Note: During the course of this story, the Avatar will sometimes be reffered to as (AV). This is simply used to replace his real name, which can be whatever the reader wishes.

Ultima IX:

Book the First:



            This cannot be.

            The Guardian? Here in Britannia?

            Yet there stands a mountain engraved with his vile face.

            And in my ears ring his mocking laughter.

            "Hahahaha! Avatar, thy fool! Didst thou think I wasted my time with thee trapped in Pagan? Britannia is mine! Thy liege is dead by my hand! Thy cities lie in ruins! Noble and peasent alike have been reduced to barbarism! All that remains are my legions of undead!"

            "No, foul Daemon! I have escaped from thy wretched prison, and I shall save Britannia from thee once more!"

            "Thou doth not believe that thyself, Avatar! You have lost everything now! There is no Britannia left to be saved! The Multiverse shall belong to me!"


            "I have won! Accept defeat, Avatar! Or art thou a coward?"


            Canst he speak the truth?

            Is Britannia lost?

            All that remains is his mocking laughter, as my vision blurs and I am engulfed in darkness…


            Slowly, I opened my eyes. I was no longer on the mountaintop, but in winding, twisting caves of darkness. My regalia of Ether was gone. I wore only brownish rags.
            And what else wouldst fit me? I had failed. I had failed all of Britannia…
            A swirling image appeared in front of me, a red glow emenating across the caverns. An old and familiar figure appeared before me.
            "Dupre..?" I hoarsely whispered. "Am I dead? Hast thou come to bring me into the void?"
            "Nay, Avatar." The knight’s eyes showed only sorrow. "The peril of the Guardian has disrupted all of the original four continents of Sosaria. The Great Earth Serpent wishes for me to offer you assistance."
            "Follow these caverns, my friend. You will come across a path to the overworld. You shall be near a community, one of the last outposts of humanity. Find an artifact and bring it there. Then the Balance can offer you more assistance."
            "What artifact…?"
            "I cannot tell thee, my friend, but you will know it well. Go now, and may virtue be with thee."
            The image faded away, leaving me alone once more in the darkness. Slowly, I rose to my feet and limped through the caverns. I know not how long I stumbled through the darkness. Hours, days, years wouldst not have surprised me. Yet never once didst I stop, for I had nothing left but a vision of an old friend.
            At last I saw light and an opening from these wretched caves. Once more my vision blurred. As I reached the mouth of the caverns, I saw figures in the distance. They noticed me and rushed forward. I fell to my knees, exhausted. Three spears were pointed at me by the figures. Despite my delerium, I could recognize fear and suspicion on their faces.
            "Help… me…"
            It was two late. Once more I was engulfed in darkness…


            I awoke on a straw bed. I was in a filthy, single-roomed shack, built from decaying wood. There was no door, merely a curtain draped over an asymetrical doorway. Before I had a chance to move, a burly, armored fighter with a thick mustache entered the shack.
            "Ah, good. Thou’rt awake. You slept for nearly a day, and we were beginning to wonder if you’d survive. There is food and water by your bed. I’ll escort you to the Court Hall in an hour."
            "Wait! Where am I?"
            The fighter turned and looked at me fixedly.
            "Stonegate. I’ll be back in an hour."
            With that he left, leaving me to my thoughts. Stongate? Didst it still exist? Wert there still humans in Britannia?
            A single look at the food and water left for me was enough to cure my appetite. The "food" was a week-old slice of meat covered with maggots, while the "water" consisted mostly of damp dirt.
            True to his word, the fighter returned in an hour, proving to be just as short-spoken as before.
            "Come with me. The Court Hall will see thee now."
            As we left the shack, I saw several dozen others. Some were larger or sturdier than others, yet all suffered the same run-down look. In the center of this "towne" was a large campfire, reminiscent of the tribes of Eodon. The fighter led me down a path to a large, ruined keep built of stone. While nothing compared to the great structures of Britannia’s Golden Age, it appeared majestic when compared with the shacks around it. I recognized the ruined building as the earthly keep of the Shadowlords. This was Stonegate I stood before.
            The fighter turned to me. "This is the Court Hall. You shall be brought before the lord here. Answer all his questions truthfully, lest thou die by the blade."


            Stonegate had not changed much since last I saw it. Sunlight peeked in through holes in the roof. To my left and right were huge crowds of people, filthy and mob-like. In front of me sat five figures with a noble air. The central one wore a tall, black hat and stroked his thin, dark beard. Between myself and the crowds were stacks of wooden boards, apparently set up on short notice. The lord turned first to the fighter at my side.
            "Haubis, is this the man you found?"
            "Aye, milord." The fighter replied. "Mikael, Inbar, and I saw him emerge from the caves while we were standing watch."
            The lord turned and looked at two men in the crowd. The first was young, clean-shaven fighter with blond hair. The other was older, and had a scar by his left temble. in the crowd. Both were clearly skilled warriors.
            "Do the two of thee confirm this?"
            "Twas just as Haubis put it, milord." The young fighter replied. "Inbar first noticed him stumbling out, but he’d colapsed by the time we were upon him."
            "I see." The lord stroked his beard. "You there! Stranger! Where didst thou come from? We know naught of other entrances into those mountains. Art thou a Daemon in disguise?"
            "Milord, I am the Avatar. I have returned to Britannia to liberate it from the Guardian. What hast become of this nation since I last left Britannia?"
            Throughout the hall there was silence for a moment. Then a stone flew through the air at my head, coming from the crowd. Jeers and insults errupted around me. Haubis yelled "Speak the truth, worm! We hath no patience for thy tales!"
            The lord rose from his seat and shouted "Enough!" The crowd fell silent.
            "I will not tolerate lies from thee, stranger. Thou couldst not be the Avatar. Three decades have passed since he left the realm. Thou’rt either a liar, or a madman."
            A single chuckle came from the crowd. All turned in its direction. A man stood there with a sardonic smile, garbed in robes of pure black. His bright red hair hung down below his waist, though he had no beard.
            The lord fixed his glare on him. "Julio, what sayest thou? I hath always respected thy opinion, though thy attitude borders on insubordination."
            The man stared at me with his thin eyes. "Avatar you may be, Avatar you may be not. I know one way of uncovering the truth, and casting away the falsehood." His eyes darted to the other side of the crowd. "And what is thy opinion?"
            I saw a woman in her late fifties, fair hair streaked with gray. Though draped in rags and covered in filth I recognized her imediately. She stared at me with confusion and embaressment.
            "Indeed," Julio interjected. "Thou didst travel with the Avatar since the dawn of the Age of Enlightment, centuries ago. Is this man him? Or is he a liar of no consequence?"
            "Speak as thou wilt, Lady Jaana." The Lord said.
            For a moment, my companion for years stared at me. Then she turned to the lord and spoke.
            "No, milord. Never hath I seen this man before."
            The crowd errupted, Julio smiled at me, and the lord turned, his expression seething wth rage.
            "Thou see now the truth of thy delusion?!" He shouted "Speak sense or thou shalt be executed!"
            All eyes once more turned to Julio.
            "A possibility has been overided. This man is not the Avatar, nor a champion of the virtues, as we canst see from his lying. But does that make him a traitor? A Daemon? No, for what spy would attract attention to himself with such absurd claims? He is but a madman, filled with delusions of grandeur. Let him say he is the Avatar if he wishes. That is not important. He is well built, and could be a skilled warrior. Why canst we not use him in our plans? A single, able-bodied human being can make a difference."
            "He couldst have invented his story simply to throw suspicion away from him." The lord replied.
            Julio smiled. "We couldst debate endlessly if we make suggestions like that. And wouldst thou sacrifice an innocent human being, merely from suspicions? He need not be given a chance to escape. We have an oppurtunity here, Lord of Stonegate. We hadst best not waste it."
            The lord continued to stare at Julio. "How thou doth always convince me of thine opinions, I know not. But no matter." He turned once more to face me. " ‘Avatar,’ as thou call thyself! Thou art permitted to remain here in Stonegate, on the condition that you fight for us and never leave the boundaries of this outpost.
            "We art most of what remains of civilized Britannia. Do not betray our trust. Court adjourned."


            Haubis escorted me out of the keep. We spoke not once during the walk, for my mind was aflame with thoughts.
            How many years hadst it been since I traveled through the Serpent Pillars? I hadst escaped from Pagan in only a few weeks. What had happened to the great cities of Lord British’s kingdom? And Jaana. How couldst she have aged so? She is an immortal, like all my companions. Centuries more wouldst have to pass since the quest of the Black Gate before she would grow grey hair. And why didst she feign ignorance towards mine identity? All these questions leapt at me in my mind, yet I had no answers to pacify them.
            "This is where thou shalt live from now on. Thou’rt free to travel about Stonegate as thou will. But if thee tries to escape from this village, thou shalt be hunted down and killed."
            Haubis’ words brought me from my reverie. He had led me back to the shack I’d slept in before. Before I couldst make the slightest reply, Haubis was gone, leaving behind only an air of contempt.
            In the days that passed at Stonegate, I learned more of what hadst happened. A score and a half years had passed since my last journies through Britannia. All the great cities of Britannia had been destroyed and overrun by the Guardian’s Daemonic servants. At Vesper, the Guardian had constructed Blackrock mines to fuel his unholy magic. Some say that Lord British hadst died by the Guardian’s hand. Others, that he is held prisoner and tortured with the sights of Britannia. Regardless, his loss has canceled the magic that made Companions of the Avatar and Archmages immortal. To the best knowledge of the inhabitants here, they were the only remaining community of civilized humans in Britannia, or so they thought.
            Three months ago, a message was found floating in a bottle, drifting down from Lost Hope Bay. It was apparently from a battallion of soldiers who had been hiding in the secluded mountains north of Minoc since the Guardian’s conquest. How the batallion discovered Stonegate, no one knew. The message proposed that the two forces of humans launch a joint attack on Minoc from the north and south, thus recapturing the city from the Guardian. From what I had heard, Minoc was the last city taken by the Guardian, and is sparsely defended. The date suggested by the batallion was only five weeks from my arrival, leading to the tension I had felt around me.
            I hadst also learned a great deal about the people of Stonegate. The community had a population of about six hundred; a third of which were able-bodied men and women. Most had fled from Cove, though there were refugees from nearly all the cities. The lord with the thin beard was Talrus. His four advisors were Balgron, Vieldich, Steinkire, and Ingarus. Julio, the man with the red hair and sardonic smile, held no rank or position. Yet he was widely respected throughtout Stonegate for his wisdom.
            Jaana, however, I wouldst not have a chance to speak to until nearly three weeks after my arival at Stonegate.


            "Wretch. Get out of my sight!"
            Even judging from her previous reaction to me in the keep, I was taken about by Jaana’s hostility, regardless of whether she recognized me or not.
            "You idiot." She continued. "Have you not caused enough damage in Britannia already, (AV)? There, I said it! You are the Avatar! I’ll admit it! And I wouldst see thee dead all the more for it!"
            "How many wouldst not have died if not for this invasion? An invasion, I might add, which you courted by defeating the Guardian before!"
            "Jaana, I fought to save Britannia, as didst thou!"
            "Yet you abandoned us when the Guardian led his invasion force, didn’t thou?"
            "I wast trapped in another world, from which I only escaped weeks ago!"
            "Enough! Too many have already suffered because of thee! Begone!"
            "Why, Jaana? Why dost thou blame me for Britannia’s destruction?"
            "Hadst the Fellowship defeated thee, no, us! I still fought for thee then. Hadst the Fellowship defeated us, Britannia wouldst have simply slid into worship of the Guardian, and would have abdicated of its own free will. As it is, you made it necessary for this invasion force to destroy us!"
            "I hadst no way of knowing what wouldst happen, Jaana. Nor didst thou. I fought for the Virtues. Justice (and now, as I see, Sacrifice) compelled me to defend Britannia as I did. Given the same circumstances, I wouldst do it again."
            "Your Virtues! Damn your bloody virtues! Virtue has no meaning anymore, (AV). All that is left is the diminishing urge to keep on living. The neverending search for food and power. Virtue is gone, just as the cities are gone. Just as Lord British is gone. Just as all is gone.
            "Enough! I will speak to thee no more, ‘Avatar!’ Go and talk to Julio, if thou dost wish to here of all thou didst damn!"
            And indeed, that wouldst be my last conversation with Jaana at Stonegate. Later that day, I spoke with Julio.


            "Greetings, Avatar. I’m surprised you didn’t come speak to me sooner."
            Julio leaned back in his makeshift chair. "You shan’t hold Jaana’s, shall we say, bitter attitude against her. She did see her lover, a retired mayor I believe, killed during the wars.
            "Now then, sit down, sit down. You have much to speak to me about, I’m sure." He motioned to another decaying chair in his dwelling.
            The chair creaked below me as I sat down. "Then do you believe I truly am the Avatar?"
            "Why not? No one would be stupid enough to pretend to be thee, after all.
            "There are no Sullivans in Britannia anymore. Any ‘Avatar’ to greet human beings would either find more responsibility placed on his shoulders than ever British faced, or he wouldst be stoned to death."
            "Hast hatred towards me really swelled that high?"
            "Nay. Many still believe in thee and hope that you will reclaim Britannia, but beliefs become less and less meaningful every day. What does one’s opinion on the Avatar and the Eight Virtues affect the struggle for food, after all?"
            "How hast Stonegate survived these years?"
            Julio smiled. "We are, of course, in a rather inconvienent position. The undead legions would never waste their time exploring here. Yet there is enough game to hunt in the immediate area, and the old keep does have a rather large storeroom left over from the days of Britannia.
            "Ah, but I differ. I trust thou didst not come to speak with me on subjects such as food."
            "Indeed." I agreed. "Truly, what is the situation in Britannia?"
            "All that is left, Avatar, that we know of is Stonegate, the warriors north of Minoc, and mere animals who were once civilized Britannians. I doubt that Stonegate itself is truly higher than the latter. And, of course, there’s the Gargoyles, who dissappeared shortly after the beginning of the war.
            "Why you’ve returned is no real mystery, Avatar. You wish to reclaim Britannia. But what is there left of Britannia to reclaim? And does it even wish to be saved by you?"
            "Yet I must try, Julio. Not all Britannia is dead. Nor does all of it despise me, as thee thyself hath stated. Thou, for instance, accept me, doth thou not?"
            "Indeed, I do, Avatar. Yet I do not feel you will succeed. I cannot hate you, for I have no hate left. I cannot praise you, for I have no praise left. All I have is an ardent wish for the Universe; no, all the Universes! The Multiverse! I have left a desire for all parts of the Multiverse to become as one, united under the same beliefs, without prejudice to one another.
            "Yet how can this come to pass? Prehaps thy nemesis who now ravages Britannia will do so to all worlds and unite them in his iron grip. But will the end be worth such destruction? I know not. Besides this unachievable wish, I simply am left with emptiness. As wilt thou, I’m certain, when Britannia becomes land of humans once more. There is no victory left to achieve. Simply the goal.
            "I have no more to say, though I’m certain thou wilt prod me for more answers. Another time! All I can supply you is more questions. Leave me, and find thy destiny, be it what it may, find it on thy own."


            At last the day finally came when the inhabitants of Stonegate would attack Minoc, and reclaim the first city for Britannia. I, Mikael (whom had been one of the first to find me, along with Haubis), and six others were called before Lord Balgron, one of Stonegate’s five lords.
            "Minoc is largely protected from attacks through Lost Hope Bay by its lookout tower, the abandoned lighthouse of Stormcrow. Our attack will be composed of small, eight-man, skiffs and we need Stormcrow captured beforehand.
            "The eight of thee will set out at eleven o’clock tonight, an hour before the main attack. You shalt travel up the coast and attack Stormcrow. We know naught of its defenses, but it is far from Minoc and shouldst be isolated.
            "Kill all undead and Daemonic creatures you encounter therein. Let not a single one escape." He pulled a horn from his pouch and handed it to me. "I give this to thee, ‘Avatar,’ for thy exploits at the ceremony of Reconstruction prove that thou canst use this well. At exactly midnight, blow this horn as loud as thou canst. Upon hearing this, our forces will attack Minoc. It is imperative that thou dost blow the horn, or we shalt believe thou didst fail and break off our attack."
            Indeed, that night the eight of us trudged north towards Lost Hope Bay, a thick mist hanging about us. The path between the tall mountains and the deep water was so narrow that we had to walk in single file. Even the ground stable enough for us to walk on was mostly swamp and moss, requiring swamp boots to safely walk on. I trailed at the end of the line, being the poorest armored. I had chain leggings, leather gloves, a sleeveless orange shirt, a leather cap, and a wooden shield. I was armed with a short sword. Guiding us through the mist was the faint glow of the lighthouse, ever taunting us with our failure to reach it.
            At last we stood just a hundred yards from Stormcrow. How the lighthouse brought back memories! I’d first visited this place during the reign of Blackthorn. It was much taller (I estimated eight stories), having presumably been rebuilt over the centuries. ‘Twas a pity to see it in ruin as it lies now.
            About a dozen creatures (I couldn’t make out their species through the fog) stood guard outside Stormcrow. We huddled behind a boulder, planning our attack.
            "I’ll stay here and shoot them with my crossbow." A young, dark-haired warrior said. "The rest of you sneak in during the confusion."
            "They’ll be bound to spot you." Another stated. "’Tis certain death!"
            He smiled a youthful grin. "I’ll take my chances. If they get too close, I have a shortsword."
            And so it was settled. The young fighter (Trevor, I later found out his name was) aimed his crossbow at one of the creatures and fired a bolt straight through its skull. It fell to the ground, killed instantly.
            "Charge!" I shouted, as though to a large force of men. The seven of us charged through an ever-increasing crowd of foul monsters, pausing only to kill any who ventured too close. Every few seconds, a twang sounded from Trevor’s crossbow, and a creature would drop dead or wounded. Though preocupied, I marveled at his accuracy, rivaling that of Iolo’s.
            Though most of the men certainly thought me insane before the battle, they showed an almost unconsious reliance on my leadership as we fought our way towards Stormcrow. Prehaps it was my age, which was far above all of them, or prehaps my skill at fighting. Regardless, I had become their leader in the heat of battle, leading the way as we entered Stormcrow. One of "my" men, (Mikael, I believe) threw an oil flask at the entrance, blocking off the large force that had assembled outside. As we slaughtered those monsters lurking within the first floor, I tallied up our casualties.
            "One dead and another trapped outside, not counting he with the crossbow. No serious wounds on any of us. We five have about seven more floors to fight our way up. Go forth for Britannia!"
            I hadn’t even realized I was ordering my four companions until the second floor had been almost completely cleared of denizens. The floors passed by, fading into each other. The only difference was that each seeed slightly smaller than the last, and we were gaining fresh wounds by the second. As I was poorly armored, the others often felt a need to protect me, and I must admit they were right. Ah! My days of dueling are long over. Thankfully, there was naught but trolls, orcs, and the like. I hadst been worring the Guardian would have more powerful creatures protecting the lighthouse.
            The seventh floor was like the others, yet I felt something was wrong. The creatures fell too easily; the air had a certain premonition about it.
            "Foolish Avatar, you cannot penetrate a stronghold of mine unawares. I carew not about Minoc. But perhaps I shall destroy you now!"
            As I heard the voice, my fears were realized. In the center of the room (the floor was but a single room), a mightly Gazer appeared.
            "Get down!" I yelled, but it was two late. A bolt of lightning shot out from the Gazer’s five eyes, aimed at two of my companions. Their screams of agony still echoed after their corpses had been burned to a crisp.
            "Damn thee!" I charged at the Gazer, brandishing my sword. In a swift motion, I cut off one of its eyes. The foul creature screamed in agony and bit me in the right arm, reaching straight to the bone. I dropped my sword in pain, yet the Gazer didst not release its grip. Clenching my teeth, ignoring the pain, I smashed my wooden shield against the creature’s massive form. I provoked no response, and repeated the action several times. Finally, the Gazer’s grip on my arm loosened and it slumped over, dead. My right arm was covered in blood; mine and that of the Gazer. Dropping my shield, I picked up my shortsword with my left hand. I glanced around. Mikael and one other warrior were all that was left.
            "We hath but one floor left. Time is short. Lead the way, I am injured."
            The final floor wast the smallest. At all sides were massive windows. There was no furniture, nor even ruined traces of it, as on previous floors.
            Across from the stairwell from which we entered, a single creature stood against us. It was short (prehaps three feet tall), stocky, and of a greyish color. One of the men was already rushing at it. Only I recognized a creature native only to Pagan.
            "Wait!!! Tis a Changeling!"
            Already the creature’s mouth twisted into a snout, a sinister cackle emerging. Its tiny feet were replaced by cloven hoofs. Bat wings grew from its back. The dull grey was replaced by a scaled, reptilian, red. Horns grew from the head. The seven-foot tall figure of a majestic Daemon stood before us, letting out an inhuman roar.
            My warning didst not save the warrior. In an instant, the Daemon hadst impaled him through with its clawed hand. Already I was drawing my shortsword, but the creature was fast. With a single swat, my weapon was knocked across the room, leaving me to fight barehanded.
            "Away, beast!" Mikael shouted. Almost carelessly, the Daemon threw him against a wall, knocking him unconsious. All its attention was focused on me.
            "The time has come, Ether-Titan. I shall be honored to kill you personally."
            Ether. That was all I could think of. The hopelessness of my situation became irrelevant. All I could think of was Ether. I barely noticed the pain in my right arm. I simply knew that the Daemon had lost this battle.
            Ether. With lightning speed, I dashed behind the Daemon, grabbing its neck in my hands. I had no feelings of satisfaction, even as I heard its startled cry. All my thoughts simply revolved around Ether.
            Ether. It consumes my entire being. Even as my hands tighten around the Daemon’s neck, my thoughts never wavered.
            I am Ether.


            For what felt like hours, I sat there staring at the Daemon’s body. Its neck had been crushed, leaving its head dangling lifelessly.
            Did I do this? With my bare hands? It was Ether, I knew. But I had expected Ether to embody itself through magic, rather than brute strengh. The Zealan gods had said that I would transcend humanity and become a Titan through the powers of Ether. Will this be enough to stop the Guardian?
            A groan brought me from my reverie. Mikael was still alive, though injured. I tried to rise, but felt pain course through my right arm. Damn that Gazer. The Guardian was still aware of me.
            "Incredible. I saw what thou didst to that creature. How…?"
            "Mikael? How farest thy injuries?"
            "I shall survive." He produced a pocketwatch from his belt. "Five minutes to twelve. Then you blow the horn if you’re not too injured."
            "I can’t walk, but I’ll do it. How is the battle down below?"
            Mikael walked to one of the windows and looked out. "’Tis too dark to see much, but I here no battle sounds. Last we heard there were two men down there."
            "I know. With any luck they’ve survived." A sound echoed from the floor below. "Quick! Footsteps!"
            Mikael drew his sword, but from the stairwell came another human. It was the young fighter with the crossbow from earlier this evening. He was smeared with blood.
            "Trevor! What happened down there??"
            Despite his wounds, the young fighter grinned. "All of them down there are dead or have been driven off. I don’t think they’ll have time to reach Minoc before midnight."
            "There was another man trapped down there. What became of him?"
            Trevor’s smile faded. "He fought with me down there, but died from his wounds."
            "Then the three of us are the only ones left." I sighed.
            "And what happened to this Daemon? It doth not appear to have died of blade or blunt instrument."
            Mikael spoke up. "He didst that. Though delusional, he is a mighty fighter."
            "Delusional! I truly am the Avatar! I know it!" I tried to stand up, but once again a wave of pain washed over me.
            "I apoligize. Thou hast the right to think whatever thou wilt. You have done enough tonight to justify that." He glanced at his pocketwatch again. "11:59. Thou hadst better blow the horn."
            Trevor spoke up as I unhooked the horn from my belt. "Thou canst not even stand! Art thou sure one of us couldst not do it for thee?"
            "Nay," I replied as I propped myself up on my left arm. "Lord Balgron entrusted the horn to me."
            Finally I was at my feet. Despite my words, I was not sure I could blow the horn sufficiently. "At your signal, Mikael."
            "As you wish, Avatar."
            As I put to horn to my lips, I felt power wash over me. Yet this was not Ether. It was… air.
            No, she was dead…
            Could it be…?
            I blew the horn as loud as I could. A familiar sound echoed, spanning miles across Britannia. I knew that it was an Air-Djinn that had been trapped in this horn, using its power through it. As I glanced down at the horn once more, I recognized it.
            The Horn of Praecor Loth.


            All night long Mikael, Trevor, and I sat in Stromcrow, watching the battle below. Cheers, groans, swords clashing, this was all we could hear. All we saw from Minoc was a growing number of torchlights. We could only hope as to the outcome of the battle.
            As dawn approached, the battle cries began to fall silent. Soon, the three of us began to venture out of the lighthouse towards Minoc.
            We reached Minoc in about an hour. The noble city lay in ruins, yet there was an air of victory about it. Several men saw us and helped us towards the Artisan’s Guild, which was being used as a headquarters. Lord Talrus greeted us personally at the building.
            "Tis wonderful to see thee! We couldst not have won the battle without thy aid! What happened to the other five men? How fared thy battle?"
            "We are the only survivors, milord." Mikael stated. "The true hero of the battle was he who calls himself Avatar. We couldst not have one without him. Slew a Daemon unarmed."
            "Surely you jest!" Talrus laughed. "Still, I thank thee for thine efforts, ‘Avatar.’"
            We heard horses running towards us. There hadst been none at Stonegate, and I doubted the Guardian’s inhuman army kept any. Were these the men from north of Minoc?
            Talrus bowed his head towards the lead man. He showed not a single inch of flesh, but was covered in armor and rode a coal-black horse. He was outfitted with a breastplate, gauntlets, plate boots, chain leggings, chain arm guards, a black cloak, and a black sircoat with the symbol of the Codex on it.
            "Lord, we are honored—"
            Talrus could not finish his sentence. The figure removed his helmet, and all of us recognized him. Though his hair was greying and he had grown a thin goatee, I recognized one of my ancient companions. I alone had the breath to utter his name.
            The great knight who had fought at my side turned and recognized me.


            After the initial shock at meeting, it was a day before I had a chance to talk to Sentri. He was busy salvaging what remained of Minoc and planning his defences. During that time, it had become confirmed throughout Stonegate and Minoc that I was truly the Avatar. At last I had a chance to speak with Sentri over a bottle of ale in the ruins of the Checquered Cork.
            "(AV), I was sure thou wert dead. I cannot believe this."
            "Neither can I, old friend. What hast befallen Britannia since last I was here? I wouldst like to hear it from one I knew before this."
            "Alas, thirty years hath passed since thy last visit, though you’ve hardly aged a day, as usual. Lord British is either dead or captured, and so the magic keeping myself and thy other Companions immortal is gone. I will be dead in a decade or two.
            "Though I canst not even say how many of thine Companions are still alive. I know little, save of poor Shamino."
            "What didst happen to Shamino??"
            Sentri sighed. "Twas the end of the war, Avatar. He and I alone were left of the generals. All the cities but Minoc had fallen. The Guardian’s forces were laying seige. He offered to lead out his forces to the Bloody Plains and sacrifice himself while I escaped with my soldiers into the hills. I wanted to go instead of him, but he insisted. He died while I lived, and his death was my fault, just as Dupre’s was."
            "Dupre died on Serpent Isle, Sentri. Thou couldst not have pervented it."
            "Nay, I could have. I shouldst have gone through the Serpent Pillairs with thee instead of him. We were both knights, and the best of friends. I shouldst have taken his place."
            "Thou’rt wrong. Dupre’s death was my fault. In the ruins of Anodurnos, during the Guardian’s attack on Castle Britannia at the Reconstruction festival, I saw a vision of Dupre sacrificing himself for me in the Creamitorium of Monitor. I shouldst never have let him come with me to Serpent Isle."
            There was silence for a moment. Finally, Sentri spoke up. "And what of thee? All I’ve heard is that you disappeared through a ‘Wall of Lights’ or some such. How didst thou get back to Britannia?"
            I told Sentri everything. I told him of my travels through Pagan, how I bested the Titans, and how I built a Black Gate to return to Britannia. I told him of my experiences in Stonegate and at Stormcrow.
            Sentri listened, stroking his goatee thoughtfully. "Then you have a new goal in Britannia. Dupre, (or his shade, at least) told thee to bring an artifact back to Stongate. If only thou knew what it was."
            "I do know. I should hath thought of it sooner. Stonegate was where I first found the Magebane sword, which became Dupre’s weapon."
            "But how wilt thou find it? Wasn’t it left in the Serpent Isle?"
            "There was a second Magebane sword. At Serpent’s Hold, I remember seeing an identical sword in Sir Richter’s armoury. I must find that and bring it back to Stonegate."
            "Very well then, (AV). I canst provide thee with any size ship or skiff. I wouldst join thee in thy travels, but I must rebuild Stonegate. I canst send my best men with thee—"
            "Nay. Enough have died because they followed me, I canst not allow it to happen again."
            "You refer to Maxwell and Toshi, who were executed by Blackthorn, I take it? Very well, I shall see to it that you receive a one-man skiff capable of reaching Serpent’s Hold. But I do have something for you." Sentri produced an extremely old, battered pocketwatch.
            "I believe this is thine." He smiled. "After you disappeared on Serpent Isle, Shamino once again took possesion of it. Before he led his last offensive against the Guardian, he gave it to me. May it serve thee well."


            It had been two days since I talked to Sentri. A skiff was prepared for me. I was just about to set off north towards Serpent’s Hold when two familiar faces came to see me off.
            "Mikael! Trevor! I haven’t seen either of thee since we attacked Stromcrow. How art thou?"
            Mikael grinned. "Doubtless you’ve hadst much more fame since the battle than either of us. We merely came to bid farewell to thee. You appear much better armoured than for that battle."
            Indeed I was. I had fur boots, plate leggings, chain armour and arm guards, a door shield, a wolf-skin cloak, a viking helm, and a broadsword. Sentri’s men had also presented me with plentiful supplies.
            "We also brought something for thee." Trevor continued. "The horn which you blew back in Stormcrow. Lord Blagron said that it was an artifact from one of thy earlier quests or some such."
            "Thank thee." I accepted the Horn of Praecor Loth. The Air-Djinn inside it would doubtless prove useful. "I plan to return to Stonegate as soon as I can. The best of luck to both of thee."
            "The same to thee, Avatar."


            Luck, however, certainly didst not aid me out in sea. Within three days, a strong western wind picked up, forcing me to sail east. By the end of the week, I’d been forced to land on a small island, and wait until the weather subsided.
            Visible from sea was a ruined keep on the island. Unlike other ruins I’d seen in Britannia, the keep appeared to have simply erouded away from centuries of abandonment. I recognized it immediately as Windmere, headquarters of Blackthorn’s minions during the Age of Enlightenment, over two hundred years ago.
            A blizzard was wailing away as I disembarked from my skiff. I decided to seek shelter inside the keep. It was not a long walk; the island was barely large enough for the keep alone.
            Windmere itself was little shelter. The ceiling and walls were filled with cracks and holes, covering the floor with as much snow as the outside. The passageways were filled with almost solid walls of spiderwebs, resembling certain caves near Empath Abbey I’d traveled through during the Gargish War.
            At last I came to a dark room which seemed to provide more shelter than the others. Just as I sat down, I felt bones crack under me.
            Hastily, I stood up and lit a torch, iluminating the room. Around me were several dozen dead bodies. Most were skeletons; their bones picked clean. Others still had remnants of rotting flesh attached.
            "Who’s there?"
            A crackling, ancient voice broke the silence. An emaciated woman with raven-black hair stood before me, garbed in flowing white robes. Despite her voice and her wrinkles, she did not appear very old.
            "I am a traveler. What hast happened to these souls here?!"
            "They came with me to Windmere to escape the war. The war is pointless. It kills all. We will never be found here. We starved and died but we were never found."
            Her voice rose to a shreik. "I shall not be found! They tried to find me, those like you! They lied like you, but I showed them! Those with me turned traitor, one by one! They would have let me be found! So I showed them as well! Now I know why the travelers really came! They came here so I could survive on them! I shall never be found! Your flesh shall quench my hunger and you shall not find me!!!"
            I drew my sword too late. The woman had already lept at me with lightning speed, drawing a dagger. While I had simply attempted to parry her strike, my blade sunk deep into her flesh.
            "Never be found…" The woman slumped over, dead.
            Dear god. Is this what had happened to all Britannians? Driven to canabalism and insanity by the Guardian? Was Stonegate and Minoc all that was left of true Britannia?
            Lost in thought, I turned away. I did not see as the woman’s blood seeped back into her body and her face twisted in a grotesque shape.
            "Never be found…"
            I spun around just as her hair began to turn a deathly white. The woman rose to her feet. Her hair lashed out at me. It had gained the thickness and consistency of spiderwebs.
            As what had once been a woman uttered an unearthly scream, I ran towards her and decapitated her with my broadsword. From her neck poured webbing rather than blood. At last her lifeless body fell to the floor.
            I know not what possesed me next. It was not the power of Ether, I am certain, but I hesitate to say it was my own cowardice. Regardless, before I knew it I was back at my skiff, setting course in the direction of Serpent’s Hold. The wind continued to blow from the west, so I rowed the skiff myself. Even with godlike powers, I doubt that I could do it again today. Yet whenever I tired, a thought of what lay at Windmere was enough to double my efforts. It wasn’t until early next mourning that the winds subsided, allowing me to reach Serpent’s Hold by noon.


            It was thankfully warm when I reached Serpent’s Hold. Yet unlike Windmere, an air of foreboding surrounded me as I saw the castle in the distance, similar to that in Stormcrow.
            I saw creatures approaching from the direction of the castle. I did not count their number, but there were easily dozens of them. I knew at once that I had been found.
            "A human! Just like we were told!" One shouted.
            "What art thou going to do," I asked, resigned, "kill me?"
            The leader, a goblin, chuckled. "Oh, no. You not getting off that easy. The leader see you. He not tortured human in long time."
            In mere moments I was disarmed, chained, and brought to the throne room of the castle. At the throne sat a grotesque Daemon. Unlike others I had seen, he was not a warrior. He was repulsively fat, owning a prominent potbelly. For a Daemon, his arms and legs appeared scrawny and weak, though they were still massive compared with that of a human.
            "Well, well, well." He cackled as I was brought before him. "You’re the first human stupid enough to set foot on this island since the war. You must be the Avatar. No one else would have justification for such idiocy. Besides, our lord informed me of thy expected arrival."
            "The Guardian, you wretch?"
            "Watch thy tounge, worm. I hold thy life in my hands. But I, Lord Uman-cor, am a gamesman, and shall make you an offer."
            Shadow of Cowardice. How fitting a name.
            "My domination of this island is complete in all but one way: I hath yet to aquire one treasure of Serpent’s Hold. I am told that the Flame of Courage, which supposedly burns eternally, was kept below this castle. However, it is hidden through a maze of traps so deadly that none of my servants have been able to find it.
            "I make thee this offer. If you canst find the Flame of Courage, I shall give thee whatever you want from the castle and send you on your way. If not, then you will certainly die within the catacombs and I will have lost nothing."
            "And how do I know thou wilt not betray me, Daemon?"
            "You don’t. But as it is, you haven’t much choice as to my decision. If you refuse, it will do me know harm to simply have you executed and parade your severed head across the Guardian’s kingdoms."
            I lowered my head. I knew I had no choice.
            "I agree, Daemon."
            "Excellent. I give you this amulet. When you reach the flame, hold the amulet in thy hands and shout my name. I wish thee a noble death, mortal."


            Thus I was locked within the catacombs below Serpent’s Hold. I had nowhere to go but downward towards the Flame of Courage, wherever it may rest.
            It was dark, and I had no torches. The Daemon had stripped me of all weapons, armour, and supplies before throwing me in here. I had only a shortsword and a decorative shield.
            I followed the winding, twisting, passages for what seemed like hours, doubtless traversing the same ground more than once. Whenever I came to a fork, I let intuition guide me, be it the power of Ether or simply blind guesses.
            The passages seemed devoid of monsters, at least. I doubt that I couldst have fought anything larger than a Giant Rat in my present condition.
            At last I came to a long passage. Unlike those previous to it, it did not veer from side to side, but remained ever straight in a single direction.
            As I walked down the passage, I could tell something was wrong. Be it the will of Ether that I did not die I do not know. Regardless, I threw myself to the ground just in time to avoid the hail of arrows exploding from the walls.
            I crawled the rest of the way through that passage. At last I found it was a dead end.
            Only as I turned around, I must have hit an invisible lever, for the floor collapsed from under me, leaving me in still darker, more foreboding passages.
            Twould be a waste of both our times to give a commentary on my journey through these wretched catacombs. Suffice to say, I saw many of the most henious traps ever devised by man in there. For what seemed like ages I wandered through the claustraphobic paths, desperately hoping for the treasure I didst seek.
            At last I came to the 8th level down of the maze. While the others were darker and darker than the previous, a light from nowhere in particular illuminated this level. I was in a small room with a single passage leading to the north. The path leaded to a larger room containing the inevitable.
            The eternal Flame of Courage sat in the center of the room. Otherwise, the stone chamber was entirley bare. I reached for my amulet and stopped.
            Was this virtuous? To sacrifice the embodiment of one of the Three Principles for a grotesque Daemon?
            I have no choice. No choice at all. It is the only way…


            In a flash of brimstone, the Daemon Uman-cor appeared in front of the Flame of Courage.
            "Well, well, well, human. Impressive. Most impressive. I doubted that you could truly find the flame. Prehaps you really are the so-called Avatar. No matter. You have solved a problem that has disturbed me for years," Uman-cor paused, "And given me the pleasure of killing you myself!"
            Uman-cor drew a sword from his belt. It was Magebane, the blade I came to Serpent’s Hold in search of. It was an impossible battle to win. Even for a human, the Magebane was a light, one-handed sword. A Daemon like him could wield it effortlessly. What’s more, my shortsword certainly couldn’t even penetrate his scaled exterior. I had truly lost. What’s more, I had sacrificed the Flame of Courage as well, dooming the existance of the Three Principles.
            Letting forth a foreign battle cry, Uman-cor charged at me. The force of his blow shattered my puny shield in two. He reeled, off balance after I deflected his attack. I thrust my sword straight at his heart.
            Unleashing a roar more of anger than of pain, Uman-cor punched me in the face with his left hand. As I fell to the floor, the shortsword snapped, leaving the blade imbedded in the Daemon’s body.
            Uman-cor pulled the blade out and tossed it aside. A faint trickle of blood escaped from the wound. I had barely pierced his skin, reaching nowhere near his heart. And now I was without weapon or armour.
            "So, you are skilled with the blade. But now you are used up and I shall kill you!"
            I rose to my feet and tried to parry his rapid blows with the remnants of my shield and sword, but it was no use. I was weakening. A blow shattered my shield to mere splinters, the impact pushing me back against the Flame of Courage.
            Yet as my right arm passed over the flame, I felt something. It was not any form of magic I was familiar with. It was simply Virtue. I looked down and saw that I no longer held a broken shortsword in my right hand, but a beautiful weapon forged from silver.
            As Uman-cor raised the Magebane in a killing blow, I struck with the Silver Sword. The Daemon’s entire right arm was severed from his body. Blood poured out from the wound as Uman-cor howled in agony.
            "Damn thee!!!! You cannot destroy me!!!!! I SHALL ANNIHILATE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! YOUR DEATH HAS COME, WORM!!!!!!!!!!!!"
            Uman-cor, possesed by rage and fury, raced at me with his clawed hand. He Flame of Courage was between the tow of us now. In an instant, Ether possesed me once more. I knew. I simply knew. Uman-cor had lost this battle, just as the Changeling in Stormcrow had.
            As Uman-cor jumped over the Flame of Courage, I ripped his amulet from my neck and cast it into the flame. From a million directions at once, lightning struck the blue flame and, with it, the foul Daemon Uman-cor.
            Uttering a scream undescribible in its horror and pain, Uman-cor collapsed before the flame. His skin began to disolve, leaving only bone. His bones began to crumble and disperse as well. Yet he retained the ability of speaking until the end.
            "So you knew… The amulet was crafted from a shard of Mondain’s gem… The gem was split into eleven shards… the three largest represented Falsehood, Hatred and, Cowardice… the other eight represented the virtues stemming from these principles… I represent Dastardness, which stems solely from Cowardice… for that reason I was entrusted with the Shard of Dastardness… the Guardian’s eight lords upon Britannia each represent one of these virtues… each was entrusted with one of the smaller shards…
            "Now that… you have destroyed me… the Shard of Dastardness shall combine with those of Falsehood, Hatred, and Cowardice in the Flame of Infinity on the Isle of the Avatar, where you banished them… When you kill all eight of us, the Guardian shall enter Britannia… then we shall have our revenge… for he is invincible…"


            Uman-cor was no more. His body had completely disolved by he time he finished his speech. I turned to the Flame of Courage, which had saved my life.
            "What?" I cried.
            "Tis I, Geoffrey, (AV)…"
            "Geoffrey?" The words of my old companion seemed to come from the Flame of Courage, which glowed faintly each time Geoffrey spoke.
            "I am no more, (AV)… I was killed here at Serpent’s Hold. Now I am one with the Flame of Courage and represent one of the Three Principles…"
            "You saved my life when I fought Uman-cor, didn’t thou? I am grateful, Geoffrey."
            "Your destiny lies elsewhere, (AV)… The sword you seek is here. Return it to Stonegate for the good of Britannia…"
            "What of this sword, Geoffrey?" I motioned the silver sword he hadst created for me.
            "Place it back in the flame, (AV)… I shall create supplies for you."
            As the sword passed through the Flame, it once again became a broken shortsword. On the ground appeared a chain coif, gauntlets, leather leggings and boots, a red cloak, a backpack, a curved heater, and a longsword.
            "Take these and may they serve thee well, (AV)… When thou art ready, kneel before the flame and you will be teleported to your skiff outside the castle…"
            "Thank thee once more, Geoffrey."
            "Walk in Virtue, noble Avatar…"


            I outfitted myself with the weapons and armour Geoffrey provided. Inside the backpack were several lockpicks, magic gems, and torches, not to mention food and even a few gold nuggets.
            From what remained of the Uman-cor’s body, I found the Horn of Praecor Loth and my pocketwatch, both which were certainly kept as momentos. The Daemon’s right arm remained intact, still grasping the Magebane. While my other supplies were presumably still in the castle, I dared not go back for them.
            Once prepared, I knelt before the Flame of Courage. When I raised my head, I stood next to my skiff, still tied to the shore where I left it.
            The sun was setting, and Trammel had already risen. It was in the first quarter stage, representing Valor.
            How fitting, for today Courage has triumphed over Cowardice. I glanced at my ancient pocketwatch. It read 8:49.
            So be it. The hero sails off into the sunset. Soon I wouldst reach Stonegate, if weather wert fair, and then I wouldst unlock the secret of the Magebane.


            Indeed, my return to Stonegate was greatly aided by weather. The skies were clear and the winds were strong. I’d reached Minoc at dawn on the fourth day.
            Yet as I sailed down Lost Hope Bay, I knew something was wrong. There were no sounds to greet me from either Minoc or Stonegate.
            By the time I could see the community, I did not bother to dock my skiff, but simply raced out to the sight of piles of dead bodies.
            All around the village were the dead. I recognized some of them. Talrus… Inbar… Balgron… All had been slain by the Guardian’s forces.
            What had I done now? In coming to Stonegate, had I alerted the Guardian of its presence? And what of Minoc? Wert all there dead as well?
            A groan issued from one of the fallen bodies. I raced to the man. It was Mikael. Blood poured down his forehead and from his mouth.
            "Victory…" He whispered, and his head fell back. He was no more.
            I am responsible for all of this. I must’ve lead the Guardian here. And now, some of the only Britannians left lay dead at my feet.
            Jaana stumbled up to me. A spear was impaled straight through her. With every word, she coughed up blood.
            "All dead here in Stonegate… Minoc as well… Yet we… died satisfied… We tasted victory for a moment, however brief… and because of you…
            "Our lives were meaningless… worthlesss… yet we continued to live… Since you came… to Stonegate… you granted victory upon us… Even if… we only lived with it… for a few days… it was better than a lifetime of defeat…
            "I forgive thee, (AV)… I blamed thee for the death… of Lord Heather… It wasn’t your fault… Nor is this thine fault… but thy blessing!"
            With her last words, Jaana coughed out still more blood and passed from this world, the second of my Companions to die in my persence.
            Dupre. Shamino. Geoffrey. Jaana. All were dead now. What of my other Companions? What of Sentri?
            "Why hast thou returned here, Avatar?"
            I spun around upon hearing the harsh voice. Behind me stood Julio, uneffected by the death around him.
            "Now Stonegate hast fallen to thy enemy as well, Avatar. Thou hast no more purpose here. I survived. I always survive. Now I shall remain here, to bury the dead. I alone survived Stonegate. I shall be its caretaker. Take what thou wilt, and get out! Leave me! Enough hast already happened on Britannia because of thee, I canst tell. Leave me to the dead, Avatar."


            Carrying the Magebane, I proceeded to the original keep of Stonegate. The pedestal on which the Magebane had been found remained untouched.
            Six hundred men, women, and children of Stonegate died so I could bring this sword here. Their sacrifices shall not be in vain.
            I placed the Magbane upon the pedestal, and withdrew my hand. The sword glowed with a faint blue-white aura. Black clouds passed overhead. A bolt of lightning struck the sword, forcing me to shield my eyes from the bright light.
            As I opened my eyes, I saw a familiar man standing before me. It was Dupre, just as he had been before dieing on Serpent Isle. With the exception of his bare arms, he wore a full suit of magic armor. His helmet was openfaced and plumed, like those worn by both Ophidians and New Sosarians on Serpent Isle. His sircoat showed squares of white and blue with an eight-pointed star in the middle, the same pattern as his original magic shield. In each hand he held a Magebane sword. One of them was the sword we had first found here at Stonegate; the other was the sword I had just brought here from Serpent’s Hold.
            "Dupre!!!!! Thou’rt alive!!!!"
            "(AV)! It feels good to be human again!" The knight grinned happily.
            "What hast happened, Dupre?"
            "Well, the Guardian’s attack on Britannia affects all of the original four Sosarian continents, for they are all still connected through devices such as the Serpent Pillairs. I, the Great Earth Serpent, and Wilfred—"
            "Oh yes, thou dost not know, (AV). He merged with the Order Serpent shortly after you left Serpent Isle, just as I merged with the Chaos Serpent. Did it to save the lives of Iolo and Shamino.
            "Anyways, we three Serpents would like to help, but our influence only covers one of the continents of old Sosaria. But by focusing our power through both Magebane swords at once, we were able to transport myself here into Britannia, though as a human."
            "Wilt not Imbalance strike all of Sosaria once more now that thou, the Chaos Serpent, have left Serpent Isle?"
            "Nay, Wilfred is not the megalomaniac that the Order Serpent was. He and the Great Earth Serpent will not allow the Imbalance to gain power."
            "And now that thou art human once more, now what?"
            Dupre grinned. "Why, I’ll join thee in your quest, of course! Mayhaps there’s still ale somewhere in Britannia! I grow weary of being an immortal creature living in the Ethereal Void!"
            I smiled. Same old Dupre. "Then let us be off, to thrash the Guardian once more!"


            Dupre and I were already leaving when we heard a voice from behind us. I turned around, and saw a fighter running towards us. It was Trevor.
            "Trevor! I thought thou died at Stonegate or Minoc!"
            "I yet live, milord. But I’m certainly the only one. I beg of thee to allow me to join thee in thy quest."
            "Nay, friend. Tis not safe for thee. Julio yet lives in Stonegate. Go and join him."
            "Please milord, I beg of thee!" Trevor bent down on his knees. "I hath nothing left there. Let me adventure with thee and avenge Stonegate!"
            "I wouldst not let thy death rest on my hands, Trevor."
            "I have nothing else to live for, great Avatar. All I once knew is gone. I have naught else to do but avenge my friends who fell here."
            "(AV)," Dupre spoke up, "I believe this man could be useful. After all, the two of us could hardly slaughter the Guardian’s forces all by ourselves. Why, it’d take at least three of us to destroy an army of thousands!"
            I could not help but laugh. Despite his death and rebirth, Dupre had lost none of his good humor. "Come along then, Trevor. I would be honored to have a fighter like thee at my side."
            "Thank thee, milord."
            "Call me either (AV) or Avatar. No need for formalities."
            "As you wish, Avatar." He rose. "Who is thy well-armoured friend? I hath not seen him before."
            "I am Dupre, fellow Britannian knight." My companion responded.
            Trevor’s eyes opened wide. "The knight Dupre who traveled with the Avatar on uncountable quests? Britannia thought thou wert dead, but I suppose ressurection spells are still possible. I am honored to fight alongside thee!"
            "A bit reminiscent of Tseramed, is he not?" Dupre whispered to me.
            "Later, my friend. We must journey onward."


            Dupre, Trevor, and I tallied up our supplies. Trevor was equiped with black boots, leather leggings, scale mail, leather gloves, a leather helm, a wooden shield, and a shortsword (his crossbow had been lost during the attack). He and I divided our food and supplies evenly amongst ourselves and Dupre (who had naught with him but weapons and armour). Dupre also found himself a backpack from within the ruins.
            At last we were ready to set out. It was nearly noon by now. Just as we walked down the dirt path south from Stongate, we heard a horse neigh. A bit to the east of the path was a coal-black horse racing in our direction.
            "I’ll catch it so thou canst ride, (AV)." Dupre stated.
            "Wait!" I cried. "Tis Sentri’s horse!"
            Dupre looked truly shocked. "Sentri? Then we must use this horse to find him. Mayhaps he canst help us!"
            Within moments, Dupre had the horse leading us to the northeast, around the Bloody Plains. As we got closer, the horse quickened its pace.
            At last we saw Sentri. He lay face up on the ground, an arrow protruding from his side. A trail of blood led to the north. I rushed over to him and removed his helmet so that he could breathe easier.
            "Tis no need, (AV). I shall die here, as I should have…"
            He coughed up blood onto the grass. "This is where Shamino perished in his last battle… Now I shall die where he did, just as I should have years ago…
            "Minoc has fallen, Avatar. We were decimated by a huge army… led by the Shadowknight."
            "The Shadowknight?"
            "In Gargish tongue he is referred to as the Bal Lem… He is prehaps the most powerful of all the Guardian’s lieutenants…"
            Sentri tried to rise, but only succeeded in coughing up more blood. His voice grew weaker and weaker and his skin paled. "Avatar, Minoc and Stonegate were not the only safe havens for humans…
            "You… must… find…" His voice was gone. In a mighty effort, he finished the sentence.
            "Bor… der… march……"
            Sentri slumped back, and I was certain he was dead. Then his eyes moved, and focused not on me but on Dupre. As blood trickled from his mouth, he gave a faint smile.
            "Sir Dupre, indeed! How didst thou become a knight when all thou doth protect is thine own ale?"
            With those final words to his best friend, the last knight of Britannia closed his eyes and died.


            We buried Sentri on the very spot upon which he died. His horse was set free to graze where it wilt. All of Sentri’s regallia was buried with him.
            The noble knight had pointed our goal out to us. The lost island of Bordermarch, which sank below the waves shortly after the banishment of Blackthorn. Was this where I wouldst find the solution to defeating the Guardian once and for all?

An end is but a beginning wrought from the sacrifice of others.

-Julio of Stonegate

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