a story of the Avatar, taking place during the saga of Ultima VI

by CosmicPhoenix Dragon aka Phoenix

It has been nearly thirty years since the banishing of the Codex into the vortex by my party and myself. I thought Lord British was going to lose his noble dinner when he saw me do it; but I realised it was the right thing to do...

But that's far ahead that I mean to go. You see, I've been thinking lately. It's been a long time since I thought about the old days...when Brittania was the same as it had always been. And what I learned was incredible, that there were any number of Brittanias existing at the same time, that Sosaria still probably existed somewhere...somewhen...and only the Wisps truly knew of its location. All I could do was to hope that it existed peacefully, after Mondain, Minax, and Exodus were exorcised by me. But I could not help myself when I shuddered at Lord British's admission of this; that he existed in all the Brittanias at once, and that he had lived and died so many times...that I had been allowed to choose, that I had chosen this Brittania...

And due to the Codex's seal, this Brittania would remain immortal and be removed from the endless stream of Brittanias; none would be able to ever leave or come other than those who were already here...I would live out eternity in Brittania, perhaps one day die in Brittania, but in any case I would never see Earth again.

Not that I missed the eternal rat-race there. It was all I could do to keep from cheering at the Codex's proclamation before my eyes.

Perhaps, though, what I should be setting down are the facts of that which came before.

Chapter One

I sat in the smoky tavern, smiling at my companions; it hadn't been very long since we'd been asked to help at Cove, and there we'd liberated the altar from the Gargoyles. The first step in a long journey, but then it's said that an epic journey begins with but one step.

We were in Paws, enjoying Dr. Cat's hospitality, and that night we'd stay in his back room, as Lord British had given us a voucher. Dr. Cat owing Lord British a favour, who could imagine? Anyway, the bard there...Mandrake...was laughing and whooping it up, drunken sod now that he was! I laughed as he strummed the mandolin and sang ridiculously silly limericks and thought of when I was in school at was strange, all the knowledge seemed to fade and be replaced by things a natural Brittanian would know.

My mind wandered from the wine, onto another subject, and I laughed as I chomped into a local root. Apparently my reluctance to eat meat had not fazed Dr. Cat's chefs, who had prepared for me a bean patty, and although Shamino and Iolo supported my move, Dupre was a source of constant irritation about my vegetarianism...although now if I had even wanted to, I couldn't eat meat. My body was now identifying it as some sort of alien substance; I became violently ill when Dupre had snuck a piece of jerky into my previous meal, so he simply resorted to more passive ways of annoyance.

I ignored him and my eyes rested constantly on the wild bard, who noticed me. I smiled at him, he smiled back, and he stood as he finished his song.

"The Avatar Phoenix here will sing the next song!"

A cheer went up from the crowd, and my eyes bugged. "What?" I asked, more to myself than Mandrake or anyone else.

Dupre laughed behind me. "Methinks we're in for it, fellows."

A laugh went up from Iolo. "Surely not. Phoenix has a perfectly beautiful voice. Don't you, Phoenix?"

"Uhm," I stumbled over my words. Could I remember how to sing? Had that faded? Oh Gods...

I stood and smiled at the people, beginning to make my way uncertainly towards the harpsichord, twisting my ankh amulet around my finger nervously.

I sat at the little seat and smiled at everyone, wondering what in the world I was thinking of doing...I barely knew how to play the piano, much less a harpsichord. My fingers positioned themselves as if acting under their own control, and the words flashed before my eyes of a song I knew all too well: "Blue..." I crooned. "Songs are like know, I've been to sea before.."

"Crown and anchor me,
Or let me sail

My fingers flashed across the harpsichord as Mandrake clapped lightly and the crowd smiled and cheered for me. Joni Mitchell. They were cheering my rendition of an old Joni Mitchell song. It was the only one I could think of about the sea...

But that wasn't really the point. My sudden acquiral of harpsichord talent was. When did I learn that? This was all very odd.

I finished the song and stood, took a bow, and returned to my party.

"Iolo..." I turned to the kindly bard behind me.

"Good show, old fellow!" He slapped my on the back gently.

I smiled at him. "Thanks. I think I'm going to turn in now, okay?"

He nodded pleasantly, and I passed him my mug of ale, then slipped quietly out the door as Mandrake made his spectacle before the intoxicated crowd.

The brisk night air felt crisp and cold against my face, and I smiled. It was nice to get out of there, fun though it was...I had missed it for far too long. And I wondered how everyone was, what all had occurred in my previous absence.

Mariah...Jaana...Sentri...all the names that had almost totally escaped me flashed into my mind, their brave and attractive faces flashing before my mind's eyes. I missed them all desperately, and I hoped I'd see them soon enough. I wanted to catch up while I was on this quest!

"Penny for your thoughts?"

I turned to face a pale man with dark hair, who smiled. "Sorry," he said. "Didn't mean to scare you."

"You didn't." I smiled at him. "Just gave me a bit of a start." I looked into his eyes, which seemed to have a strange sort of luminesence. "I was thinking about old friends. Old things I'd almost forgotten."

"Well, don't forget. That's the worst thing to do." The man put a hand on my shoulder, and I felt a tingling sensation coarse down that arm, and then through the rest of my body. "If you forget someone, it's like they've died to you. Never forget, not even your enemies, because then you'll always be on your toes."

I grinned at him. "You must be a mage, or a philosopher, or something."

He shook his head. "No...just been around. And I've seen things I know you've seen...but I've been there longer."

I arched my eyebrows, perplexed. "What do you mean?"

"My know my name, don't you?"

I shook my head.

"You will." He bowed, and I heard a noise behind me.

I wheeled around and saw nothing; when I turned back to the man, he too was gone.

This was far too strange for such a night, and I blamed it partly on alcoholic content...that Brittanian ale was about 200 proof! I shakily walked towards the guest house and slid the key into the lock, turned the handle, and shut the door behind me.

I began to remove my clothes and stack them, neatly folded, on the night table. I'd know his name? Who was that anyway?

I was sure I'd never met him, and I slipped between the covers of the bed and laid my head on the soft down pillow. I shut my eyes and let my mind wander, and I felt...a presence in the room. It was not chilling, but instead it was rather

I knew a pair of lips were about an inch from my ear, and so I did not move. That ear registered one word before I fell into a deep drunken sleep.


Chapter Two

I knew we'd have to leave town in order to be of any use to Lord British, so reluctantly I led the three fellow adventurers out of town, making certain to say my proper goodbyes to Dr. Cat, Mandrake, and even Patrick, who had drifted into town at the last minute. I would miss Paws.

"Where are we headed, Phoenix?" Shamino gently inquired. "I could probably lead you the shortest route..."

"Skara Brae." I walked at a brisk pace, and Dupre, in his plate armour, was hard-pressed to keep up.

This did not prevent him from commenting. "Skara Brae? Why d'you want to go to that place? It's across the mainland, and Trinsic's closer!"

"I'm not going to Trinsic just yet, Dupre," I swung around and stopped, throwing Shamino and Iolo off-stride. "What's with you this time? You seem a bit...edgy."

Dupre stopped and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry, Phoenix." He scratched his head. "It's's not that I didn't want to go on this know I did...but..." his voice trailed off.

"But what?"

"But Lord British has a marvellous way of 'asking' people! You know that. He just teleports you in with that rock of his..."

"I've got one too..."

"Then maybe you should use it to play some practical jokes on His Stuffiness?" Dupre chuckled, finally lightening up.

"Or maybe...maybe I could use it to teleport to Skara Brae..." I fingered the orb in my pocket. "Or not." I dropped it back into the pocket and began to walk again. "I'll use it when I think I can control it, but right now we don't need any random teleports."

Dupre sighed and hitched up his armour and began to walk again.

It was some time before we finally reached Skara Brae; the sun was setting slowly, and the pale scarlet tinted the clouds above us. The streets were darkening and the lamps were being lit.

I steered them into the first inn of the town and, after being thoroughly spooked by the innkeeper, we had a relatively quiet night. We all somehow managed to squeeze into one room, and nothing more was said about the moonstone.

I knew that something wasn't quite kosher, though, and during the night I rose from my bed, dressed hastily, and left the inn, leaving the others to sleep. A phantasmal figure trod across the path before me and led me to a small cottage as the moons' hazy light cut through the blue clouds of the night.

I felt my hand turn the door's knob, and it swung open to reveal a woman who had an indescribable beauty, one like the sea at its highest majesty. Her thin form was like porcelain underneath the blankets, and she did not stir; nothing on her moved except when her chest heaved as she took shallow breaths, giving her the appearance of a statue.

Scuffs of feet behind me caused me to wheel around, and my hand collided with the rock meant to stun, perhaps kill me. I thought that I heard the beat of tough wings behind the would-be assailant, and then a blood-curdling scream sliced through the still of the night.

I stood helpless as the lights of the townspeople approached, and the dim lamplight shed only a slight detail on the situation.

Before me lay a well-worn man, tough and strong as any sailor, and yet the expression on his face was of sheer terror, and his back was sliced apart. A pool of blood congealed under him, and it was blatantly apparent that he was quite dead.

The woman had come to the door, staring blankly at the corpse. She seemed not to be totally concerned with the man's death, and her mouth curled at the corners, whether out of happiness or despair I could not then discern. I turned to her and comforted her; the townspeople gathered around the body.

After accusing me of the crime, albeit calmly, the mayor moved to arrest me; I pointed out to him that I was unarmed (as I was) and thusly could not have possibly slain the man, nor indeed did I know who he was.

"That is true," the man conceded, and appeared to consider it for a moment. "However, you were the only one here at the time. I must arrest you nonetheless."

"No." I turned to face the woman, whose face was as strong as I had ever seen, yet still peaceful as when she had been sleeping. "I saw him out the door, and Yorl...was unfortunately killed before he left. Phoenix is under my protection."

How did she know my name? I was not about to ask in front of the crowd. I simply nodded, and the mayor backed off slowly, keeping a wary eye on me. As soon as the crowd left, I signalled for my party to return to the inn and entered the woman's cottage.

"My name's Marney," she explained. "My father named me after the sea. It's an ancient word, about the sea after a storm. He thought it fit me well."

"Your father?" I sat down. "You mean Quenton?"

Her eyes lit up at the mention of the man. "You knew him?"

"Only a passing acquaintance," I admitted, taking the mug she proffered. "He passed through Paws only last night, and we had a conversation at Dr. Cat's..."

She laughed. "Oh, excuse me. I'm sorry. It's just that he's been dead for over a month now." Her eyes welled up with tears, and she wiped them with her apron. "Forgive my tears...yes, I supposed you had seen him. And I also supposed that he used you, in his own way."

"What do you mean?" I sipped the warm mead in the mug, and as it coated my throat I could see the brave eyes of Marney's father mirrored in her own.

"You're the Avatar, correct? I knew your name from the scrolls, by the way, and father was most insistent that I know your legend." She sipped her own drink. "My father was most cruelly murdered a short time ago. In fact, I think it was Yorl, may the Gods forgive me."

"Yorl? You mean the man that...was killed just now?"

She nodded and swallowed her mouthful of mead. "He watched over me like a chicken hawk watches a pen. He was father's best friend, but...he secretly coveted me. Wanted me for his own. And I wasn't strong enough to resist his advances after father died."

"You mean he..."

"Yes." She closed her eyes and clenched her fingers around the mug, took a deep breath and continued. "And he forbade me to see Micheal."


"Surely you passed him on the path to Skara Brae?"

"No...oh, you mean the fellow in the cabin all to himself?"

"Yes, him!" Her face lit up at my recognition; it had not been a distinct one. I had simply seen him in the back, practising his swordsmanship. Our eyes met for an instant, and in that instant I saw Quenton again. Strangely enough. I knew that it was connected, but until Marney's mention of the young man, I could not decide.

"You were...lovers?"

"We were." Marney sat her mug on the edge of the stove. "Until Yorl stopped us, that is. I know he killed father. I know it. If father had been drinking at the inn, Yorl would've been with him...and that means Yorl would have had plenty of opportunity. Father and Yorl were always together after mother died...and I'm not totally sure Yorl didn't have a hand in that, either. He was a shrewd old terror."

"I'm so sorry...about everything that has happened..."

"Don't be." She took my hand and knelt down until we were face-to-face. "It's going to be all right, you know?"

I blinked, surprised. That was what I was going to tell her!

"I suppose so...are you certain that you'll be fine?"

"Positive." She took my empty mug and placed it beside hers. "It's nearing light now, you'll want to visit the mage's isle to the north. It's not far. Just take the skiff outside, and he'll teach you useful spells. Oh, and another thing," she stopped me as I approached the door, and she dug in a small chest, producing a basket. "Take this. Father stipulated that if you should ever come to Skara Brae, that this belonged to you."

The Rune of Spirituality lay before me in the basket. I took it, thanked her, and slipped it into my pack, bidding her one last farewell.

"Tell Micheal that I love him!"

"I promise you, I shall." I smiled at her.

The skiff was another issue altogether; I had a prodigiously difficult time getting it into the water from where Yorl had apparently beached it, and I began to row, letting the current around the two islands carry me most of the way.

It took all of twenty minutes to arrive upon the isle, and the beating of leathery black wings met my ears.


I made a path through them, making certain not to harm them in case they were mages in disguise, and opened the door to the cottage gently in.

A rhyming old man greeted me, and my first instinct was to run, but there was something...something in his eyes...that made me trust him.

"Where have you been?" Dupre stood at the inn's door. "We were about to leave without you!"

I held up my now-thick spellbook. "And without these spells? I think not. Besides, we're going to need to stay here until nightfall."



Shamino stared me in the face. "You want to actually...?"

"Yes. Horance told me I should."

"But he's mad!"


"Look, if you want to sit around waiting for little balls of light to kill you, that's fine. Have you forgotten our last few quests together? Do you know what they do?"

"Listen to me, Dupre. Not all are like that. These were subverted by Mondain, and finally they're free, all right?" My mind flashed back. Mondain had existed, albeit briefly, in this Brittania, and it had run a slight parallel to Sosaria. Lord British's magick was not to be undone...everyone recalled a slightly hazy Sosaria...and then suddenly, Brittania! I still was incredulous as to how this occurred; my perception would later be heightened.

"I'm going home." Dupre hefted his pack onto his shoulders and began to make his way out of the town.

"Dupre..." I started after him, but Iolo's arm struck in front of me, barring my way.

"Let him go and cool off." The bard looked at me with wise eyes. "He's just blowing off steam. Even if he does go back home, we can catch up with him later."

I looked at Iolo and opened my mouth to protest...but realised he was right. I nodded.

And we made our way out to the Spirit Wood.

Hours later, after the sun had set and the moons had risen, we returned to the same spot, and this time I had the singularly most powerful and desperate spell inscribed into my grimoire. I could bring about the sheer destruction of Brittania, and now I was prepared for whatever might lie ahead of me. As long as I possessed that spell, perhaps I also could find a reverse to it, in case another might cast it.

The Wisps had been more than friendly, in their own way, and so I knew that only one other possessed this spell: Lord British. Perhaps he had been the previous hero of the land, another who defeated those such as Exodus who might strike at the core of Brittania. Perhaps he had been Mondain.

We checked into the inn and I was asleep before my head was on the pillow.

[Note: More coming soon, check back here] 

HTML conversion by Wtcher for Dragon Press