Avatar In Charge

By Shodan Dragon aka George Shannon.

Starring (in no particular order):

The Avatar, a Hero of Brittania
Nastassia, keeper of the Shrine of Compassion
Billy, who looks a lot like a kid from Home Improvement
Judy, typical teenage daughter
Josh, who has to go to the bathroom...
Chuckles, Jester of Lord British
Katrina, the New Magincia Companion
The Ferryman, a...ferryman.
The Ultima Dragons (most of them, or as many as I can fit in)

Plus many more entertaining and extempeoraneous characters as I proceed! Now, without further ado... 

Part the first

[Setting: The outskirts of Britain, in the middle-class district, a small house with a pair of plasitc flamingos in the yard. Time: Friday evening, late spring.]

Avatar: "Hi, honey! I'm home!"

Nastassia: "Hello, dear, how was your day?"

Avatar: "Bad. I forgot my fire sword and almost got wasted by some berserk orc."

Natassia: "Oh dear. Well, I'm making your favorite for dinner - jerky!"

Avatar: "Not again. I know it's cheap and only weighs a couple tenths of a stone, but do we have to have it all the time?"

[Nastassia starts crying.]

Nastassia: "You don't appreciate me!"

Avatar: "That's not true. You're a great cook, really, and you keep my ankh warm at nights."
---(sorry, that was tasteless :P )

[Nastassia stops crying and hugs her Avvy-wavvy-tar.]

Nastassia: "How's your boss?"

Avatar: "Lord British? Feh. He bosses me around, sending me to this island or that island, find some silly artifact that could destroy Brittania, work the copier... It's like he runs the place or something."

[Several kids run into the room and tackle the Avatar.]

Kids: "Daddy! Daddy! What did you bring us?!?"

Avatar: "Well, lets see. A main gauche for Billy, a Grav Por spell for Judy, some silverleaf for Josh . . ."

Nastassia: "Don't eat it all, Josh, you'll spoil your dinner!"

Kids: "Not jerky again!"

Avatar: "Billy, have you been studying your Runic Alphabet?"

Billy: "Er, yes, pop."

Avatar: "Don't lie, or I'll make you copy a phrase on honesty from the Codex a thousand times."

Billy: "Well, I went hunting for Giant Rats, but just a little..."

Avatar: "Not again! Go to your room, and no jerky!"

Billy: "All right!"

Avatar: "Then again, Nastassia, give Billy extra jerky!"

Billy: "Do'h!"

Avatar: "Kids, don't forget about going to the Castle on sunday for dinner, wear your good clothes! And Josh, don't touch Lord British's fork this time."

Josh: "Yes, daddy."

Nastassia: "Do you think I should bring some jerky?"

Avatar: "NO! I mean, he probably has lots of it. He is king you know."

Nastassia: "Judy, is that makeup you're wearing?"

Judy: "But like, all the other girls at school wear it..."

Nastassia: "But there are only five or six kids in Brittania at any one time, don't try to fool me!"

Avatar: "Really Judy, if all the other kids at school went around casting Armaggedon, would you do it too?"

[Judy gets the hurt-teenager look on her face and starts to sulk upstairs to her room.]

Judy: "Parents are so, like, wigged out!"

Avatar: "Nastassia, where's the bathroom?"

Nastassia: "We don't have one, remember dear?"

Avatar: "Oh yes. Come to think of it, no one does. But that's another thread." 

Part the second

[The Avatar walks out of his house, and into the garage, drags out a lawnmower, and sets about trying to start it.]

Avatar: "Piece of Vesper junk...knew I should have bought from Minoc..."

[The Avater's annoying neighbor walks over and leans against the big fence separating the two yards.]

Chuckles: "Hidlely-ho neighbor!"

[The Avatar groans under his breath.]

Avatar: "Hello, Chuck."

Chuckles: "Say, looks like you've got a broken belt there in that ol' grass-clipper, you ought to get a - "

Avatar: "I'm doing fine, thanks Chuck."

Chuckles: "Okay, just being neighborly, neighbor. Say, I've got a doozy of a hedge out back, can I borrow your shears?"

Avatar: "You borrowed them last week!"

Chuckles: "I know, but I lost them. Do you have another pair?"

[The lawn mower roars to life and the Avatar waves at Chuck, trying to signal he doesn't want to talk anymore, or wanted to in the first place. Chuckles tries to say something else, but the Avatar purposefully turns away and ignores him, trying to imply that the mower is too loud to hear him. Chuck finally gets the hint and goes into his house.]

[The Avatar begins rounds around the yard, carefully moving around the pink plastic flamingos. All of a sudden, the mower chokes on something and dies.]

Avatar: "You bleeping peice of a bleep! Now what!?!"

[The Avatar turns and notices for the first time that Josh is standing nearby, jaw open from hearing the Avatar's unique wording.]

Avatar: "D'oh! Josh, don't tell your mother what I said, okay? Just forget you heard it."

Josh: "Okay, daddy."

Avatar: "Now, what do you need?"

Josh: "Mom says the bleeping jerky is ready."

[The Avatar sighs.]

Avatar: "Tell her I'll be there in a minute."

[Josh runs into the house. The Avatar looks under the mower to see that a black pearl is jammed in the blades.]

Avatar: "Those darn kids! Always leaving their stuff outside!"

[He pockets it and drags the mower back into the garage, then goes inside.]

[The rest of the family is seated around a big table, as the Avatar comes in and sits down. Natassia looks at him irately.]

Natassia: "There you are. I thought you had cast Vas Tym or something."

[The family starts to eat, chewing reluctantly on the jerky, excpet for Natassia, who comments occasionally on it.]

Natassia: "I tried a new recipe, how is it?"

Kids: "Uh, the same."

Avatar: "But you can really taste the kale!"

Judy: "Can I have the butter?"

Avatar: "On jerky? Ugh. Here, just don't eat it like my companions did in Ultima 7. Which reminds me of something in Ultima 4..."

Billy: "Augh! Not another old ultima story!"

Avatar: "Why, when I was just getting around to saving Brittania the first few times, we just had FOOD! It was always the same! Just *FOOD*! But we liked it! And at least my companions ate it automatically! Today, you people have it all! Bread, mutton, honey, fish...and I have to cram it down your ungrateful throats!"

Nastassia: "Dear, you're getting hyper again."

Avatar: "And that's another thing! I could eat honey after honey after honey and never feel any different! But you could feed Spark on butter alone! I mean, come on, people!"

Nastassia: "Please dear, you're frightening the children, besides, you might start another thread."

Avatar: "Oh. Sorry, dear."

Nastassia: "Well, kids, after dinner I want you all to start packing to go on vacation starting Monday."

Kids: "Yay!"

[The Avatar moans.]

Avatar: "We are NOT going to BuccaneerLand again!"

Kids: "Wahh!!! We wanna go to BuccaneerLand! Please please please please please please please please..."

Avatar: "No."

Kids: "Can we please go to BuccaneerLand?"

Avatar: "NO."

Kids: "Can we please go to BuccaneerLand?"

Avatar: "NO!"

Kids: "Can we please go to BuccaneerLand?"

Avatar: "For Petra's sake, NO!!!"

Kids: "Can we please go to BuccaneerLand?"

Avatar: "Argh! Okay! We'll go to BuccaneerLand, BUT ONLY FOR A DAY OR TWO!!"

Kids: "Yay! Thank you daddy!"

[The kids jump out of their seats and tackle the Avatar, tipping his chair over. They gallop upstairs to their rooms to pack.]

Nastassia: "Wait! You haven't finished your jerky!" 

Part the third

[Early morning. The Avatar, his wife Nastassia, and their kids Billy, Judy and Josh are wildly throwing luggage into a large wood-grain-sided stationwagon, which the Avatar brought back from earth, when he realized having a station wagon was required if you had kids, in any universe.]

Avatar: "Come on! We're gonna miss the boat!"

Nastassia: "We'd be out of here a lot sooner if you hadn't VAS FLAMed the alarm clock."

Avatar: "I, er, thought I was hitting the snooze button..."

[After packing all the stuff into the station wagon, the Avatar climbs into the drivers seat, alongside Nastassia, with the three kids in the back. He starts the wagon and backs out of the driveway.]

Josh: "Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom..."

Avatar: "The first time in my life someone in my party has to use the bathroom and it's when I'm *late*! Josh, can you wait?!?"

Josh: "No."

Avatar: "Why didn't you go when I asked everybody before I left?!?"

Josh: "I didn't have to then, daddy."

Avatar: "Okay, hurry up. We're already late!"

[Josh runs into the house, then runs out a second later.]

Josh: "But we don't have a bathroom."

Avatar: "Then you'll have to wait then, huh?"

Josh: "Oh. Okay, daddy."

[Josh climbs back in and the Avatar continues to back out of the driveway and onto the road.]

Judy: "Are we there yet?"

Avatar: "WE JUST LEFT!!"

[The Avatar mumbles something about taking a vacation after this vacation, heading down to Destard with a Death Scythe and hacking up a few trolls...]

[The car finally arrives at the parking lot near the southern docks in Paws, and the family o' virtue piles out and grabs their luggage off the rack. They run towards the ship, handing their luggage to BritSea service personel along the way, and just make it.]

Avatar: "Wait! Where's Kevin!?!? We left him at home!! Alone!!!"

[The Avatar claps his hands to his cheeks and screams.]

Nastassia: "We don't have son named Kevin, dear."

Avatar: "I was making a literary reference, honey. You're supposed to laugh."

[The sailing ship eases out of the dock and begins the move in a southeasternly direction, when the family members hear a tinny voice.]

Tinny voice: "..and in the event of a water landing, use the wooden plank underneath you as a floatation device. In the event of cabin depressurization, that means there will be no air left anywhere since we don't have a top, and you'll die of asphysixiation in a few seconds. In the event of an attack by a large green tentacle, squid, shark, or sea monster, please stay in your seat since running about in a panic will do you no good since most likely you'll be eaten anyway..."

Avatar[yelling]: "What about seahorses? I fought them in Ultima 5..."

[Billy covers his ears in case of another story.]

Tinny voice: "...and our service personel will be around in a few moments to serve your meals. Thank you for sailing BritSea, and have a safe trip."

Avatar: "I hope it's not jerky..."

[A stewardess moves up the aisle, handing meals to everyone on the ship. Josh snags her as she moves by.]

Josh: "Where's the bathroom?"

[The stewardess, endowed with the incredible amount of patience typical of airline personel (enough to make the Serpentspine mountains get figgity) smiles at Josh, but twists her head in the typical stewardess lingo of confusion.]

Stewardess: "What's a bathroom?"

Josh: "Ummm...it's a...uhhh...never mind."

Stewardess: "I'm sorry I couldn't help you, if there's anything I can do, ever, please let me know, you cute little urchin, you."

Josh: "Ew! Get off me, lady!"

[The stewardess hands small packets to each of the family members.]

Avatar[reading the packet]: "'Small unedible rocks'. Well, at least they're honest about the food."

[Soon the ship arrives at Buccaneer's Den, converted from a pirates haven, into a town of bars, into a gambling town into, finally, the amusement park that is BUCCANEERLAND.]

[The family climbs off the ship and waits for their luggage to be thrown out of the hold.]

Avatar: "Um, I don't see it. Stewardess, where's our luggage?"

Stewardess: "Let's see...Avatar, family of five...oh dear."

Avatar: "What?"

Stewardess: "We seem to have sent your luggage to Skara Brae."

Avatar: "WHAT?!?"

Stewardess: "It'll take at least a couple days to get it back here. If you'll read your policy, we are not responsible for lost or stolen items. However, we offer one free passage anywhere in continental Brittania..."

[The Avatar turns red and grips his sword.]

Avatar: "How about I send you to the big BritSea service desk in the sky?!?!"

Nastassia: "Is that virtuous?"

Avatar: "I don't give a rat's butt in a snowstorm whether it's... oh, she'd probably wouldn't bleed anyway, she's so thin...OK, never mind, just get our luggage back soon..."

Stewardess: "We will try, sir, and thank you for sailing BritSea..."

[Nastassia has to pry the Avatar's hand away from his sword and drag him off.]

Avatar: "Must...fight...urge...to...utterly destroy...stewardess..."

Stewardess: "Come back soon, y'all!"

[This word drives the Avatar completely nuts, but Nastassia calms him with repeated face slaps.]

[The family arrives at the check-in booth to the crowded BuccaneerLand, and an incredibly bored man sits at it. He stirs slightly at the family's approach, but not very much.]

Booth Guy: "Name."

Avatar: "I'm the Avatar, you fool!"

Booth Guy: "Job."

Avatar: "I'm an *AVATAR* you moron!!"

Booth Guy: "Bye."

Avatar: "I guess that means we can go in. Hmmm...There was something very familiar about that guy..."

Part the Fourth

[The family o' virtue carefully weaves through the packed crowd at Buccaneerland...]

Billy: "Awright! Pop, can we ride the 'Covetous Log Ride'?"

Josh: "I wanna ride the 'Whirl-a-Shame'!"

Judy: "I want some honey-coated jerky..."

Avatar: "Okay, kids, here's 20 gold pieces each, and it's gotta last the rest of the day! Meet back here at seven o'clock!"

Kids: "Thank you, daddy!"

[They shove the coins into their pockets and gallop off...]

[The Avatar and Nastassia wander around, passing the 'Spinning Teacups of Humility', the 'Honorable Merry-go-round', and the 'Waterslide of Justice'.]

Avatar: "I never knew the virtues could go so commercial..."

[A man in a spammy pirate costume appears out of the crowd and stands right in front of the Avatar.]

Pirate: "Arr, me matey! Yo ho ho!"

[The Avatar gives a high-pitched squeal and hides behind Nastassia.]

Pirate: "Would ye like a stuffed parrot? Only 19.95 gold!"

Nastassia: "I'm sorry, but me, er, my husband has several already..."

Pirate [insistent]: "Not these beauties, me matey! Hand crafted in Vesper, made from the best..."

Nastassia: "Thank ye, er, you, but no..." She drags the whimpering Avatar away.

Nastassia: "What is wrong with you?"

Avatar[still shuddering]: "Sorry, dear, but I had a frightening experience as a child. There was this huge mouse..."

Nastassia[patting him onna head]: "Sure there was. Now lets take a nice ride on the... the... the Tunnel Ride of Spirituality!"

[The couple get in line, and soon get up to the gate, where a cardboard cutout of a goblin with a cartoon bubble over his head that reads "Thou must be this tall to ride."]

[They climb into a little cart in a pitiful drip of a stream leading into the mountains on the island. The cart clanks along, forced by the underwater chain. They are pulled into the first dark room...]

[The scene shows a very cardboard Avatar, weilding a cardboard sword and arm that moves up and down via a rivet at the cutout's shoulder. The monster he is fighting is a very cardboard dragon with a mean look on it's face and a cardboard impression of flames moving in and out of it's mouth. The scene is accompanied by a very spammy human impression of a dragon roar, played continuously over and over.]

Avatar: "Why, that's an insult! They messed everything up! I use my other arm as a sword arm, you never use a stance like that versus a fire-breather, and...and...they got my bad side, as well!"

Nastassia: "And your muscles were never *that* big."

Avatar: "Well, I don't know about that..."

[The boat continues on, and the Avatar and Nastassia snuggle a little closer in the darkness of the caves.]

[The next scene shows a horde of little purple gremlins around a revolving square plate, painted so that it's top face looks almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Brittannia. The gremlins wave their plaster arms and sing "It's a flat world after all, it's a flat world after all..."]

Avatar: "Say, doesn't Verity Isle look somewhat like a muskrat?"

Nastassia: "No, I think it's supposed to be a jalepeno."

[As the boat moves on, Nastassia and the Avatar hold hands and start to smooch.]

Nastassia[giggling]: "Ooh, Mondain, you Gem is soooo big..."

[All of a sudden, a huge brown ghostly cobra head appears in front of the cart, eyes blazing red like a thousand rubies, it's scales mottled and old, it's fangs seeming like stalagtites in the gloom of the cave...the couple jump apart and stare in amazement.]

Cobra: "I am the Great Earth Stherpent..."

Avatar: "Wow, such realism! About time they got something right on this ride!"

Nastassia: "Um, dear, I don't think this is part of the show..."

GE Serpent: "Avatar, know that it wasth I whom you freed in daysth of Exodusth, the Desthtroyer..."

Avatar: "Er, you've told me that before, on Serpent Isle, remember?"

GE Serpent: "Oh yesth. Letsth sthee, which questht isth thisth? Hmmm...Oh, okay. Avatar, thou mustht complete the tasthks sthet before thee to sthave thisth world and the many othersth..."

Avatar: "A tasthk? Oh, a task! You mean a quest? Alright! Adventuring! Danger! Scantily clad barmaids! Ow, honey, you don't have to hit me so hard."

GE Serpent: "Firstht, thou mustht find thy luggage via the island of Sthkara Brae...then I will tell thee more of thy misthiththth... misthithith... questht. Now, go!"

[The Great Earth Serpent fades from view...]

Avatar: "Hey! Wait a minute! Find my luggage?!? What the hell kind of spammy quest is that? Hey! Get back here! I want more than that you...you...snake in the grass!"

Nastassia: "Dear, who is thisth, er, this Great Earth Serpent? And why does he want you to find our luggage?"

Avatar: "What? Oh, he's my spiritual guide, since I'm the Great Hierphant after I saved Serpent Isle by re-creating the delicate balance between the Order Serpent and Chaos Serpent, who's now Dupre, by journeying to the void after capturing the Chaos Banes after stopping Batlin from opening the Wall of Lights, which would have granted him access to the void, which would have been bad, since he'd have been as powerful as the Guardian, who also would have been able to come to through the Wall of Lights. Anyway, the Great Earth Serpent also prevented an eighth Ultima along this timeline after I was transported to the void at the end of Ultima 7.5; he said 'Balance isth resthtored...justht in casthe any big, mean, red being from another dimensthion wanted to transthport you to some hellhole backwater planet, I'll teleport you and your companionsth back to Brittannia.' And we found ourselves stuck in a tree in the Great Forest, but hey, it beat walking. That's about it."

Nastassia[looking really confused]: "Uh."

Avatar:"You look ill. Are you seasick?"

[The cart comes out of the cavern system, under a Buccaneerland pagoda. The couple climbs out and the cart moves on.]

Avatar: "Well, let's find the kids. We have to get a move-on!"

[They wander through the crowds, and find the three kids on a bench, chowing down on honey-coated jerky and pirate-shaped chocolate bars.]

Avatar: "Well, kids, look alive! We have a quest, and it ain't gettin' done by sitting on your arses!"

Kids: "But we wanna stay in Buccaneerland!"

Avatar: "Tough rutabegas! Finish up, and then we have to hike off to Skara Brae! The Great Earth Serpent has spoken!"

Kids: "Great what?"

Nastassia: "Please tolerate your father, children. He's suffering a mid-life crisis."

Avatar: "I am not!"

Judy: "Is this like gonna be anything like when we had to go like camping in the High Plains? If it is, like, I'm staying home."

Avatar: "Not at all! This will be much better! We'll get to delve dungeons, find powerful magic items, listen to annoying comments from the Guardian, it'll be great!"

Part the Fifth

[The Avatar's family has been given a quest by the Great Earth Serpent, starting with finding their luggage, which has been sent to Skara Brae. They've left Buccaneerland, and are on route to New Magincia, where the Avatar last left the magic carpet, which they intend to use to get back to the mainland and then to Skara Brae.]

[They're getting off the boat as we speak...]

Avatar: "Well, at least this time they didn't have any luggage of ours to lose..."

Nastassia: "Honey, why don't we just get passage to Skara Brae directly?"

Avatar: "Well, for one thing, Josh spent almost all our money on Acid-slug-on-a-sticks..."

Josh: "But they were really yummy daddy! You could really taste the kale!"

Avatar: "...and another thing, we get to explore some more of Brittannia, which is something I seem to have to do every quest. Besides, we'll get to hear that cool music when we fly around."

Judy[aside, to Nastassia]: "Mom, like how come Dad hears music when, like, we walk around and fall sleep but like none of us hear it?"

Nastassia[to Judy]: "I think your father spent too much time in the Void. I think he also inhaled a little incense during UW2."

[The Avatar and family walk up from the southern New Magincia docks to Alagner's old houses.]

Avatar: "...and then the Time Lord teleported me back after I talked to him, except he popped me back in Britain, not New Magincia, where I had used the Orb of the Moons. That reminds me of something that happened a while ago..."

Nastassia: "That's very interesting. Here we are, dear."

Avatar: "Hmmm...I wonder where it is...I thought I had left it right here..."

Billy: "Well, pop, if I saw a magic carpet lying around, I'd pick it up. I mean, people aren't totally ignorant of dropped items around them."

Avatar: "Fooled me. Anyway, let's take a look around...Ooh, look, there's Katrina!"

Billy: "Oh no. Not another reunion..."

Katrina: "Oh, hello, Avatar. How art thou?"

[----hours later----]

[Nastassia, Billy, Judy, and Josh are sitting on the ground, desperately trying to stay awake.]

Avatar: "And then there was the time in Ultima 5 we found that magic axe in the tree outside the Jhelom Wall and we spent hours trying to decide whether or not it would be virtuous to take it?"

Katrina: "And how about when Iolo got a hernia carrying all that gold we got from the wisps for 'the book of mantras'?"

Nastassia[clawing at the Avatar's ankle]: "Dear...perhaps we should ask her about the...gasp...carpet?"

Avatar: "Oh. Katrina, have you seen my magic carpet around?"

Katrina: "Hmm...mayhap thee could have it, if thou dost find the most humble person on New Magincia...besides my most humble self, of course."

Avatar: "Err...wasn't it my carpet to begin with?"

Katrina[elbowing the Avatar]: "Come on, gimme a break. You wanna quest or you wanna babble?"

Avatar: "Oh. Oh! A quest! Okay, I'm off!"

Billy: "It's me pop! I'm really humble!"

Josh: "Nuh uh. I'm more humble than you."

Billy: "Am not.

Josh: "Am too.

Billy: "Am not!"

Josh: "Am too!"

Billy: "I'm humble times infinity!"

Josh: "Humble times infinity...plus one!"

Billy: "D'oh!"

Avatar: "Argh! Shut up! Boy, you'd think my kids would be more virtuous, like me!"

Katrina: "Err...well, I guess you'll be back in a while."

[The Avatar and family (I seem to say that a lot, don't I?) hike down to 'The Humble Pallet', New Magincia's pub.]

Josh: "Daddy, what's a pallet?"

Avatar: "Ummm...it's like a...plate, except for poor people...or it could be something you carry dead people on...I'm not sure."

[The pub is only slightly crowded, but then, it's New Magincia, and there are never too many people there.]

Avatar[yelling]: "Okay, people! Listen up! I'm looking for the most humble person in New Magincia! Form a single line and I'll talk to each person! Come on, people, move it!"

Judy: "Dad, like, you never did it that way before."

Avatar: "Well, pumpkin, sometimes being a hero means trying things not normally accepted by society."

Bar Patron #1: "Bite me!"

[The Avatar whips out his sword.]

Avatar[yelling]: "Okay, people, just for that, everybody has to split my friend Dupre's bar tab!"

[Everybody in the building immediately jumps up and forms a perfect line in front of the Avatar. He sheaths his sword.]

Avatar: "Works every time."

[One of the patrons is still at his table, ignoring the Avatar's yell. The Avatar leans toward the patron and pokes him.]

Avatar: "Come on, buddy, join the line."

Patron #2[crying pitifully]: "I can't! I would never consider myself worthy of even thinking I could be so great as to be the most humble person in New Magincia! Waahhh! I'm a totally worthless lump of dung! I'm scum! I'm the toenail growth on the most sniveling rat in the Britain sewers! Wahhh!!"

Avatar: "I think we found our man..."

[With his family's help, the Avatar drags the still whining man back to Katrina's hut.]

Avatar: "Well, Katrina, what do you say, do I get the carpet or what?"

Humble Patron: "Wahhh! I'm cow belch fumes! I'm the stuff that makes your shower curtain look splotchy and disgusting when you hold it up to the light! Waaaah!"

Katrina: "You? I thought we were rid of you when we tossed you into the sea tied in a sack with a wild dog! Oh well, I guess you get the carpet, Avatar. Except, well..."

Avatar: "I have a bad feeling..."

Katrina: "I sort of...made some alterations to it."

Avatar: "Well, that's okay. It changes a little every Ultima."

Katrina: "Ummm...it's really different this time, Avatar..."

Avatar: "Why? What did you do to it?"

Katrina: "I sort of changed it into a..."

Avatar: "A what? C'mon, tell me!"

Katrina: "A... a..."

Avatar and family[exasperated]: "A WHAT?!?!?"

Katrina[hesitantly]: "A...toilet seat cover."

Avatar: "A WHAT? You WHAT?!? You turned the legendary magic carpet used in thousands, nay, millions of Ultimas into a toilet seat cover?!?"

Katrina: "I didn't think you'd need it anymore...besides, I think it was cashmere...and you should see how well it matches my curtains! It still flies, I think..."

Josh: "You have a bathroom?"

Katrina: "Why, yes. Even really humble people have to take a dump every once in a while."

Josh: "Can I use it? Please? Pretty please?"

Katrina: "Sure, it's right...hey, where'd my toilet go? Only the seat cover's left."

Josh: "D'oh!"

[The Avatar grabs the seat cover and unfolds it. Fortunately, it's folded over enough times to allow the whole family to sit on it, if a little uncomfortably.]

Nastassia: "Boy, this thing is crowded. How did you fit eight people on it in your last quest?"

Avatar: "Katrina must have put it through a cold cycle. Oh well, look at it this way: at least it's not a Geo."

[apologies to all dragons who own Geos...and to you personally, Geo.]

[The magic flying toilet seat cover lifts off the ground and starts to move west, obeying the Avatar's command.]

Avatar: "Say thank you to Katrina, kids!"

Kids[in dull monotone voices]: "Thank you, Katrina."

[Soon, the carpet, er, toilet seat cover, is criusing nicely at thirty feet above the Brittannian sea, on it's way to Skara Brae...]

Part the Sixth

[Avatar and family are zooming over the Brittannian sea, heading from New Magincia to the still-barren Skara Brae via the recently aquired magic...toilet seat cover.]

Josh: "Are we there yet?"

Avatar: "No, not yet."

[A minute passes.]

Josh: "Are we there *yet*?"

Avatar: "NO, Josh."

[Another minute passes.]

Josh: "How about now? Are we there?"

Avatar: "Yeah, Josh, we're there. See all the houses and buildings? Boy, Skara Brae sure is awesome."

Josh: "But we're still over the sea."

Avatar: "Then why did you ask we whether we were there yet or not?"

Josh: "Uhhh...I dunno."

[The Avatar grumbles something about a LordMike mentality.]

[After another two hours of grueling family driving, er, flying, the edge of Skara Brae appears on the horizon.]

Kids: "Hooray! We're there!"

Avatar: "Now we just need to find a spot to land..."

[Immediately Nastassia, Billy, Judy, and Josh start saying "I do not think we can land here safely" over and over.]

Avatar: "Argh! I forgot about this bit! Okay, okay! I'll land on the shore! Keee-ripes. I don't need a party, just a tape recorder that tells me when I'm doing something wrong."

[The magic toilet seat cover whooshs over the channel between Skara Brae and the mainland, and settles near the old moongate site, which is now a tourist gift shop.]

Billy: "Ooh, can we get a plush toy Guardian? Pull his string and he says 'Darn you, Avatar! Darn you!' and 'You're my special friend.'"

Avatar: "No, we spent all our money, remember?"

[The family walks up to the western platform on the shore, and lo and behold, no ferry. The Avatar gives a 'ping' to the bell standing to the side, and soon a strange craft can be seen through the fog...]

Judy: "Like, spooky."

[The ferry moves up to the dock and clacks against it. The ferryman stands rigid upon it, his craft only slightly changed since the Avatar's last visit in U7. The chairs have cushioning, and a snack machine graces the far end.]

Avatar: "Hiya, Ferryman! What's shakin'?"

[The ferryman just stands there, looking vaugely in the direction of the family.]

Avatar: "Oops, gotta cast Seance first..."

[As the Avatar is searching through his backpack, the Ferryman speaks, in a hollow and ghostly tone.]

Ferryman: "Welcome to Skara Brae. Hours are 10am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday. SEE the burned out husk of Horance's castle, SEE the exploded laboratory, SEE the disgusting remains of innocent villagers. No flash photographs, please."

Avatar: "Whoa! You're, like, fluent!"

[The Ferryman glances at the Avatar, as if seeing him for the first time.]

Ferryman: "Of cource. How dost thee expect me to make a living on this god-forsaken rock? Wait for vacationing mages to waste their time casting seance when they could blink over? Feh."

Avatar: "Don't you remember me? I dissipated the spirits on the island a couple decades ago."

Ferryman: "Thou...art the...Avatar."

[The Avatar thumbs his chest.]

Avatar: "That's me. You think just anyone can wear this big ankh t-shirt?"

Billy: "Why would anyone *want* to?"

Ferryman: "Then thou art here for the tour?"

Avatar: "Tour? What tour?"

Ferryman: "I give tours to visitors. Only two gold peices per person, children under six free. Business has been slow, especially after that Trinsic fellow got killed by a skeleton."

Avatar: "Well, we do need to get onto Skara Brae, but...we're a little short on funds."

Ferryman[sighing]: "Well...there *is* something thou can do for me..."

Avatar: "As long as it isn't finding the most spiritual person on Skara Brae, shoot."

Ferryman: "Take me with thee. Let me join."

Avatar: "What? You mean you don't like it here, giving tours to annoying vacationing Brittannians, day in, day out?"

[The Ferryman grabs the Avatar by the collar.]

Ferryman[with clenched teeth]: "GET ME OUT OF HERE."

Avatar: "Sure! Why not. Never had a living dead Companion, though."

[The family all sits on the ferry chairs, and the Ferryman pushes off with his death scythe.]

Billy[suddenly]: "Hey! I know who you are! You're that 'Death' guy in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey!"

[The Ferryman turns to stare at Billy, hollow pinpricks in sockets burrowing deep into Billy's soul.]

Ferryman: "DO NOT discuss those two."

Nastassia: "Don't annoy the magical corpse, Billy."

[As they cross, the Avatar updates the Ferryman on his current luggage quest. Soon the raft touches shore on Skara Brae and the group (I guess I can't say Avatar and family any more...) steps off.]

Avatar:"Now we just need to find the BritSea service desk."

[Wandering down the street, the group notices the burned-out shell of the old pub, with the sign swinging slightly in the putrid breeze. 'Keg O' Spirits' is crossed out, and 'Skara Brae BritSea Customer Service', in blood, is scrawled underneath it. They troop inside.]

[A ghoul laying over a plastic desk, looking (and smelling) quite dead, slowly hauls itself into a sitting position.]

Ghoul[incredibly bored]: "Welcome to BritSea, sail the friendly seas. How can I help you."

Avatar: "Yeah, I'm looking for my luggage, which got sent here by mistake, instead of Buccaneerland. Avatar, family of five."

Ghoul: "Just a moment, please."

[The ghoul flops down on the desk again, with a wet 'splat'. The group hears 'Achey-Breaky Heart' coming from some hidden speaker.]

Avatar[to Ferryman]: "I don't blame you for wanting to leave."

Ferryman[to Avatar]: "Thou should hear what they play in the elevator."

[The Avatar shudders.]

[After a couple minutes, the ghoul again raises it's head.]

Ghoul: "Yes sir. Your luggage was unclaimed, and taken to our storage room on the north end of the island. Fredrico, the bellhop, will take you there. Have a nice day."

[The ghoul falls forward again, with another wet thud. A rustling in the corner is heard, as a skeleton rises from under the shattered remains of a table.]

Avatar[yelling]: "A skeleton! Alright! Something to attack!"

[He charges forward, whipping out his sword, and humming the battle tune in U7.5, proceeds to hack the skeleton into little itty-bit-bits. The Ferryman looks at the scene, a little confused.]

Nastassia: "Please excuse my husband. He's suffering a midlife crisis."

Avatar[returning]: "I am not."

Ferryman[sighing]: "Come, mortals. I will show thee where the storage room is."

[They leave the BritSea building, and travel northwest, then north, following a well-beaten path, the Avatar occasionally dashing off to hack up a skeleton or harpy.]

Avatar: "Don't you have to stay with the ferry? I thought you were bound there or something."

Ferryman: "Only in Ultima 7. After that my contract expired."

Avatar: "Really, that's inter- hey, a mongbat! Be right back!"

[Josh tugs on the Ferryman's half-rotted black robe.]

Josh: "Is there a bathroom around here?"

[The Ferryman pulls back his sleeve to reveal the bare white double-bone of a skeletal forearm.]

Ferryman: "Do I *look* like I use the bathroom?"

[Soon the group reaches Horance's ruined castle, and they step inside. The Ferryman leads them up the stairs and around the back, where another set of stairs leads down into the basement.]

Avatar: "Uh oh. Don't tell me...please don't tell me my luggage is in..."

Ferryman[pointing]: "There."

Avatar: "NOOO! Not the Well of Souls! I knew it! I KNEW it! I KNEW I'd have to go down this stupid thing sooner or later!"

[The Avatar breaks down crying.]

Ferryman[ignoring him]: "We must journey to the Crossroads of the Dead, and there we can find thy luggage. With my help, we can journey through the Well to the Crossroads, but beware - I have never been there, nor have I heard of any of the horrors or pleasures awaiting thee there."

Avatar[pulling himself together]:"Okay, let's do it. No reason to mope about it, got to go through it anyway, might as well get it over with, yep, gotta-"

Everybody[yelling]: "GET ON WITH IT!"

Avatar[startled]: "Okay. Alright. Ferryman, do that voodoo that you do so well."

[The Ferryman weaves a strange pattern with his hands, and casts a handful of some gritty dust at the other members of the party. A strange purple/black glow surrounds each family member.]

Judy: "Hey! This is like, my favorite sweater! I'll never get this stuff out, you undead weenie!"

[The Ferryman ignores her and steps forward toward the conical indentation in the ground. Stepping in, he is consumed with a powerful pale-blue glow that rises from the floor of the cone. The rest of the party follow, a little reluctantly...]

[There is an eternal blackness, then an eternal whiteness.]

[Swirls of color, spinning and receding like northern lights on fast forward. And then...]

Billy[landing]: "OOOF!"

Avatar:"Ow, Billy, please watch where you land after travelling through a death vortex tube."

Billy: "Sorry, pop."

[The group stands, and brushes some of the dust off themselves. They look around, and see scattered foliage and a modern highway stretching off into the distance.]

Ferryman:"We have arrived."

Avatar: "Gee, where are we? It looks like a road, except...from Earth."

Judy: "I'm never gonna get this gunk out..."

Nastassia: "I hope we can find some jerky. We haven't had a decent meal all day."

Josh: "Daddy, what's that sign say?"

Avatar: "What sign?"

[Josh points.]

[The sign says:]




Avatar[shuddering]: "The horror..."

Part the Seventh

[When we last left our intrepid heroes, the Giant of Telios had risen from the earth, and...]

Avatar: "I don't think that's where we were, Narrator."

[Oh, gosh, I'm sorry. And so, when we last left our intrepid heroes, the Queen's aide had fallen from the poisoned periogie, plunging th-]

Avatar: "NO, that's still not it. See that big 'Welcome to Newark' sign up there? Doesn't that ring ANY bells?"

[Okay, okay. No reason to get huffy.  Are you sure you don't want a Giant? Or at least some rabid mutants?]

Avatar: "Yes, I am quite sure. Newark is enough for right now."

[All right, have it your way. When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had fallen through a death vortex carefully constrained by the Ferryman of Skara Brae to allow passage and let the family o' virtue to continue their Quest for the Holy Luggage...]

Josh: "Is our luggage really holy?"

Avatar: "No, but it *is* corinthean leather. Close enough."

[The family-plus-ferryman peer down the long stretch of highway, seeing a crowded city not too far away. The road aparently leads into the heart of the domain that is Newark.]

Avatar: "Well, it seems this quest will lead me into the depths of darkness, this time on my own planet. But I will succeed, oh yes, I will, and I may be able to snag a Three Cheese Burrito at Taco Bell this time... yumyum..." [Avatar drools]

Judy: "This quest, is like, so wigged out!"

Nastassia [mopping up her husband's saliva]: "Dear, we can't stand here forever. Shouldn't that Super Dirt Snake tell us what to do next?"

Avatar: "That's Great Earth Serpent. Please don't insult him, for he may smite thee. Or kidnap thee. Or tie your shoelaces together. Or something equally horrible."

[There is a strange whooshing sound, and the ghostly form of the Great Earth Serpent appears over the road, badly freaking out a '96 Taurus doing 75 mph.]

GE Serpent[to Nastassia]: "Actually, I don't mind it. I've been called a lot worsth."

Avatar: "Hey! Serpent dude! Where next?"

GE Serpent: "Let'sth sthee. Got the stheat cover, joined the ferryman, blah blah blah, went through the well of sthoulsth, ummm... ah ha. He we are. Thou must enter the region of earth known asth Newark, and find the heart of the dragon. Then thou mustht sthpeak to the one who can take you to the world known asth..."

Avatar: "Known as...?"

GE Serpent: "Well...it'sth actually called 118.249.1017.3559. Just tell them that. They'll know what to do. Farewell, hero..."

[The Great Earth Serpent starts to disappear.]

Avatar: "118...umm...2...wait a minute, can you say that again?"

GE Serpent[reappearing]: "Oh, you heroesth never carry pen and paper around anymore, do you? [He sighs.] Alright, here."

[The Great Earth Serpent disappears testily, and a peice of paper flutters to the ground, with the world number on it in big Courier New characters. The Avatar grabs it, dodging a Porsche with a bumper sticker that says 'My other car is also a Porsche'.]

Ferryman: "Thou dost hail from a strange world, Avatar."

Avatar: "You ain't seen nothin yet, baby. Wait till you see talk shows. Okay, let's head down into Newark. And be prepared. It harbors stange but wondrous things..."

Josh: "Like bathrooms, I hope?"

[The group starts to hike down the road, towards the scattering of buildings in the hazy distance. Soon they enter a commercial district, along a dirty street, with old buildings on either side.]

Billy: "Now what, pop? How are we supposed to find the heart of the dragon in a place where you have to obey a sign that says when you can and can't walk?"

Avatar: "Hmm. Perhaps we should ask someone."

[The Avatar steps up to a woman walking along the sidewalk, who had been looking at the strangely clothed group warily.]

Avatar: "Excuse me, can you tell me where we could find the heart of the dragon? We're new in town."

Lady[looking warily at them]: "Oh, you must mean Dragonheart. I don't think it's playing anymore. You could try the Dollar Cinema down the street, corner of Main and 114th."

Avatar: "Wow, that was easy. Sure you don't want me to complete a quest or something?"

Lady: "Uhhh...no. Should I?"

Avatar: "Well, it's usually the case. Thanks all the same, I'll make sure you get a mention in the credits."

[The lady gives them a final wary look and continues down the street, mumbling something about uncouth foreigners.]

[The party walks down the street, nearing another intersection, upon which is a angled green sign that says 'Main St' and '114th St'. On the corner stands a large but worn building that has several framed posters in the entryway. One shows a big ufo sending down a beam of light on the Empire State Building, with the caption, 'Independence Day - we've made enough to make three sequels of this moderately intersting movie, and you're still paying to see it.' The second poster has a dragon flying over top of a mounted knight during a brilliant dawn, with the caption 'DragonHeart - it's not just an effects film. Really!']

Avatar: "Hey, we made it. But we need tickets. Ferrryman, got any cash on ya?"

Ferryman[sighing]: "Yes, I suppose. You living folk, always spend spend spend..."

[The ferryman shells out several gold coins, handing them to the Avatar.]

[The Avatar walks up to the ticket guy (who is, you guessed it, incredibly bored) and drops the coins in front of him. The ticket guy, whose jaw drops when he notices someone is paying in gold, which he guesses values about 200 dollars. American, of course.]

Avatar: "This enough to get inside, ticket guy?"

Ticket guy[drooling on coins]: "Guhh...erp.... pahhh..."

Avatar: "Okay, guys, let's head in."

[The group walks down the dim hallway (why are movie hallways always so dim? Anyone ever think about that? Aaaaanyway...) and head towards the second theatre, labeled Dragonheart. Josh spies a sign reading 'restrooms'.]

Josh: "Hooray! Finally, a bathroom!"

[He notices a sign reading 'Closed for renovation' on the door, sighs, and rejoins his family which is entering the theatre...]

All of party, except for Avatar [gasping]: "Draaa...draaa...draaa..."

[The scene inside is, to say the least, a madhouse. More interesting than the fact that it looks like a Kennedy birthday party and anniversary hepped up on goofballs (whatever that means...not to imply that the Kennedys would be hepped up on anything at a party...driving into lakes is perfectly normal behavior, right?) but what IS interesting, that is, more interesting than-]

Entire Cast: "GET ON WITH IT!"

[Oh, okay. Inside there are DRAGONS. A LOT of Dragons. I mean, there was probably a *plethora* of dragons. Maybe even more. Suffice it to say, there's...A LOT. Of Dragons.]

[Even more interesting than the fact that there's a plethora dragons, or that it looks like a Kennedy party hepped up on goofballs, is that it's a plethora (I love that word) of dragons who look like they're hepped up on goofballs.]

Avatar: "One more tangent out of you, mister, and you'll be narrating a documentary on Lawrence Welk."

[[I'll be good! Uh, okay, there's the plethora of Dragons, packed into the movie theatre. The lights are lit enough to provide a view. Chunks of expensive movie candy are flying through the air, as some of the beasts wage a war of high-fructose food products. The other half is watching Dragonheart on the screen in the front, laughing uproariously at the shallow-lake scene. A few of the Dragons see the humans (and shrouded corpse) enter the theatre and cheer.]

Monomolecular [dodging an Extra Jumbo bucket of popcorn]: "Avatar! How's life been treating you?"

Avatar: "It's a gremlin-eat-gremlin world out there, and I'm wearing venison underwear."

Nastassia: "Dear, that's disgusting."

[Monomolecular is pegged with a pack of Rollos, and clamors over rows of seats after Karma, who is chanting "Hoohoo hoohoo!".]

Avatar: "Hmm. I suppose this counts as a heart of Dragons."

Billy: "Daaaad! Aren't you going to slaughter all these evil beasts?"

Avatar: "I would never do such a thing! I'm compassionate and just, and these creatures have done me no wrong."

[The Avatar is promptly beaned with wad of Gummi Bears.]

Avatar: "Okay, I'll let that one slide. Besides, the plot would kind of dwindle if I tried killing my next quest item, right?"

[Avatar and co. wander through the isles, dodging snacks and additives, trying to find someone they can talk to. The Avatar dives to avoid a thrown pie by a madly giggling Dragon in serving wench's apron. He spies a couple stationary Dragon near the front. He makes a dash for the spot, family following.]

Josh: "Choco-raisins! My favorite!"

Judy: "I think I got gum on my Birkenstocks."

Avatar [to nearby Dragon]: Excuse me...

[The first Dragon, who is a deep forest green with lightly glowing eyes, sits beside a lithe blue gem-scale Dragon, whom I must admit is quite cute. The green Dragon forces himself away from a cool flying scene to look at the Avatar.]

Green Dragon: "Hey! You're the Avatar!"

Avatar: "Did the big ankh t-shirt or the complaining party members give me away?"

Green Dragon: "Woodamn! Can you sign my Ultima 5 box?" [whips out an old and battered Commodore 64 U5 box and shoves it towards the Avatar.]

Avatar: "Sure! Always happy to please a fan." [scribbles furiously on the box with a magic marker.] "Say, can you help me with something? I'm on a quest, imagine that, and I need to find the point to this number the Great Earth Serpent gave me."

[The Avatar hands the paper to the green Dragon, who squints at it. A stream of SweetTarts fly over his head. He reaches down, grabs a box of Sno-Caps, tears the end off with his massive teeth, and flings it backwards. A loud clatter of hardened sugar is heard.]

Green Dragon:  "Sorry, can't help ya. You might want to try that glowing portal over by the exit, though."

Avatar: "Glowing portal? What the...?" [the Avatar looks. There is indeed a glowing portal near the exit. A stray banana cream pie flies into it and is sucked into another world. How sad.] "Uhh... okay. Sounds good to me. Thanks, mister Dragon."

Green Dragon: "No problem. Have a pickle."

[Avatar and family and shrouded skeleton make a dash for the portal. The Ferryman pauses to catch a pie in mid-air. He spins around and pegs an astonished black Dragon with wolf-like features. The Dragon cheers wildly. The Avatar blinks at the Ferryman in surprise.]

Ferryman [shrugging]: "I minored in pie-flinging in Ferryman School."

Avatar: "Okay, troops, ready for our next world of intrigue, excitement, danger, and bad puns?"

Nastassia: "Only if the children get something nutritious to eat! They've gone hours without any vegetables, milk, or jerky!"

Avatar: "Oh, fine..." [he scoops up a barrel of multi-flavored popcorn off an empty seat.] "Eat up, kids!"

Kids: "Yay! Multi-flavored popcorn!"

Nastassia: "AVATAR, I *refuse* to allow our children to be stricken with such unhealthy and cavity-forming sweets without any benefi- hey, caramel!" [Nastassia scoops a handful of popcorn and munches contentedly.]

Avatar: "Onward, to intrigue, excitement, danger, bad puns, and more snack food!"

[The party members dive into the portal, the world of Earth quickly leaving the senses like a quickly forgotten dream. The sounds of the Dragon candybrawl disappear, and swirls of primary colors descend around them, leading to...]

Billy [landing]: "Ooof!"

Avatar: "Billy, I told you once. Don't make me turn this quest around and go home."

[The party stands and looks around. Miles and miles of seemingly endless wasteland stretch for miles and miles around them. The earth is sandy, dry, cracked, or all three. The sky is cloudless, and the heat is... hot.]

Judy: "Like, Newark seems a lot better about now."

Josh: "So many worlds, so few bathrooms."

[On the horizon, a leather clad figure walks toward them. The party steps back, but the Avatar waves for them to hold still. He stands silently, waiting for the figure to approach. The tension is... tight. In moments, the figure comes to a halt about 10 feet from the Avatar. They stand facing each other for a strained moment.]

Avatar: "Chad?"

Figure: "Tad?"

[The two burst out laughing and give each other manly hugs.]

Nastassia: "Uh, excuse me, Avatar, but can you tell me who this man is?"

Avatar [stopping and turning to face her]: "Oh! Of course... Family, Ferryman, this is Chad, Desert Ranger. Of New Nevada. He's my brother."

[insert soap opera 'surprise!' music here]

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