The Codex of Ultimate Wisdom is a magical book, bound in leather and gold, that incorporates all knowledge that exists. It is said it holds the "one right and true answer to any question." When a reader approaches the book it is always open to the page they seek, and they are always able to read it despite their language. Emblazoned on the cover is the symbol of the Codex, a set of six lines and two circles arranged to touch three central circles in different manners. This symbol represents the eight Virtues and three core principles of Britannian and Gargish virtue, which the Codex inspired.
The origins of the Codex are unknown. It was first found floating in the Ethereal Void by the Gargish seer Naxatilor. He managed to draw it from the Void with the aid of the Concave Lens, Convex Lens and Vortex Cube. The gargoyles kept it in the Shrine of Singularity at the bottom of the Abyss.
The Codex was protected by several wards to anyone who wanted to access it. Besides having to transverse the Abyss to get to the Codex when coming from Britannia, someone trying to access it had to fulfill the following requirements:
- Be an eight-part Avatar.
- Have the Key of Three Parts.
- Know the Word of Passage.
- Complete a series of tests about the eight Virtues and three Principles.
In Ultima IV, the Codex was reached by the Stranger during the Quest of the Avatar. After the Stranger passed all the tests presented by the otherworldly tome, the Codex stated the hero had proven to have attained Avatarhood. Upon this final proclamation, the Codex sent the Avatar back to Earth.
Following these events, the Great Council managed to draw the Codex into Britannia. Although later, Ultima VI and onwards, this act was attributed to the Avatar. This action unwittingly caused massive destruction to the Gargoyle race and collapsed much of the Underworld in the end. The Shrine of the Codex was built over the entrance of the Abyss, the new home of the Codex. Two giant, enchanted stone statues called the Stone Guardians stand athwart the path leading into the shrine, which from Ultima V to Ultima VI would only allow people on sacred quests to pass and read the Codex. The origins of these statues are never stated, but it's possible they were created by the Great Council.
The Codex became a symbol of conflict in Ultima VI. Humans and gargoyles alike claimed it for themselves. Thus, the Avatar used two special lenses and the Vortex Cube, to return the Codex to the Void. Each side could still read the Codex with their lens, but none could claim it as their possession anymore.
By the time of Ultima IX, the Codex had been returned to Britannia. While no explanation is given for this return, it is suggested from the Journal that it was back sitting on the Isle of the Avatar before the Great Cataclysm. The working of the lenses had also been altered as even on Britannia, the Codex could only be read by using the two lenses in the Shrine of the Codex.
It later found its way into the hands of Samhayne who tried to use it as a bargaining chip with the Avatar, in order to force him to cleanse the Column of New Magincia which was causing massive whirlpools at seas. But Blackthorn seized the Codex after Samhayne sold the Avatar to him, and focused on trying to find the lenses. Lord British eventually obtained the Codex after killing Blackthorn and gave it to the Avatar who brought it back to its Shrine in order to learn the ritual that would allow him to merge with the Guardian.
The Codex Symbol
The Codex Symbol, called this because it is on the cover of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, is a simple but very clear way to show how the Eight Virtues are founded on the three principles of Truth, Love and Courage, by assigning each principle a color, and each Virtue is a mix of the colors of the principles on which the Virtue is based.
First there are the three circles of the three principles of Truth, Love and Courage, which are the foundations of all the virtues (with exception of Humility).
Then come the Virtues of Honesty, Compassion and Valor, forming a triangle around the three circles. Each of the three lines only touch one circle, since these virtues are only founded on one principle. Therefore, the three lines have the same colors as the three circles.
Then come three more lines, which roughly form a headstand triangle. These represent the virtues of Justice, Sacrifice and Honor. Since each line touches two circles, because these virtues base each on two principles, they mix the colors, resulting in green, orange and purple.
The small circle in the center is the virtue of Spirituality. It touches all three circles, since the virtue is based on all three principles. All three colors mix into white.
The outer circle represents the Virtue of Humility. Since it is independent of the principles, it touches no circle, it has no color, and is therefore black.
In Ultima V
The following are messages The Avatar reads from the Codex in Ultima V, in response to the quests ordained by the Shrines of Virtue:
Honesty: "A dishonest life brings unto thee temporary gain, but forsakes the permanent."
Compassion: "Only a detested life owes its pleasures to another's pain."
Valor: "Those who fear to try, know not their limits and thus know not themselves."
Justice: "Those who inflict injustice upon others, cannot expect fair treatment unto themselves."
Sacrifice: "None live alone, save they who will not share their fortune with those around them."
Honor: "It is the guilt, not the guillotine, that constitutes the shame."
Spirituality: "To forsake one's inner being is to abandon thy hopes for thyself and thy world."
Humility: "Pride is a vice, which Pride itself inclines one to find in others, and overlook in oneself."
Once all these messages have been received, the Codex voluntarily turns its pages and reveals this information:
"Beyond shames egress in the center of the underworld there is a place of darkness. Beyond this darkness lies the gate to the core of the world. When thou art ready thou must call forth VERAMOCOR to unlock the gate and venture past ethereal wards and stealers of souls. That which the world hath lost, dost awaits thy coming!."
In Ultima VI
The following message is revealed by the Codex as a result of the quest ordained by the Shrine of Singularity:
"To return the Codex to the Vortex, place a convex lens exactly midway between the Codex and the Flame of Singularity, so that the light from the flame converges on the Codex. Place a concave lens between the Codex and the Flame of Infinity, so that its light diverges over the Codex. Then place the eight Moonstones within the Vortex Cube. Set it on the ground in front of the Codex, and use it to return the Codex from whence it came."
In Ultima IX
"How can one half of a thing be removed if it is separated from the other half that forms the whole? Good and evil can not exist without the other. If one is to be removed, it must join with the other."
"The Barrier of Life must be cast before Ascension. Place the 8 Sigils on the eight pillars in the Guardian's Chamber. Move to the circle in the center of the room, there you will be asked for the incantation. Speak the words, "Sanct Vas Grav In Mani An Corp" and the barrier will rise around the chamber. A gate shall then appear, summoning the other half that makes the whole into the room."
"The most destructive of all magic must be used to remove the whole from Britannia. Armageddon must be cast, but only after the Barrier of Life is in place, lest all the world be destroyed. To perform this ritual, you must have the eight sigils at hand. Then you must use three pieces of the dimensional portal. When you are asked for the incantation, speak the words correctly. They are "Vas Kal An Mani In Corp Hur Tym".
In the documentation that comes with Ultima VI, the following is revealed by Lord British as a prophecy given by the Codex:
"One will arise with the strength of an army, the vision of a prophet and the heart of a saint. This Great One will bring about an end to the struggle between the Darkness and the Light."