Book the Fourth:


            "Trevor, Tseramed: Scout around. Who knows what could be lurking on the Isle now? Dupre, Mortegro: Follow me. We’ll see if we can salvage anything from the keep."
            We were on the Isle of Fire, moments after Arcadion had transported us here from Jhelom. We stood in the central hall of Castle Death. In front of me was the anvil upon which I forged the Black Sword ages ago.
            Trevor and Tseramed headed south out of the castle. A few moments later they came rushing back in.
            "Avatar," Trevor panted. "There’s a Moongate outside the castle!"
            "Aye." I replied. "I found it on my last quest to this Isle. It how it survived the destruction of the Sphere Generator I know not. Yet it remained here even after I destroyed that infernal machine. If memory serves, it will lead to the Lycaeum."
            "The let us be on our way, (AV)!" Durpe shouted.
            "Nay, not yet, old friend. First we shouldst see what we canst find here on this Isle."
            We split up across various parts of the castle. I entered the central chamber of the Three Statues of the Principles. The old man, beautiful woman, and valiant warrior all stared at me, almost mocking me.
            Is this what the virtues have done? I asked silently. I followed the virtues for centuries, and now Britannia lies in ruins for them. Prehaps Jaana was right. Prehaps we should have let the Guardian conquer Britannia.
            The virtues! Damn the virtues! Even as I cry out my curses, I cannot revoke the virtues. The bulk of my life has been dedicated to these virtues. Without them, I am an empty husk. I curse and defile them, but I am still virtue.
            It is your fault for Britannia's plight, the old man's eyes seemed to say.
            How?? I followed thy damned virtues! Now look what hast happened!
            I spun around. Mortegro stood behind me.
            "What do you want, foolish mage? Get out!"
            Mortegro was clearly stung by my outburst, but replied silently. "We are not alone, (AV). Another magical power resides on this island."
            "What?" I stuttered, pulled away from my thoughts.
            "AN SANCT LOR!!!!!!!!"
            At Mortego's incantation, two figures appeared. One was a blind, wizzened old man. The other a glowing ball of blue-white light.
            "Well done, mage." The old man stated. "I did not know strong enough magi to penetrate my spells still resided in Britannia."
            Erethian turned to me. "It seems we meet yet again, Avatar. I suppose you're much more pleased to meet me than I am to you."


            "Erethian???" I burst out. "Thou'rt dead! You died trying to stop me from banishing the Dark Core!"
            "Eh?" The blind mage remarked. "Then you do not remember meeting me within the Dark Core?"
            "In the Dark Core??"
            "Hmm…" Erethian pondered. "A portion of your memory seems to have been blocked out by exterior forces. I'll see if I can remove the block."
            In an instant, thousands of thoughts returned to me. But they did not truly return, for I felt as if I had always had them. I remembered being sucked into the Dark Core along with the Guardian, meeting Erethian, and destroying the Dark Core, freeing myself and the Guardian.
            "What happened to thee, Erethian?" I asked.
            "After thou destroyed the Dark Core (again), I and all others absorbed by it were freed. I reappeared here on the Isle of Fire, where I have remained for several months. I trust you also remember this Wisp here whom we both met!"
            "Of course!" I cried, turning to the ball of light.
            "Projection 'Wisp' of entity 'Xorinia' greets projection 'Avatar' of entity 'Britannia.' " The Wisp replied enigmatically.
            "A bit long winded, as always they are." Erethian muttered.
            "The mind block? How didst it get there?" I asked.
            "I have no idea, Avatar, but I could not help but notice many of your thoughts revolved around a multi-dimensional being known as the Guardian. Judging from the fact that you encountered him in the Dark Core and that you've come to Britannia to kill him (in thy usual virtuous manner), I'd fix on him as my prime suspect."
            Erethian continued. "But what have you been doing in the months since we escaped the Dark Core? You've been busy, it seems. All of Britannia is errupting. And who is this charming mage wise enough to be silent in our long-winded conversations?"
            I told Erethian of my quests through Serpent Isle, Pagan, and Britannia. He listened thoughtfully.
            "So, you are slowly becoming this 'Titan of Ether.' That explains why you wouldn't be able to detect me. You're only blind spot would be Ethereal magic itself, which was only created through the combination of the other four Elements, and is nowhere near as complete as the other magics, though what exists is much more powerful than any of them."
            "How does that explain things?" I asked.
            "Well, I am a Thaumaturge, and I practice a form of magic using the powers of Ether. You mentioned an old man on Pagan named Mythran. His incantations sound like Thaumaturgy to me."
            "Indeed. He once refered to his magic as such. But how couldst thou know of it? I thought it native to Pagan."
            "Of course not, Avatar. All magic exists throughout the entire Multiverse. It is simply easier to harness it on some plains of reality than on others."
            Dupre rushed in. "A one-man skiff approaches, (AV)!"
            "What? Surely Vasjux could not have tracked us down yet!"
            Erethian stroked his thin beard. "Nay, a single vessel such as this could not be a powerful foe. But, of course, I still would rather not be discovered by the outside world, Avatar. If you'll excuse me…"
            Before I couldst utter a sound, Erethian and the Wisp disappeared.


            "They're still here, Avatar." Mortegro commented. "Just invisible."
            "Leave them." I replied. "Erethian! Thou canst at least still hear me, I am certain! If I face a powerful enemy, lend thy aid! If not, please leave me and my companions to our privacy!"
            I turned to Dupre. "Lead the way, old friend. Let us greet our visitor."
            Tseramed and Trevor were already waiting outside the castle. The skiff docked at the shore just as Dupre, Mortegro, and I arrived. On it stood a figure wearing black robes and a hood.
            "Who art thou?" Tseramed barked.
            The figure removed its hood. Before us stood a familiar woman with brown-red hair. The wrinkles that lined her face did not for a moment mask the appearance of one of my first companions.


            "I hadst thought thou might be back, (AV). Britannia has been in an uproar the past month or so."
            It was two hours since Julia's arrival at the Isle of Fire. She and I were now talking in Erethian's study.
            "Tis a relief to see thee alive. Many old friends like Shamino and Iolo passed on during the war, so I've heard."
            "Indeed." Julia replied. "Twas terrible. Britannia held out for nearly a decade, but our losses far outnumbered our defeats."
            "What of thee during the years, Julia?"
            "I found no refuge as others did. I wandered the lands aimlessly, commiting neither right nor wrong. Most probably thought me dead since the war."
            "And why didst thou come to the Isle of Fire, pray tell?"
            Julia was silent for a moment. Suddenly, she pulled a blackrock dagger from her belt and attacked me.
            "(AV), I came here to kill thee!"


            "I serve the Guardian now, (AV). I've served him for years since the war."
            "Why, Julia? For centuries we have quested through Britannia! Why wouldst thou betray our friendship and forsake the virtues?"
            "Avatar, I do what I must for the virtues! Britannia has faced great hardships these past decades, but it can overcome them! Yet your return to the realm shall set off conflicts even worse than the last war! The Guardian has already done all he wishes to Britannia! He will let us recover if thou art dead!
            "And live as his dogs, Julia?"
            "Wouldst thou rather Britannia was wiped out? Shouldst an entire world sacrifice itself for your pride? Or canst thou give thy life for Lord British's kingdom?"
            "Julia, the Guardian uses thee, as he did Patterson!"
            "Patterson? You do not know the tradgedy of his life. Forever we damned him simply because he was once a member of the Fellowship. Other ex-members of that cult like Ferridwyn regarded him with contempt. He had nowhere to turn, (AV)! He tried to idolize you, but met only with condesencion! What had he left but the 'Inner Voice' which once conforted him? Either of us wouldst have done the same in his position, (AV)."
            "Even supposing you kill me, Julia, my companions will no doubt slay thee."
            "What of it? I do not do this for myself. I will die with the satisfaction of knowing Britannia will be safe!"
            Julia lowered her dagger. "But, I did not truly come to kill thee, my old friend. I shall instead warn thee that the Guardian knows where thou art thanks to the Daemon Arcadion and shall guess your plans. His armies shall destroy thee and all who follow thee! But, (AV), if thou dost sacrifice thyself now you canst spare thy companions. I come to let thee die by your own hand rather than another's. Farewell, my old friend."
            Before I couldst move or utter a sound, Julia disappeared in a burst of flame. My companions came rushing in.
            "Quickly," I yelled. "Gather up your supplies! We must escape!"


            Damn Arcadion! Even if he did help us, I shouldst have known he would offer equal services towards the Guardian! No matter, tis too late now.
            As we hurried towards the moongate, the wisp accompanying Erethian appeared.
            " 'Xorinia' is interested in the actions of projection 'Avatar.' Projection 'Wisp' of entity 'Xorinia' will join 'Avatar' on 'his' quest."
            "Do not trust it, Avatar." Dupre warned. "Remember Alagner."
            "Wisp," I asked. "Will Xorinia trade information aqquired from myself or my companions with the Guardian or any servants of his?"
            "Is 'this' a requirment of projection 'Avatar' before said projection will allow projection 'Wisp' of entity 'Xorinia' to join 'you?' "
            "No." I replied. "It is a requirment of mine that Xorina does NOT trade any information from myself, my companions, or any intelligent creatures we encounter with the Guardian or any of his servants."
            The wisp paused a moment, glowing slightly brighter for an instant.  " 'Xorinia' acceeds to projection 'Avatar's' request."
            "Thank you. You may join me, Wisp." I turned to my other companions, "Come. We must depart this isle."


            Stepping through the Moongate, we appeared in front of the Lycaeum on Verity Isle. Around us, the entire city of Moonglow, which once spanned the whole island, lay in ruins.
            "Where to now, (AV)?" Dupre asked.
            "Let us explore the Lycaeum. Mayhaps we canst find reagents and spells."
            As we explored the remnants of the Lycaeum, I thought back to Julia's words. Prehaps she was right. Prehaps I should sacrifice my own life for Britannia.
            No! The Guardian is evil! I must stop him! Other worlds must not suffer as Britannia had!
            The Lycaeum's great library lay in ashes. Nearly all the books were burned away. This great center of knowledge was no more.
            "Who goes there?" A voice called from behind.
            An aged woman stood behind us with greyish-red hair. Once again, I confronted one of my very first companions in my journies upon Britannia.


            "Tis Mariah, Avatar!" Durpe yelled needlessly.
            "So," Mariah spoke slowly, "Another old friend comes to speak with me. Why these hallucinations? I weary of these sights."
            "Mariah, it is I! (AV)!"
            "Eh? Still these appiritions beckon towards me. When shall it end? Have these years of torment been in vain?"
            "Tis no use, (AV)." Tseramed warned. "She is clearly insane."
            "Nay, Tseramed. I shall not give up on a companion of mine."
            " 'Avatar.' " The Wisp put in.
            " 'Xorinia' detects a hostile sentinent 'creature' to the south of the 'isle.' "
            "What creature?"
            The Wisp was silent a moment. " 'Xorinia' cannot acceed to 'your' request of information."
            "Eh? Why not?"
            " 'Xorinia' shall not trade information aqquired from projection 'Avatar' or any sentinent beings in contact with said projection to entity 'Guardian' or projections of entity 'Guardian.' As a result, 'Xorinia' will not trade information aqquired from entity 'Guardian' or any--"
            "Wait," I cut the Wisp off. "In other words, you cannot tell us anything you've found out from the Guardian or his servants?'
            "Damnit." I turned to my other companions. "To the south; we must combat this new menace."
            As we rushed from the Lycaeum, a chill wind blew through the air. Before us stood a familiar liche.
            "This time, Avatar." Aram-Dol shouted, "I shall destroy you!!!!"


            We drew our weapons and faced the dreaded liche. But this time I knew he was more powerful. This time I knew we had lost.
            "Once again we meet, Avatar. Now we shall fight without any interruptions." The liche pointed to Mortegro. "An Ort!"
            Damnit. Only Mortegro had any spells prepared to combat Aram-Dol with.
            "And now for the rest of you. Vas Ort Grav!"
            Lightning spread across the battlefield, striking each of my companions in succession. Each collapsed to the ground. A mad glee shown in the liche's eyes as he stared at me.
            "At last thy turn, Avatar! Oh, how I have longed to kill thee since the Guardian first resurrected me!"
            Storm clouds gathered over the isle. In a swift movement, I slashed my sword upward with all my might as lightning flashed.
            Aram-Dol's left arm soared off from his body and fell several feet away. My sword shattered from the impact, leaving only a hilt.
            For a moment, Aram-Dol stood there, unconcerned by the loss of an arm. Then, the severed limb floated through the air and reattached itself to the liche.
            "Mortal, I cannot die!!!!!!!"
            "Stop this now!!!!"
            Several yards away stood Mariah, in her hands a spellbook. Thunder sounded across the isle.
            "Undead mage, you have caused enough harm here upon Moonglow. Begone! Vas Ort Jux!"
            "In Sanct!"
            Despite his protection field, the impact of the magic arrow pushed Aram-Dol back several feet.
            "Damn thee, mortal! Once again another of thy friends interferes! Avatar! We shall continue our fight some other time!"
            The liche disappeared once more. Mariah and I stood over the battlefield.
            "Vas An Jux Ort. Vas Bet Mani." Mariah calmly intoned. My companions began to stir and groan. Mariah collapsed to her knees, exhausted.


            "Mariah!" I ran to her side.
            "Tis me, (AV), Mariah!"
            "Yes… it is you… find the Blue Virtue Stone from my study… cast Recall upon it… it shall take thee…" Mariah fell silent.
            " 'Xorinia' notes that projection 'Mariah' of entity 'Britannia' is still 'alive.' " The Wisp buzzed to me.
            "You! Why didn't you aid in the battle?"
            " 'I' am an observor. 'I' will not engage in combat with other beings except to defend 'myself.' The projection in contact with 'you' meant no harm to 'me.' "
            "Never mind." I sighed. "How are my companions."
            "None have sustained permanent damage."
            Rain began to pour from above. While I was content to sit here forever, I needed to bring Mariah's prostrate form back to shelter in the Lycaeum.
            "Tell my companions to meet me in the Lycaeum when they revive." I called back to the Wisp.


            Inside the Lycaeum, I found large quantities of all reagents and several spell scrolls. I transcribed them into an empty spell book. I also found both the Blue Stone and the Purple Stone.
            At last my companions and I were ready for the journey ahead of us. Raising the Blue Stone, I spoke the incantation as darkness swirled around us…

True, the Avatar rid the land of several evils,
but at what cost, and for what reasons?

-Exploits of an Avatar
Erethian, Scholar of Truth

            Alright, this time I've gone too far. Not only did I make direct references to Dark Core, but I also used this as an important plot device. Sure, I've made references to various fanfics before, but never have they been this important a part of the plot. So what do I have to say? Tough. The story is still understandable even if you don't play Dark Core. Besides, this means Ultima freaks (like me) who've seen and read everything will get more out of the story than casual readers. Just as a warning for the future, references will be made to the following stories: The Dark Realm, Guardian: Ascension, Ultima VII: The Return, The Tale of Captain John, and The Dark Core. All of these (except for Dark Core) are available at the Dragon Press. I have a link to the Dark Core from my main page. Til Book Five!

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