Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle

The Rites of Cremation

by Tolbert

Let this book serve as a guide to those who follow me in the honorable profession of cremator to the finest warriors in all the lands known to mankind, the fine fighters of Monitor! Most of this will become known during thine apprenticeship, but these written words will serve to bolster that which thy predecessor will be teaching thee.

The most important thing thou canst learn of thy profession is this: being a cremator is no less honorable or worthy a duty than taking up sword and shield and doing battle with goblins, trolls, and all the other uncivilized fiends that populate our land. I put to any doubters this question: where would a warrior be if he knew that, should he die valiantly in battle, his body would not be brought back to receive a proper cremation? That his body, primed and trained for war in life, should feed the carrion cowards who would rather flee than fight, or perhaps a meal for the wives of those foul beings who struck him down? He would be in the rear of the force, hoping that he returns home; worried more for his life than guiding his blade through the hearts of his enemies.

I have shown thee the worth of thy profession; now I will reveal to thee the import of burning one's body, as opposed to the primitive practice of burial. Thou hast known from the day thy first words were spoken that there is mystical power in the ashes of the dead. 'Tis true, and thou dost know this from thy Test of Knighthood. Ashes are the soul of a man; his spirit is locked within the remains of his lifeless body, and burning it releases the spirit from its imprisonment. If this is not done, the spirit will go insane and rise up as a monster -- lifeless, yet hateful and vengeful and animated. The spirit is in torment. This is no way for a courageous knight to spend eternity. For such a reason, the cremator is a respected and honored member of our stout city.

The question arises that, after the body is cremated (the method is described in detail in a later chapter), where must the ashes be stored? Fortune and wisdom on the part of our forefathers have placed us in a land whereby an opening in the great mountains to the west can serve as catacombs; a tomb for the courageous dead. It seems that these were once daemon lands, as evidenced by the ruins in the northwest, but more definitively by the catacombs. Therein, coffins and dusty tapestries hold their unburned dead. No doubt the place is naught but ruins because the maddened corpses did rise up and wreak their vengeance on the fools...

   

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Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle

Back in Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness, one section of the game world was known as "The Lands of Danger and Despair". Shamino, a recurring character in the Ultima series, was a ruling lord here. The Lands of Danger and Despair vanished after the conclusion of Ultima I and became Serpent Isle, separated from Sosaria, as the world of Britannia was called before Ultima IV.

The original inhabitants of Serpent Isle, the Ophidians, had a culture where serpents played a central role. They eventually became polarized as the forces of Order and Chaos, respectively, and fought a great war that destroyed their culture and left their cities and temples in ruins. Order "won" the war, destroying the Chaos Serpent, but thereby upsetting the natural balance to the point where the entire universe is unraveling. (It turns out that the "Great Earth Serpent" that guarded Exodus's fortress in Ultima III was actually the Balance Serpent that Exodus had ripped from the void, triggering the war between Chaos and Order in the first place.)

Much later, Serpent Isle was re-settled by humans who had left Sosaria voluntarily, or who had been exiled. An alternate name for Serpent Isle is "New Sosaria", a reference to the original homeland of these settlers. Many of them referred to Lord British as "Beast British", and had a very low opinion of him. After he united the lands, and with the establishment of the eight virtues, those unhappy with his rule fled to Serpent Isle. Unlike Britannia, which has eight cities representing the eight virtues of the Avatar, Serpent Isle has three city-states, each with their own beliefs, which are warped versions of the Britannian principles of Truth, Love and Courage.

Launch Year: 1993
Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle Cover

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