of their civilization. The serpent even figured into their unique magical practices, as specially prepared snake scales were a requirement in numerous Ophidian spells.[1]

Even more curious among the Ophidians were the serpentine hybrids which existed on the island. The followers of the Chaos Serpent, fighting a losing civil war with their brethren, at one point wrought the Shasrajah, an experimental race of humanoids fused with vipers, bearing green scaly skin and muscular necks. Also native to the island were the Naga, a species of half-serpent/half-women not unlike the Coatlicues, whose origins, while likely also rooted in magic experimentation, remain unknown.[2]

Lore[edit]

Viper.gif
Since before the dawn of civilization, the race of serpents hath roamed the land. From the most harmless garden snake to the giant constrictors, these legless creatures have always inspired fear in the human race. In the case of the Viper, this fear is well-founded. These vicious reptiles strike fiercely and frequently at all who stray too closely. Their venom-laden fangs bring a swift yet painful death.
The venom of a Britannian Python is highly poisonous. These non-evil constrictors can spit their foul venom a full eleven paces, and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Extremely poisonous and quite accurate when shooting their poison even from a distance, snakes are otherwise relatively harmless. They are easy to destroy, once engaged directly.
Emerging from their rocky lairs at the first morning light, these reptiles spend their days basking in the sun, warming their cold-blooded bodies so they can strike swiftly at their unsuspecting prey. They can even spit poisonous venom from several yards away with accuracy that is both horrifying and deadly.
Snake2.gif
There are lots of snakes in the valley. Most are dangerous and very aggressive vipers: Annoy them at your own risk.
This creature spends the night coiled among the cool rocks and comes out into the sun during the day. This warms its blood, enabling it to strike more quickly. The creature is venomous and can even spit venom from several yards away.
Serpents are large, predatory snakes. Their lightning reflexes permit them to strike quickly, usually killing their targets with little effort.

Notable Examples[edit]

Trivia[edit]

  • The constant barrage of serpents and serpent-imagery eventually takes its toll on the party in Ultima VII Part Two, leading Iolo to wonder aloud "Why couldn't have Lord British sent us to Daisy Isle, instead?"

See Also[edit]

Snake-ROV1.jpg

References[edit]

  1. Morris, Andrew. "Lessons of the Past". Beyond the Serpent Pillars (Ultima VII Part Two). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1993. Page 26.
  2. Isstherios. Denizens of the Caves (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).