Book the Seventh:


            Above me the twin moons of Britannia shone brightly. We wert camped on the Isle of the Avatar, next to the Shrine of Humility. I alone remained awake.
            Carved into the mountains to the south was the face of the Guardian. How fitting. The vile Daemon had his throne built here decades ago.
            So much hadst been revealed to me in the past day. I'd traversed the lands of the Gargoyles and confronted the Guardian in the Chamber of the Codex. Finally, the Guardian statues hadst spoken to me before their destruction.
            And now, I only have more questions. So many pieces have been added to the puzzle, yet it seems only that more holes art being uncovered.
            Tied about my waist was the Mystic Belt. Despite the massive amounts of supplies stuffed into it, the belt wast not bulky in the slightest and hadst room for many more objects.
            This is only the simplest of the parts to the Mystic Arms. The others, prehaps, shall grant me powers for use in combat and spell-casting.
            I stared once more up at the mocking face of the Guardian, his visage placed here, on the very island that embodies the virtues.
            Thou shalt pay for the plight of Britannia.
            I swear it.


            I rubbed my eyes wearily. The sun was already shining down upon me. I must have fallen asleep. My companions were already awake and eating.
            Tseramed tossed me an apple. "We found a fruit grove not far from here. Tis far better than these dried rations."
            I glanced at my pocketwatch. It read 11:26.
            "Eh!" I was startled to wakefulness. "Why didn't thou wake me sooner? We shouldst hath withdrawn by dawn!"
            "Thou'rt tired, (AV)." Tseramed replied. "You haven't slept well since we began this quest. After all we've been through, you deserve a rest."
            "Deserve?" I muttered. "I let Durpe sacrifice himself while the Guardian still hast Lord British and seven of the eight suits of Mystic Arms."
            "Of course. How's the apple?"
            I nearly grinned as I bit into the red surface.
            "Not bad. Tis the first fresh food of any kind I've had since I arrived in Britannia."
            "To find it refreshing as well," Inlor-Om put in, "But to prefer these." The Gargoyle bit into a horse chop he'd been roasting over the campfire.
            "Mortegro, how canst we get off the Isle?"
            "Blinking is the only way, I presume." The Necromage replied. "Yet the only island close enough is Terfin, where we met Sutek."
            "No!" Gorn interrupted. "Dah master not want Avatar back dere for now!"
            "Then what then?' Trevor cried, startled as we all were by Gorn's outburst.
            The barbarian sat back down and scratched his thick beard. "I not know. But master Sutek no vant Avatar to meet heem again so soon."
            I sighed and bit into the apple again. My Ethereal powers still manifested themselves randomly. I'd have no idea where I couldst send us with them.
            "Look!" Tseramed yelled, pointing out into the ocean.
            A massive ship sailed through the seas, a golden ankh inscribed on its mast. The crew onboard appeared humanoid.
            "It appears," I remarked to my companions, "That others shall decide our next destination."


            The ship approached the isle and docked right in front of us. We saw it was manned by full-bred humans.
            "Avatar!" The captain called from the deck. "We come from Bordermarch! Lord Christopher saw the explosion yesterday and suspected thou hadst something to do with it. We shalt take thee where thou wilt go."
            "Nay, friend." I replied. "Thine Lord offers us great kindness, but we must decline. We cannot let some of the few humans of Britannia die for our sake."
            "Shouldst an entire world sacrfice itself for your pride?" I remembered Julia's harsh words upon the Isle of Fire. "Or canst thou give thy life for Lord British's kingdom?"
            "Art thou certain, Avatar?" The captain's words pushed away my reverie. "We know of no other way off this isle."
            "I am certain, captain." Trevor was about to speak, but I motioned for his silence. "We canst fare well by ourselves."
            "If that is what thou dost wish, Avatar." The captain looked somewhat miffed. "We do hath something for thee, however."
            "Tis the Black Stone of Virtue. The Daemonic attack on our stronghold pervented Lord Christopher from giving it to thee whence last thou met."
            "Many thanks, once more, captain."
            "Walk in Virtue, Avatar."


            "Why didst thou say that, Avatar??" Trevor burst out as we watched the ship fading in the distance. "The captain wast right! There is no other way off the isle!"
            "Nay, Trevor, you forget the abilities of magic. I know not wherein it shall take us, but twill not endanger the lives of those men."
            "What is thy plan, then?"
            "Patience, The Shrine may yet be of assistance to us."
            I walked to the shrine, within the circle of stones. My companions followed, grouping themselves within the circle.
            I concentrated my mind solely on the shrine. I cleansed my thoughts of all but the word "Lum." I began to feel power flowing through myself and the shrine.
            And then, in an instant, we stood in another circle of stones. Yet no shrine marked it's center. No monoliths stood about. We wert not at one of the Shrines of the Eight Virtues, but at the location of one of the eight moongates. From the shrine I meditated at, I knew at once where we wert.
            "Companions, welcome to New Magincia."


            We stood near the south coast of the island. A dirt path led north to what had been the town of Humility. We could make out the small, worn buildings in the distance.
            "What news knowest thou about New Magincia since the war, Trevor?"
            "None, I'm afraid. Twas mentioned on occasion, but of little import. It fell about the same time as Britain, so few felt it a great matter."
            "No matter. It seems barren enough. Let's scout around."
            We hadst not gone a short way when a bare-chested, hairy fellow came rushing towards us, brandishing a wooden spear. He yelled meaninglessly.
            "Who art thou?" I asked. "We mean thee no harm."
            Ignoring me, the barbarian charged at us with his spear. Drawing the Sword of Justice, a single blow broke the spear in two. The barbarian stared dumbstruck for a moment, then raced back off the way he came.
            "Shall we pursue, (AV)?" Tseramed asked.
            "Nay. He is still human. We have no more threat from him."
            "Humans aren't as superior as they think." The Goblin I met in the Deep Forest hadst said that before killing himself. "All species have a right to dominate, to murder, to commit genocide, just as humans do."
            Genocide. I wouldst have killed that man wert he not human. Mayhaps the Goblin wast right. What truly separates the different races but opinion?
            "Tis not merely race, Avatar." The Guardian's voice echoed in my head. "You have shown your bigotry upon other humans."
            "Begone from my head, Tir-Mordreth." I muttered.
            "Hmph. Enjoy your ignorance for now, Avatar, I assure you it shall not last much longer."
            We walked another distance north. The air about us wast deathly quiet. We all knew something approached.
            "Get down!"
            Gorn knocked me to the ground, just as a crossbow bolt zoomed by where my head was a second ago. Several barbarians stepped out from around us. We were surrounded. Most armed themselves with spears. All appeared fearful and aprehensive.
            "What now, Avatar?" Mortegro readied his Death Scythe.
            "We're outnumbered. Tis our captor's move."
            Pulling the Sword of Justice from my belt, I threw it to the ground. One by one, my companions did the same with their weapons.
            The barbarians waited for several long moments. Slowly, they edged towards us. One of them picked up Caliburn and stared at it in awe.
            "Come." A single deep word echoed from one of the barbarians.
            "To not be sure of the wisdom of this, Avatar." Inlor-Om remarked.
            "We shalt trust them, my friend. I doubt that they mean us harm anymore."
            We followed the barbarians north towards the ruins. Throughout the journey, not once didst they break the circle formed around us.
            The city of New Magincia was almost completely devoid of the mighty, stone buildings of old Britannia. In their place were rickety shacks. Emaciated villiagers stared out the cracks as we passed by.
            Still we continued north. By now, a large crowd warily followed us. Inchoherent murmuring faded together from the mass, almost like a single life form.
            At last we approached the northern coast. Near it was the crumbling mansion of Alagner, one of the last of the old buildings left within the town.
            Several figures wert already within the house. Many others crowded in behind us. The mansion seemed to hath been transformed into a crude throne room.
            "Found humans south! Not of isle! Gar-- gargol too!" One of the men shouted.
            An aged woman entered from a side chamber. In her hands was the magical Hoe of Destruction, carried like a sceptre. Even with her knee-length hair almost completely gray, I recognized yet another of my original companions.
            The Hoe of Destruction clattered to the floor as my companion stared at me, speachless.
            "Who it be?" A barbarian asked.
            "The Avatar!" Katrina cried. "He has returned to Britannia! He shall save us!"
            The crowd was silent for quite a while. Suddenly, cheers began to errupt from the crowd. Katrina fell to her knees, weeping with joy.


            "Pathetic, isn't it, (AV)? This was once a great city."
            Several hours hadst passed since our arrival. The news of the Avatar spread quickly through the town. Now, my companions and I dined with Katrina in Alagner's mansion, eager to hear of the city's fate.
            "How didst this come to be, Katrina?"
            "New Magincia wast poorly defended, Avatar. Coming from the south, the undead armies of the Guardian easily defeated us. There was naught here they were after. They burned our fields, killed our livestock, and destroyed all possible means off the island, but they spared our lives, merely out of contempt.
            "I shall not lie to thee, (AV). We hath not fared well in the years since. Canabalism hast not been uncommon. Thou hast been worshiped as a messiah. I am glad to see thee here.
            "And now, what of thee? Thou appears to hath already traversed much of Britannia. A Gargoyle even accompanies thee. How hast thou been?"
            I told the bulk of my story to Katrina, who listened intently. Having been disconnected from the rest of Britannia, she wast pleased to here of Bordermarch and other human survivors throughout the lands (remembering my promise to Spark, I spoke not of the island's deals with the Guardian).
            "Thou hast hadst quite an adventure, (AV). Knowing thee, much more shalt happen before thou dost finish this quest. While I wouldst like to join thee, I rule the people here and cannot desert my responsibilities."
            "Tis strange to see a humble shepard now ruler over a community such as this."
            "Alas, I hadst little choice in the matter. New Magincia needed a leader, and many turned to me as a former companion of thou. Yet it only makes my devotion to the Virtue of Humility stronger. 'Peasents are born with the virtue, yet nobles must strive to obtain it.' " Katrina quoted the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.
            "And how long dost thou plan to stay here, (AV)?'
            "I know not, Katrina. But I shalt try not to trouble thee and thy people."
            "Think nothing of it. All wouldst gladly give their lives for thee."
            But should they? I thought grimly.
            "I shall see to it that thou receive good quarters, (AV). Walk in Virtue, old friend."
            "Walk in Virtue, Katrina."


            "Yes, Inlor-Om? What is it?"
            Weeks hadst passed since our arrival upon the island. Though still revered by the townspeople, we wert now a permanent fixture to the isle; few expected us to ever leave.
            Now I stood at the west coast of the isle, staring out into the sea, listening with mild annoyance to my Gargish companion.
            "To be uncertain of our course of action, Avatar." The young Gargoyle replied.
            "Indeed. I hath noticed thou hast appeared troubled these past days. What is it?'
            "To have joined you to stop the Guardian, Avatar. But to see that we simply pass our time here on this isle.
            "To understand that you and your other companions have not lived in large towns since the Guardian began the war. But to insist that we continue!"
            "We need to rest, Inlor-Om. We shalt continue our quest soon enough."
            "Soon enough! To know, Avatar, that you intend to stay here forever! To betray the trust of these people!"
            Wast he right? Didst I truly wish to stay upon this isle? To avoid conflict with the Guardian? Hath I truly lost Courage and the other virtues since my arrival here?
            "Thou'rt right, Inlor-Om…" I choked. "But it must end! I'll gather up the others and find a way to leave! Come!"
            Suddenly, a harsh wind blew by. It wast a wind of evil, a wind of death. A strange familiarity hung about it…
            Of course! Back in Cove, when I stared into Rudyom's crystal ball, this same wind blew across the dead city!
            "Katrina!" I called out to my aged companion, who stood not far away.
            "Aye, (AV)?"
            "From whence comes that wind?"
            "Buccaneer's Den, old friend. Tis a sad tale."
            "Tell me, what happened to the island?"
            "Twas only the second battle of the war. Rudyom the mage came personally to protect the city. But the battle went badly. He cast a massive Death Vortex, which destroyed the entire fleet of the Guardian, but also killed him and all others upon Buccaneer's Den. Even now, the deathly winds still blow about the area, though no longer powerful enough to be fatal."
            I told Katrina of my vision, which coincided completely with her account of the battle.
            "Tell me, how canst one reach Buccaneer's Den?"
            "I know not of any way but with a ship, (AV). Dost thou truly think it wise to go there?"
            "I believe it essential to my quest, Katrina."
            "Very well then. We hath no more ships here, but I believe we couldst build a skiff sturdy enough to take thy party to Buccaneer's Den."
            "Thank thee, Katrina."
            "We shall begin immediatley, (AV). It might take several weeks, however."
            "No matter, as long as you finish eventually."
            As Katrina left, I turned back to Inlor-Om.
            "We might still be here for quite a while, my friend. Yet I shall remember we hath a quest to acomplish, and now I know where this quest shalt take us."
            Later that day, I wouldst leave New Magincia forever.


            Come sunset all wast still uneventful. I'd told my companions of my revalation, and all agreed that we shouldst head for Buccaneer's Den.
            Suddenly, a man rushed through the street, letting forth a cry. From the north, a large fleet of ships approached the isle.
            "Tis clear once again that destruction follows us." I said to my companions as we armed ourselves.
            Outside, the ships wert landing. Skeletal, undead crews poured out, dueling with the townspeople. New Magincia's peasentry was easily overwhelmed, and the dark forces began to burn down the huts. Rushing into the melee, I sliced down several of the creatures with the Sword of Justice.
            "Avatar, wait!"
            From the bow of the lead ship, I spotted Julia. She was garbed in black robes. In her hands she wielded a two-handed hammer with red flame spouting from it.
            "Avatar, I warned thee to yield upon the Isle of Fire. As a result, many of the people of New Magincia shalt die in this battle. I do not want to do this, (AV), but tis the only way to save Britannia!"
            "Let us press on, Avatar!" Tseramed yelled.
            "Well, (AV)? Wilt thou surrender and save New Magincia or refuse out of Pride?"
            "We must fight, (AV)!" Trevor cried.
            I stood in silence for several minutes, oblivious to the battle raging around me. I knew what decision to make. I knew it wast the only decision I could make.
            "I yield, Julia." I whispered.
            "What??!!!" Inlor-Om shrieked.
            "I thank thee, Avatar. We shalt let this community live."
            "Treasonous witch!" Tseramed pulled forth an arrow.
            "No, my friend! It is too late. She hast won this battle. For the virtues, the very virtues which we must protect, we must yield here! Now, Tseramed!!! Yield!"
            One by one, we dropped our weapons. The sky above us burned red with fire.


            As the ships left, I stared back upon New Magincia. Still the fire burned. Even if Julia's attack had ceased when I yielded, many wouldst still hath died.
            I wish them all the best of luck. My quest shalt take me elsewhere. My quest shall see to it that I am sacrificed.
            For Britannia, I wouldst do anything.
            For Britannia…


            "Tis good to see thee well, my old friend. How hast thou been treated?"
            "More like honored guests than prisoners of war, Julia."
            Several days passed upon the north-bound ships. My companions and I wert all well fed and given comfortable quarters. Sometimes, twas hard to even remember I wast a prisoner here.
            "Why, Julia? Why didst thou turn to the Guardian's side?"
            "I didst so for Britannia, (AV). The land hast been in a dreadful state since the war. All humans wouldst be exterminated eventually. And all for thee, Avatar. I know not why, but the Guardian's true purpose in all of this is simply to capture thee."
            "Then you think that my death wilt free Britannia from the Guardian?"
            "Tis the only way, (AV). Humanity on Britannia must survive somehow."
            "And live like dogs licking at the Guardian's heels, Julia??!!" I rose from my seat. Several undead soldiers rushed in and knocked me down.
            "No! Do not hurt him! Take him back to his room!" Julia turned to me. "I do only what I think is right, (AV)."
            "I'm certain thou dost, Julia…"


            A few days later, we wert in sight of land. Beyond us wast Vesper, the Guardian's captial here on Britannia. Julia hadst told me of this place. The Blackrock mines made it the most concentrated area of life in the realm.
            "I must warn thee, old friend, that the overseer here may not show you the courtesy I hath." Julia warned as my companions and I left the ship.
            We wert escorted through several large streets into a huge building covering most of the city's area. Finally, we wert brought forth before a large throne, upon which sat a tall, wingless Daemon.
            "So it is the 'Avatar' of Britannia." The Daemon sneered. "I wast hoping we'd meet again."
            "Do you not recognize me?! I am the Slasher of the Veils, whom you fought in the Stygian Abyss years ago!"
            "Another figment from my past, then. And what powers hast the Guardian granted thee?"
            "Watch thy tongue, my patience wears thin. I need not any more powers than I already hath, powers for which the Guardian hast made me the Lord of Partiality!"
            "Partiality. Then what shalt thou do with us?"
            "Thou shalt be put on trial, Avatar."
            "Oh? I trial of Partiality?"
            "Nay. We shall stoop to your virtues, Avatar. I am merely the prosecutor, the judge shalt act with complete Justice, no mater how despicable this anti-virtue is."
            "Anti-Virtue?! Thine principles of Falsehood, Hatred, and Cowardice lead to the true anti-virtues!"
            "No, petty human, you are wrong. The Gargoyles invented your virtues as opposites of ours. They are the true anti-virtues."
            "So be it, then. And what shalt I be tried with?"
            "Thy crimes against Pagan."


            The trial wast ready to begin. A black-robed skeleton presided as the judge. While granted no defendant, I was permited to defend myself.
            "As prosecution," the Slasher of the Veils stated, "I bring forth my first witness, Devon, Tempest of the city Tenebrae!"
            Devon? Hee wast an old friend of mine upon that world! The first person I had met!
            From within the darkness stepped forth a young man in fisherman's robes. His eyes stared at me with cold hatred.
            "I first met the accused when I was fishing, and found his prostrate form floating in the sea. I brought him back to land, where he revived and told me of his travels. After departing, he freed the titans Hydros and Pyros from their imprisonments, thus caused many deaths throughout my kingdom. The 'Avatar' also deprived the Theurgists of their healing powers, which hadst been a boon to Pagan for centuries.
            "I understand, however, that he was unaware of all this, and did so to stop the Titans, whom he felt evil. As he was destined to, he destroyed the Titans and gained their powers, becoming the Titan of Ether. Yet instead of ruling Pagan as the Titans did, he left my world, abandoning it to the horrors which he unleashed!"
            "Devon!" I cried. "I didst good for thy world! I deposed the tyrant Mordea and placed you upon the throne!"
            "Yes, that is true, Avatar. Thine only good act in your sojourn through Pagan was one with which the Titans agreed with you. Mordea did not have the birthright to the throne, thus she was not the rightful Tempest. When you deposed her and made me Tempest, you carried on the will of the pact between Kalen and Hydros."
            "I thank thee, Lord Devon." The Slasher of the Veils interrupted. "I call for my next witness, the late Stellos, master Theurgist!"
            "Stellos…" I whispered. Not him. He was a saint of a man. One of the holiest in all the lands I'd traveled. Not him…
            A figure in white robes approached. Sympathy filled his eyes, but not for anyone. Sympathy towards the entire world for any and all horrors experienced by it.
            "I first met the accused upon Argentrock Isle, where he seeked admittance to the Theurgist order. I accepted him, sending him to my assistant, Brother Xavier. Within days he passed the grueling tests and distinguished himself. When another student, Torwin, stole from a Theurgist, the Avatar found and returned the object. However, he was unable to stop Torwin from killing himself over the execution of his father.
            "I do not hold a grudge. I believe the Avatar did not have time to save the young man. But his crimes grew greater. When he met with Stratos, the Mystic Voice who grants Theurgists their healing powers, he asked her of the Breath of Wind, growing excited as he heard of the power it gave unto my order.
            "The Avatar asked me of the Breath of Wind, admitting his intentions to steal it. Yet my order does not reprimand, it forgives and forgets misdemeanors. I told the Avatar the Breath of Wind's location, hoping that he would come to his senses. Instead, the Avatar stole the artifact, causing all Theurgists to lose their powers. I, being immortal through these powers, died shortly after.
            "Yet I understood that an Epoch in Pagan's history was changing. I saw nothing wrong with sacrificing my order, even for the temporary suffering, if it would bring forth goodness throughout the next pages of the land's history.
            "But upon killing the Titans, the Avatar gained power to rule over the world fairly and justly, mayhaps leading us through greater, more prosperous times. Instead, he abandoned our world, now without any gods. He left us to die, selfishly returning to Britannia!"
            "No!" I cried. "Britannia wast in danger! The Guardian wouldst destroy it!"
            "The Guardian couldst have destroyed Earth, Avatar!" The Slasher of the Veils put in. "When you wert given the choice between traveling to Earth or saving Britannia, in more immediate danger, you chose Britannia. But when it came between Britannia and Pagan, which wast in more immediate danger, you chose Britannia. Why, Avatar? Do you know why?
            "I shall tell you, damned one! You held the world of Pagan in contempt the moment you came there! You knew the Guardian ruled over it, and so you assumed it to be evil. Nothing you saw changed your mind, for you did not let it sink in that subjects of the Guardian are not always your enemies! You trampled over the world's rituals with contempt and abandoned it at the first instant you could! You did not care about it once! All you wanted was to get back to Britannia, which you believed to be in danger, but had no proof of!"
            "Tis not true! Pagan wast dying under the Guardian! I saved the world! I…" My speech trailed off. It was no use. They were right, I knew. They had won.
            "Yes, that's just like you, Avatar. You claim you saved Pagan. You did save it from the Guardian, you liberated the world. Yet you did not need to! The Guardian did no evil to Pagan! He let the Titans rule over it peacefully! Even when Hydros and Pyros were imprisoned, he did nothing! The world thrived under the Titans, though you convinced yourself that it was dying! Now the world is dying, Avatar! You killed their gods and left them to despair! You did more evil to that world than Mondain or Exodus ever comitted against Britannia!"
            So this was it. I understood why the Guardian banished me to Pagan. He knew what I wouldst do, he knew I wouldst abandon the world. I remembered the way the statues of principle on the Isle of Fire stared down upon me, as though I'd betrayed the virtues. They were right. I had betrayed the virtues. I began to giggle and cry at the same time.
            "How ironic, Slasher of the Veils… The word 'Pagan' refers to non-Christian religions upon my homeworld Earth. I saw the people of that world as 'Pagans' from the virtues, as they served the Guardian… As such, I ignored the virtues myself when dealing with them…"
            "Seeker of Truth," The Guardian Statues said upon the Isle of the Avatar, "Thou shalt find Truth. Countless shall suffer and die because of it."


            We were led away to a filthy cell. Each of us was given a single dead rotworm to eat for the entire day. The Slasher of the Veils knows he has won, and thus can take his time.
            Yet for me there was no rest. I had betrayed the virtues. I had destroyed an entire world. I did not even deserve to live.
            "We knew you would become the Titan of Ether, Avatar" The voice of Apathas, one of the ancient Zealan gods, spoke to me.
            "We had hoped you would lead Pagan to the height it had been under us." Amoras spoke.
            "But instead you abandoned Pagan for Britannia." Odion cried harshly to me. "For this your path will be most difficult."
            "Had you ruled Pagan, you would have kept your powers over Ether." Amoras spoke.
            "By leaving Pagan the Guardian was able to strip the powers from you." Odion spoke. "Your path to reclaim them shall be long and hard."
            "I do not want those powers! I have nothing left, now that I have abandoned virtue. I simply want to die."
            "And we shall not stop you if you attempt this, Avatar." Apathas spoke. The three shades faded away.


            "Avatar, thou must eat something! We've been here nearly a week!"
            "Nay, Mortegro. I have lost. Without virtue, I am nothing. And I have lost my virtue. Leave me to die."
            "Avatar!" Mortegro grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. "Snap out of it! That's just how the Guardian wants thee to feel!"
            "So be it, then. Yes, I was tricked. But that does not forgive me for the evils I did to Pagan. I cannot go on."
            "Avatar, Britannia still needs thee!"
            "Do not call me that! I am no Avatar!"
            "Fine, (AV)! Mayhaps you didst evil things upon Pagan! But that does not change a thing! Not one bloody thing! Britannia still needs thee just as much as ever! Do you think the world shall survive under the Guardian? Look at this! I wast not on this Pagan, but did the world appear as tortured, as barren, as this?!
            "Avatar, what matters is Britannia! Mayhaps thou hast lost thy virtue! But you must reclaim it, so that you canst fight and reclaim Britannia!"
            "Mortegro, I have already lost. Julia wast right. Twill spare Britannia much agony if we stop fighting."
            "What of the other worlds then? What of each world within the Multiverse threatened by the Guardian? You alone pose any threat to the Guardian, Avatar! You must continue fighting!"
            The Multiverse... The Time Lord... All the other worlds throughout there, even the Shattered Legacy... Even other Britannias...
            "Yes… yes… thou'rt right, Mortegro. But first we must escape from here. How farest thine attempts?"
            "The cell is blocked by a frazinum barrier, (AV)," Tseramed stated. "Even magic canst not break it."
            "Tsk, tsk, master." A familiar voice put in. "What a delightful mess you've gotten yourself into."


            "Arcadion!" I cried. Above us the Daemon sat in the air, the Black Sword slung over his back.
            "Ah, it is so amusing to watch you go about your petty quest, master." The Daemon chimed.
            "Hast thou come to aid us? If not, leave!"
            Arcadion looked hurt. "Why master! Is that any way to talk to your humble servant? But I do have something for thee."
            "Frazinum gauntlets?"
            "Nay, I need them not. I hath the material embedded within me, making these fields useless. No, I have a much simpler gift for thee." The Daemon handed me a fiery magic scroll. Hard as I tried, the scroll would not open. "Twill only work once you are outside the frazinum barrier. And the Necromage is the only one of your party skilled enough in magic to cast it. Ah well."
            "Why help us, Arcadion? Thou hast not been subtle about your hatred towards me."
            "Why, the sheer amusement of it!" The Daemon laughed heartily. "Mayhaps you'll escape, mayhaps you won't. A single scroll like this won't change the tide a morsel!"
            The Daemon began to fade away. "Do not die, master. The distinction of taking your life I hold to myself!"


            "He's gone. Well, that put's us where we started. Hast any of the rest of thou some ideas?"
            "Ve kood deeg a hole. De floor ees only dert." Gorn suggested.
            "And where to? A foolish idea."
            "We hath little others, Avatar." Trevor put in.
            "Indeed. And what have we to lose? But not as an escape route. We must dig several holes, each of which to hide in. When those foul orcs come with our 'meal,' they'll think we've escaped. Mayhaps they'll rush in, where we canst kill them and take their frazinum gauntlets."
            "There are only two of them, (AV)." Tseramed remarked. "Which of us wouldst get the gauntlets?"
            "I and Mortegro. With any luck, Arcadion's spell will help us from there."
            And so we began to work. It was still early morning. We were each supplied with food at dawn. Having only our hands, we worked well into the night. When each hole wast finished, we curled up inside it, waiting for dawn, not daring to sleep.
            As the hours passed, I contemplated Mortegro's words. Indeed, he wast right! I must not let myself fall into despair, I must reclaim the virtues! I shall destroy the Guardian and save Britannia!


            A few inhuman grunts of surprise marked the discovery of our "escape." Within seconds, both orcs rushed into the cell they thought empty.
            One stood just above me. I grabbed his ankles and pulled him to the ground, climbing out of the hole. I dealt the foul creature several blows with my fists before he fell silent. My companions had taken care of the other one.
            Mortegro and I armed their frazinum gauntlets. As I walked from the cell, power engulfed me. I felt as my magic abilities returned in a flash.
            "Mortegro! Cast thy spell!"
            The Necromage unrolled the burning scroll. Chants rose from within his lungs.
            "VAS KAL FLAM HUR POR!!!!!!!"
            A huge explosion sounded as the incantation finished. I felt the entire structure shake around me. The stone walls began to crack and crumble. Large portions of the ceiling fell downwards about me.
            The frazinum doorway wast all but destroyed. My companions hurredly rushed out to join Mortegro and I. From a hole in the outer wall, I spyed an incredible sight. The sky above turned red with flame. Fire rained down upon the entire city, destroying all it touched. The mountains to the north began to crumble from the devastation. I was reminded of the outburst of flame after I freed Pyros upon Pagan, but even it did not compare to the destruction I now witnessed.
            "Incredible…" Trevor muttered.
            Several Goblins and Trolls rushed past at a T-intersection just to the north, none taking notice of us. To the south, I saw several large chests. Upon opening them, we found our supplies and arms.
            "Vere to, Avatar?" Gorn asked.
            "Upwards." I replied. "To the top of this tower. We must stop the Slasher of the Veils, for Britannia and for the virtues!"


            "Hello, old friend."

            "Do not talk to me! You are a traitor to your race!"


            "Thou didst aid the Avatar twice since his return to Britannia! Do not deny that the destruction outside is your fault!"

            "Art thou truly so afraid of him, old friend?"

            "Shut up, Arcadion! Even if I recapture the Avatar, I shall lose my position and reputation for the destruction of Vesper! I worked hard to be given control over the capital on Britannia!"

            "You've declined in the years, old friend. The Guardian trusts the Bal Lem far more than you."

            "Then why place me here?"

            "Mayhaps because you're expendable, old friend. The Guardian doesn't care if you die. He let the Titans die on Pagan simply to break the Avatar's spirit."

            "Idiot! Leave me! I grow weary of thy mockery!"

            "I am free, old friend, as we both were, once. Now I am possibly the only Daemon who still doesn't serve one of the Guardians. Truly a pity, considering that Tir-Mordreth is the only living Guardian."

            "Thou show nerve using His name, Arcadion."

            "Indeed I do, oh Slasher of the Veils. But I didst not come to mock thee, old friend."

            "Ah. You came to help the Avatar."

            "Of course not! I hate him as much as any of us! But I find these games so amusing. You had the upper hand, but I tilted the scales in his favor. Now, they shalt give thee the advantage once more, old friend."

            "I need not thy help, Arcadion!"

            "You do, old friend. Thou art afraid of the Avatar. Once before he banished you. This time, your death may await from a confrontation."

            "What dost thou offer?"

            "A weapon. Mayhaps the only weapon that truly stands a chance against the Avatar. The weapon he forged himself."

            "You'd give this to me?"

            "Of course, old friend. Use it and destroy the Avatar!"

            "Aye, Arcadion, my old friend. But do not think I yet trust you. Thou art a wily one. Your time will come soon enough."


            Fiercely we fought our way up the tower towards the throne room of the Slasher of the Veils. More and more enemies attacked us; it was clear the Daemon knew of our escape. By the eighth level, we'd been attacked by extremely powerful foes, including three lesser Daemons.
            I stepped through a large, double door into a huge, circular room. Darkness engulfed me. Suddenly, a porticus gate crashed down behind me, blocking myself from my companions.
            " 'Avatar' of Virtue," The Slasher of the Veil's voice sounded, "Thou shalt fight this battle alone!" My companions stared helplessly through the porticus.
            "Go!" I whispered to them.
            "To not abandon you!" Inlor-Om cried.
            "Go! I canst handle this! Tis my battle! I must reclaim Britannia's virtue!"
            A steel gate crashed down over the porticus. Several torches lit. Across from me stood the Slasher of the Veils, holding a familiar sword.
            "The Black Sword…" I whispered. "Arcadion's is aiding thee, isn't he?"
            "The Daemon and I hath exchanged words, Avatar." The Slasher of the Veils replied.
            A hearty laugh sounded in my ears. Arcadion wast nowhere to be seen, yet I knew he watched this.
            "Avatar," His voice echoed through the room, "thou hast the power to kill the Slasher of the Veils, and he hast the power to kill thee. A fair competition. I shall enjoy this!"
            I drew forth Caliburn from its hilt. The Slasher of Veils did not reach for his sword, but smiled. A growl issued from above me.
            Arcadion's laughter ringed as a skeletal Dragon descended upon me. The Slasher of the Veils watched in amusement.


            I quickly rolled to the left as an inferno of flame scorched from the Dragon's mouth towards me. While a powerful blade, there wast no way Caliburn couldst reach a huge creature like that.
            Another burst of flame came at me. I raised my curved heater to protect me, but the heat was unbearable. I tried to concentrate on a fire protection spell, but I felt a magic-negating field about the room.
            My shield was beginning to melt from the endless onslaught of flame upon it. The Dragon swooped closer and closer. Just a few more seconds…
            The shield turned brittle, then soft. Just as it broke within my hands, I jumped to the side. The Dragon charged forward to where I'd been a moment ago. Raising Caliburn high, I brought the sword vertically down into the Dragon's skull.
            The creature screamed and thrashed about, throwing me against the hard floor. Yet I maintained my grip upon the sword. The Dragon began to slow. After what felt like hours, the creature stopped writhing. I pulled the sword from its skull and gasped for breath, staring at the skeleton.
            The Slasher of the Veils drew forth the Black Sword, wielding it in only one hand. "It appears I will have to kill you myself, Avatar."


            From across the huge room, we both charged at each other. As we were within feet, the Slasher of the Veils swung his mighty sword. I ducked, stabbing Caliburn into his right kidney. The blow only grazed him and the Slasher of the Veils retaliated with a swift punch to my face. I rolled away as the Daemon brought the sword downward at me. Our fight appeared to be a stalemate.
            I must concentrate! There must be a way of defeating the Slasher of the Veils! Wait… He called himself the Lord of Partiality… the opposite of Justice… Caliburn, the Sword of Justice…
            I stared at the pure white blade of Caliburn. Pure as Justice. Yet when my fight is finished, you will be soiled with the blood of Partiality.
            "Beh… beh… beh…"
            We both stood in silence for a moment. Each of us knew the next blow would be the deciding one.
            "Beh… beh… beh…"
            Letting forth an animal cry, the Slasher of the Veils brought the Black Sword down at me. Concentrating upon the Mantra of Jusice, I thrust upward with Caliburn, straight into the Slasher of the Veils' heart. The sword went clear through the Daemon, sticking out his back.
            The Daemon stared at me for a moment, his face showing only surprise. Blood poured from his mouth. The Slasher of the Veils fell dead.


            I stood over the Daemon's dead body. The blade Caliburn began to glow. The jewel in its hilt became engulfed in magic. Then it was gone.
            "The jewel in the hilt of the sword was the Shard of Partiality, master." I looked up and saw Arcadion above me. "The Slasher of Veils knew his end would come from that blade one day. Now the shard joins with the rest of Mondain's gem, doomed to bring the Guardian to Britannia when recombined, meeting out death to even thou."
            "Where is the gem, Arcadion? It no longer rests in the Brazier of Infinity."
            "That remains for thee to find out, master."
            "Thou didst try to kill me through that Daemon, eh, Arcadion?"
            "Prehaps, master. I cannot kill you myself, but twould be just as good for you to die by my blade. Keep the Black Sword if thou wish, thou hast earned it."
            "Why didst thou truly help both myself and the Slasher of the Veils, then?"
            "Well, I could not let the balance tilt, yet I could not resist interfering. Besides, I come closer and closer to my goal of thy destruction, master." The Daemon chuckled.
            "What dost thou mean?'
            "Avatar, you became too enthusiastic. Upon hearing the Necromage's words, you wert detirmined to reclaim the virtues. But how didst you go about it? By deciding to kill the Guardian and his lackeys in cold-blooded hatred."
            "The Slasher of the Veils wast evil!"
            "Oh? So sayest thou, but merely as an excuse. Of course, thou continue to forget the true consequences of your actions."
            "...Seeker of Truth..."
            "Over one hundred thousand human slaves wert kept in Vesper, thy fool! Nearly all of them died whence thou cast that spell, Avatar! More wert slaughtered by thou than even in Pagan!"
            "...Thou shalt find Truth..."
            "Damn thee! You tricked me!"
            "Thou allowed thyself to be tricked, Avatar! Their deaths art thy fault! I cannot harm thee physically, but I canst destroy thy virtues forever, master. You acted through the 'anti-virtues' which thou so thoroughly despise. Now see what hast happened!"
            "...Countless shall suffer and die because of it..."
            "Avatar, thou hast so much to learn. Good and evil art all a matter of prespective, my master. Thou shalt never ascend to thy true potential if you follow either of them."
            "What dost thou mean, Arcadion?!"
            "Thy destiny branches through many misty paths, Avatar. Which shalt thou take?"
            Still laughing, the Daemon disappeared in a burst of flame. I looked around, and saw that the walls around me wert now in ruins. The entire city of Vesper wast reduced to rubble.
            And Arcadion wast right. I'd failed the virtues once again. Yet what path awaited me, I knew not. So be it. I shall face the Guardian once more some day, be I an Avatar, or as evil as he. I carew not. I am naught but a pawn of destiny.
            From the distance, my companions came rushing up to me. "(AV)! What hast happened?"
            "The Slasher of the Veils lies dead. What hast befallen Vesper?"
            "Naught remains but chared skeletons."
            "And what of Julia?"
            "Gone. Gone to who knows where."
            "No matter. We shall meet her again, and soon. But for now, our quest must continue."


            After several days of marching through the desert, we arrived at the Shrine of Sacrifice. Around us, the sands blew wildly, so that we could see naught more than a few feet in front of us.
            Yet all remained clear around the shrine. Virtue wast about it. Upon the pedestal sat another part of the Mystic Arms. A pair of plate gauntlets and arm guards awaited us, inscribed with a metal ankh branching off each elbow.
            "I soil thee with my touch, creations of virtue." I spoke softly as I readied the armour
            My only answer wast the wind blowing about. Evil hast come to Britannia. Mayhaps not even virtue shalt stop it.

All that remains of the old Britannia is the Avatar of Virtue
When the Avatar lies dead and his legacy comes to an end,
Britannia shall then begin anew.

-Julia, Companion to the Avatar

            More than any of the previous U9 books, Book Seven is about Virtue. While I plotted it even before I'd played Origin's U9, I shifted the emphasis to Virtue after seeing the pointless way the Avatar "reclaims virtue" in Origin's U9 (which is basically just an excuse for going throuh a lot of dungeons).
            I also made many references to Ultima 8: Pagan, most of which during the trial. Many fans have wondered what makes Pagan so special that it warrants a numbered game. After all, more happened storywise in Serpent Isle, which is not even a sequel to U7. In pondering this, I realized how "unvirtuous" the Avatar is throughout Pagan. He thinks only of himself in the entire game. In fact, this is best shown when he steps through a Black Gate at the end, a reference to the Black Gate in U7 (which the Avatar destroys rather than step through). The Avatar commits bad deeds throughout Pagan, which should affect him for the rest of his quest. Instead of fighting through dungeons, the Avatar will need to reclaim the virtues once more by purifying himself and doing good deeds.
            One last thing I must mention is the Mystic Arms. I don't have time to explain each of their individual powers within the story, so I'll list 'em here:

            Mystic Ring of Honesty: Infinite Reagents (works like Ring of Shal in SI)

            Mystic Breastplate of Compassion: Acts as a torch, non-evil creatures will not attack you, people will generally be friendlier to you. (Ex. In UW2, a person "upset" would now be "peaceful" instead.)

            Mystic Sword of Valor: Can heal party members. (Note: Two handed, does BIG damage.)

            Mystic Cloak of Justice: Adapts wearer to all climates (extreme heat, extreme cold, etc.).

            Mystic Rerebraces and Gauntlets of Sacrifice: Can cast Dispel Field, Unlock Magic, or Telekinesis without mana loss. (Note: Rerebraces is a fancy middle-ages name for arm guards.)

            Mystic Greaves and Boots of Honor: Wearer can walk over lava and swamps without damage. Wearer also can walk over short distances of water and air.

            Mystic Helm of Spirituality: Can be used like a magic gem (U3-U6) an infinite number of times.

            Mystic Belt of Humility: Can carry an infinite number of items (as long as they aren't to heavy for the wearer).

            Note that ALL parts of the Mystic Arms offer great protection and armour value (even the sword). Feel free to use any of these abilities in your own stories, if any readers happen to be fanfiction writers (and send me a copy!).

Onward to the Next Book

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