The Spirituality of Good and Evil

As I arrived in Castle Britannia to talk to Lord British one realization came to mind: the king was nowhere to be found! Talking with his annoying seneschal revealed a surprising truth: Lord British had left for the Abyss in order to face Blackthorn in battle after reading a letter asking for a final showdown the villain had sent to me!

Apparently, Britannia’s good King was getting tired sitting on his throne doing nothing…

The Abyss being unaccessible, there was not much left for me to do except head to Skara Brae in order to hopefully find a way to get to the Abyss.

Upon reaching the island I could notice alas that it was nothing more than ruins and rubbles, having been totally wiped out by the Guardian. The good news however is that finally, I got more news from my old friend Shamino!

Technically, Shamino is supposed to talk to you at a couple of other statues during the game (since there are basically one of those next to every city)… but for some reason this doesn’t trigger to you have to wait to Skara Brae. The ghist of it being that the link to his body is weakening and he might be lost forever in the Spirit Realms if I don’t help him soon and that to reunite his soul with his body, I will need to get into the Well of Souls and be in possession of the Book of Truth, the Candle of Love, and the Bell of Courage.

In addition I was also greeted by the Sentinel of Skara Brae.

The Sentinel was the protector of the city and laid at the center of city until it was broken during the Cataclysm. Albeit broken it continued to bestow its protection on Skara Brae, allowing its inhabitants to resist the influence of the Columns. Alas… there are no inhabitants left 😦

The Sentinel taught me the Mantra of Spirituality, but also that to enter the Well of Souls, I need the Ankh of Spirituality that is in possession of Lord British.

So since my progress on the ruined city was impossible for now, I left the island behind and set to Trinsic. You see, since I have already the Book of Truth and the Candle of Love, I figured I might as well go and get the Bell of Courage, which lay deep in the ruins of Serpent’s Hold. So I began to sail manually (thanks to a reduced field of view to prevent crashing heh) toward the remnants of the Isle of Deeds.

You see, the Isle of Deeds were flooded during the Great Cataclysm, and the remnants of Serpent’s Hold now lie deep under the sea. So I began to swim to the entrance on the ruins, taking a potion of mana breath in order to survive.

Except that… it didn’t work. I tried everything: swimming closer to the top, the bottom, the middle, the side… everytime I died befor e reaching the force field, and in spite of my blue potion. I decided that well, I might as well use the flying cheat… and it worked. Except that the inside of Serpent’s Hold was totally flooded. And you see, it’s not supposed to be: it’s supposed to be dry and also have two NPCs: a Knight guarding the bell of courage (which can also trains you in the last tier of one handed weapons) and an evil necromancer who want s to take over the world. The bell was at its place… but that felt unrewarding. And needless to say this was very frustrating and annoying.

So I reloaded and figured I might be missing a trigger – so I decided to return later and I went back to Lord British’s castle. At that point you can actually learn Stones from the court musician and use it on Lord British’s harpsichord. The result? It opens his sandalwood box and reveals the ankh of spirituality.

A really nice and awesome touch!

So I returned to Skara Brae and head to that huge beautiful temple behind the isle.

Which houses the new Well of Souls (which must have been rebuilt since Ultima VII or something I guess).

Entering the Well of Souls lead you into what is called the Spirit Realm. It is basically an ethereal freaky version of the village of Skara Brae haunted by spirits who can’t find peace. So you basically have to do the same thing that Shamino does his parable of Virtue tale (that was on the official Ultima IX website ten years ago): helping these spirits find peace to send them in the great beyond – and it is very much awesome and very rewarding to do!

More specifically, you need to help three people in there by making each understand one of the principles: Love, Truth and Courage and how their failings in this respective principle are haunting them in the afterlife. At peace, each of them reveals about the whereabouts of one of the three artefacts, although at this point you usually already have them. But it was a nice touch none the less!

Having done that I returned to Serpent’s Hold… but no avail it still didn’t worked. So out of frustration and annoyance at getting bugs I never suffered from before, I just used the fly cheat to pass through the wall and grab the Bell. Meh.

So back to Spirit Realm again (yes that’s a lot of back and forth isn’t it?) and I could no deal with Shamino… who was standing in a weird protective field.

The ritual is simple really: all you need to do is place each of the artifacts on their respective pedestal and then read the book, light the candle, ring the bell and say the mantra of Spirituality. And there: Shamino was back!

I gotta say I keep getting impressed at how much they NAILED Shamino in that game. Not only he looks like Shamino, feels like Shamino… but he also SOUNDS like him. I’d really love to know who voiced him because he basically sounded just exactly as I always imagined, but was just wonderful. And he also gave a great performance, so what else to say?

But Shamino comes being the bearer of troubling news, as during his quest in the void he learned the true nature of the Guardian. The Guardian was in truth born from the Avatar’s evil side that was stripped away when he became the Avatar… which of course explains a lot about his nature, his disdain toward the Virtues… and why you can’t hurt him without hurting yourself. I’ll point that I think it makes sense the Guardian CAN hurt you – because while the Guardian is (or rather was) a part of the Avatar, the Avatar was never a part of him technically which makes sense ( think: Dragonheart).

When I played the game for the first time I stood speechless at this revelation… because of how awesome it was. Some would argue that it plays a bit with the canon, which is true to some extent – but it jus feels FITTING, and especially considering how focused this game was on the Virtue.

I mean really – did we really wanted the Guardian to JUST be a big evil bad guy from the netherworld and period? Say what you will, but a LOT would have been disappointed if the Guardian had no origins or no twist about them.

The argument that is often brought forward by the haters it that it totally ruins the ending of Ultima IV. But I disagree. Just because the Guardian was born from the Avatar’s evilness doesn’t mean that the Avatar is suddenly this perfect being incapable of doing anything but good – and some haters feels to me like they have a too simplistic view of things.

As much as I love the origins of the Guardian though, it should be pointed that like many things it was cut down and simplified. Here are the true origins of the Guardian envisioned by Richard Garriott, straight from his mouth in the Ultima IX Clue Book.

“If you go back to the very beginning, in Ultima I, and the first evil wizard, known as Mondain, you remember that he was in the process of creating a gem of immortality … a way to make his ultimate evil survive forever. The way you stopped that was that you went and shattered that gem. That process had a very profound impact on the history of all Ultimas. The first impact that the player is aware of is that the three major shards ultimate manifest the three Shadow Lords, which affect Blackthorn and the evils that take place in that era. What you also discover in this game is that, in fact, of course, the three shards were first uncovered/discovered between Ultima IV and V. In IV, as you become this person of pure virtue, the fiction we’ve created is that that process of casting out the darker side of yourself, and where that goes and how it happens, also goes back to that gem as well. This gem, from the fact that you’ve had contact with it from way back, is where the dark side of you resonates and maintains itself. So the Shadow Lords really are a part of you, that dark side of yourself. As you banish them in Ultima V, and send them off to some other plane of existence, which you think of as non-existence, they get back together and plot their revenge. It’s that darker aspect of yourself that comes back in Ultima VII. Ultimately you discover that you really can’t wipe that out without wiping out yourself.”

So the basic concept was that the Stranger somehow became tied with the Gem by destroying it and that by becoming the Avatar it resonated within it until spawning the Shadowlords from his “dark side” and THEY later coalesced into the Guardian. Remember how we were promised that Ultima IX would tie everything back to Ultima I? Well… that was it.

That also explains quite a bit in the final story, notably the reason for this focus on corrupting virtues, and why you’re greated by Shadowlords statues when entering Terfin. This might even really give some explanation to why Blackthorn is by his side and so on…

(Also it answers one of the things that kind of disturbed me about the concept as presented: the whole “Would another Avatar spawn another Guardian?” question… which would mean no since this was because of the Gem).

The interesting thing about this, is that the way Garriott talks of it – he talks of it as if it is the way the Guardian’s origin *is* in the final game and that these are the elements you discover while playing the game. He definitly *not* mentions this as being some cut plot element. And this is why I tend to consider this version of the origin of the Guardian to be the true canon, even more than the game.

(I shall stress that this really concerns the final version of the game we’ve got – and not the “Bob White Plot” version of it)

The thing is that the way it is presented in the game is not exactly contradicting the elements here – more like the way it’s presented in the game was overly simpliefied, and this certainly gives credits to the rumors we had heard about the suits of the time wanting the team to diminish ties with earlier game.

Now this do not change that I did love the way it was in the game but this really leave me with a big interogation: If they could cut something as important as THIS, what else were they forced to be cut?

But I’ve digressed enough and this will be the end of this post for it is long enough already but expect the next one about my adventure in the Abyss (which are already done) in a couple of hours tops…

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