The History of the land now known as Britannia is a very long one, full of turns and surprising events. This will be a rough overview over the history so far (through Ultima VII Part Two, and including the events of Ultima IX for informational purposes).
For a timeline of these events, see Timeline of the Ultima Universe.
The land was very ancient and once it was walked by strange and wondrous beings, who bore numerous underground labyrinths while civilizations rose and fell.
The first to settle Sosaria was a race of beings, known only as the Ancient Ones, who managed to defeat the Daemons that were trying to claim this world as their own. Binding them to their will, some of these beings vanished to a higher state of being, while others became mortal. They settled the land, in harmony with nature and magic. However, on one fateful day, over half a million years ago, the Xorinite Wisp traded with the mage Zog, giving him the Armageddon spell. Zog was foolish enough to try it. All life died on Sosaria, wiping out every sign of the Ancient Ones. Zog, alone in his empty world, died shortly after.
It would take a long time before life returned to Sosaria, but eventually the land was re-settled by different races; a race of Cyclops roamed the lands before the humans, until driven underground. Mainly Humans but also Elves, Dwarves and Bobbits dominated the eight kingdoms that surfaced on the four main continents, and civilization started to develop once again. In the following centuries Sosaria was prosperous with rich fields and livestock. Practicioners of magic were banished and the arcane arts, considered corrupting, were forgotten.
One day, the youth later known as Lord British entered the lands of Sosaria. Under the guidance of Shamino, he grew up to be the youngest ruler in Sosaria's history. And it was good that he came, because Sosaria was about to face the darkest times ever seen in history.
The Ages of Darkness
- Main article: Akalabeth
Mondain, a young yet very powerful Wizard, became corrupted with all the power he had at his disposal. Mad with his thirst for more power, he murdered his father, to obtain his Sun Ruby Gem, a very powerful artifact. Wanting to rule over one of the four continents of Sosaria, he created horrible beasts, and recruited bloodthirsty monsters to do his bidding with Orcs as his vanguard. Declaring war on the kingdom of Akalabeth, the one ruled by Lord British, he started a bloody war.
But the war was lost, driving Mondain only further to his ultimate goal: ruling over all of Sosaria through magical means and power. To achieve this goal, he transformed the Sun Ruby Gem into the dark Gem of Immortality, so that his reign of terror could be endless.
The First Age of Darkness
- Main article: Ultima I
Twelve years went into the land before Mondain's corrupting influence swept over Sosaria. Hordes of monsters roamed the land, while the seas were terrorised by horrors of the depths. Famine and pestilence gained ground. The Wizard himself was invincible. Having moved his fortress into the Time of Legends, no one could end his rule of terror. He also allied with starwalking savage monsters, who would swoop down with their vehicles and devastate peoples and lands. It was a dark age for Sosaria, with eight kingdoms strifing against each other and threatening to crumble under the restless attacks of darkness. Only Lord British envisioned a united Sosaria.
It was said that only a traveller from the stars could defeat Mondain and end the terror as narrated by bards. The threat of Mondain brought a renaissance of magic, despite the risk of the dangerous arcane arts; scholars unearthed dusty tomes and started to retrain adepts hoping it will help to stop the spread of Mondain's influence. Also an arcane manuscript discovered in Mt. Drash was translated and circulated by the wise, containing instructions for the forgotten starwalking.
For the first time, the Stranger appeared in these times of darkness and after a long quest, the Stranger was able to obtain a time machine, and traveled back to the Time of Legends, facing Mondain in a duel. Shattering the Gem of Immortality, the Stranger killed Mondain, ending his foul rule. However, the forces released with the shattering were far more powerful than anyone could have foreseen. They deformed the land into a totally new configuration, thundering the four continents of Sosaria apart. Only The Lands of Lord British remained as Sosaria.
The Revenge of the Enchantress
- Main article: Ultima II
While rebuilding the land, no one on Sosaria knew that Mondain had a young apprentice and lover: Minax the Enchantress. Swearing revenge for her mentor's death, she planned horrible things for Sosaria, but especially for the Stranger. Years went by, and the youth became an adult. Then the time was right for her. From the Time of Legends, she sent forth her hordes to burn down Sosaria. But even worse were her plans for the Stranger's world, Earth. Manipulating and ripping apart the very fabric of time itself, she changed reality, letting Earth go down in a holocaust.
Having barely escaped the changes in the timeline, the Stranger went on a desperate mission to destroy Minax, and repair the damage to the timeline. Using the Time Doors to enter the Time of Legends, the Stranger was eventually able to kill Minax. With her gone, time returned to its original state, and her armies on Sosaria were defeated.
- Main article: Ultima III
What no one could have foreseen was that Mondain and Minax had created an even greater evil. Part Daemon and part Machine, he was more powerful than both of them. His name was Exodus. For twenty years, Exodus gathered information about his enemies, calculating the best way to strike and defeat all of them. When no one suspected a third Age of Darkness, Exodus started his attack.
First, the Isle of Fire rose from the ocean, where Exodus located his castle. Ripping the Great Earth Serpent out of the Ethereal Void, he used it to guard his fortress, a vile act which would have bitter consequences later. Then the evil started to feast on Sosaria. Pirate fleets and sea monsters swept clean the seas, while hordes of monsters roamed the land. Exodus himself started to poison the very soul of the land itself, slowly starting to twist it to his bidding.
The Stranger returned for a third time. This time, three companions fought at the hero's side to defeat Exodus. Meeting the Time Lord, the Stranger knew that Exodus couldn't be defeated by normal means. Going to the lost island of Ambrosia, the Stranger recovered the Four Cards. Sailing to the Castle of Fire then, they fought their way through Exodus' guards, before reaching the core of the machine. Inserting the Cards, the Machine exploded, thus being the end of Exodus and the last Age of Darkness.
The Age of Enlightenment
The establishment of Britannia
Following Exodus' defeat, the land was re-formed again when the forces bound in him were set free, forming the land to its current shape. Long years of poverty and need ensued as the land recovered from the horrors of Exodus. The local city-states were united to a single kingdom in the end, under the rule of Lord British, thus, the kingdom of Britannia was born.
And while the kingdom became politically and economically stable again, after all the horrors, something was missing within the people. Lord British finally saw what was wrong. While the material wealth was secured, the people of his kingdom lacked a spiritual path at which they could direct themselves. Thus, he established the system of the eight Virtues, building the eight shrines, for that they would bring enlightenment to the people and help them through life.
Quest of the Avatar
- Main article: Ultima IV
However, Lord British realised, that the people also needed someone, who would serve them as a role model, living the Virtues, and helping them to understand how the Virtues helped in their lives. An embodiment of the Virtues. A man or woman, who would show the people the boons of a virtuous life. So he called out the Quest of the Avatar: A quest to master all eight Virtues and reach the highest wisdom in Britannia.
Many tried, and while some had partial success, they never reached the goal. Most failed. But the call also reached the Stranger on Earth. Following the call, the Stranger went on the Quest of the Avatar. Becoming a master in all eight Virtues, the Stranger showed the people how to use the Virtues practically, to master life and find inner peace. The Stranger gathered friends, before going on the last part of the quest. Entering the Abyss on what would later be known as the Isle of the Avatar, the hero reached the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. The ancient book gave the final blessing to the Stranger.
And so the Stranger became the Avatar, the hero of Britannia and embodiment of all the eight Virtues. The people of Britannia had found their role model for a virtuous life. They themselves had found their spiritual path.
The Closing of Doom
After the Quest of the Avatar, Lord British reformed Britannia. A democratic element, the Great Council, was established, to gradually democratise the monarchy. One of the first acts of the Council was, to draw the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom out of the Abyss, so that it could bring Britannia its wisdom, and enshrined it on the Isle of the Avatar.
This act created magic resistance from the Abyss, resulting in it throwing out much mass, which in turn resulted in the ground of the dungeons collapsing, freeing the path to the Underworld. Horrible creatures ascended from it, so the Great Council sealed the seven remaining dungeons, so that their evil never again should taint Britannia.
Warriors of Destiny
- Main article: Ultima V
However, no one could have known, that these acts would lead to the freeing of the three Shadowlords. Born from three shards of the Gem of Immortality, they personified the three anti-thesis of the Principles: Falsehood, Hatred and Cowardice. They kidnapped Lord British during a expedition in the Underworld, and twisted the mind of Lord Blackthorn, who ruled in Lord British's absence.
Blackthorn, once a virtuous man, became cruel, and installed a tyranny, twisting the virtues into diabolical laws. He outlawed the companions of the Avatar, while installing a inquisition and the Oppression, to suppress any opposition against him. At the same time, the Shadowlords terrorised the cities of Britannia, forcing the people to follow their will like puppets. It was in this time of need, when the Avatar returned to Britannia.
The Avatar fought against the forces of evil, destroying the three Shadowlords after learning how to destroy them once and for all. The hero then travelled into the deepest pocket of the Underworld, dungeon Doom, where Lord British was found, imprisoned by magical means. Freeing him with the Orb of the Moons, it was the end of the tyranny. Blackthorn, freed now from the forces twisting his mind, chose to leave Britannia forever, to give the people peace and redeem himself, after outside forces had tainted him so much.
The False Prophet
- Main article: Ultima VI
The rescue of Lord British caused horrible earthquakes, which, ignited by the clashing magics, started the collapse of the Underworld. This caused a catastrophic effect on the Realm of the Gargoyles and thus to the Gargoyles themselves. And also, they feared the fulfillment of a old prophecy, the prophecy of the False Prophet. Two of the three events had taken place, the Codex was gone, and their world was in shambles. In great fear that the last part, the destruction of the Gargoyles, would take place, they attacked Britannia.
The war was horrible, with many deaths and bitterness on both sides, but time was against the Gargoyles, their world collapsed more with each day. So finally they tried to lure the Avatar into a trap and sacrifice the hero, to stop the prophecy. Freed by the companions in last minute, the Avatar fought against the Gargoyles, freeing the Shrines, liberating the Moonstones.
But then, the truth came into the open. Feeling obliged to end the war, and rescue the Gargoyles from destruction, the Avatar sent the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, the biggest point of bitterness between humans and Gargoyles, back into the void. Only visible with two special Lenses, both kings learned the truth about each other from it, and the war finally ended with peace. The prophecy had proven to be wrong.
The Stygian Abyss
- Main article: Ultima Underworld
A difficult time began, in which the Gargoyles had to be integrated into Britannia, and the bitterness of the war was very deep. During that time, Sir Cabirus planned a colony on the Isle of the Avatar, and IN the Abyss, to promote Virtue. The colony was approved by Lord British, and at first everything went all right, but with Cabirus' death, all went downhill, and the Abyss became a prison.
When the Wizard Tyball murdered his brother Garamon, and kidnapped the daughter of Baron Almric, Arial, the Avatar returned, called by the dead Garamon. But the Avatar was accused of the kidnapping, and thrown into the Abyss. There the hero learned the truth: Tyball wanted to kill Arial, to free the Slasher of Veils, a mighty Daemon, which would have been Britannia's end. Killing Tyball and rescuing Arial, the Avatar banished the Slasher into the Void.
Britannia was safe, and the Abyss colony destroyed in the process. The survivors returned to the mainland.
The Age of Armageddon
The peaceful centuries
No great disasters followed in the 200 years following the Gargoyle war. Although that didn't mean that it was totally peaceful in Britannia.
Skara Brae was lost through a big fire, and the city then declared off-limits, after it was revealed that a Liche now ruled over it. Minor internal wars were fought, albeit without much danger to the kingdom. Society became pleased with itself, and Virtue seemed less and less anchored in the people. 180 years later, the Fellowship was founded. A seven year long drought ruined many farmers in Britannia. Magic became less and less reliable, mages became insane. It seemed, Britannia was about to leave its legacy of magic behind.
No one knew of the new evil that arose.
The Black Gate
- Main article: Ultima VII
The Avatar returned to Britannia in this seeming time of peace, to follow the lead of a series of brutal murders. The Fellowship became suspect in the duration of the quest. It attracted the people of Britannia to leave the eight Virtues behind, but it acted like a closed sect, with the higher-ups being secretive. Going deeper into their secrets, the Avatar discovered, that they were only a decoy for a planned invasion of a mighty being from another dimension, called the Guardian.
Contacting the Time Lord, the Avatar learned the whole truth of what had happened. It was the Guardian with the help of three generators, who disturbed magic and Moongates in Britannia, weakening the land for his take-over. Most of the people in the Fellowship were clueless, and would end as the Guardian's slaves. The Avatar destroyed the generators, restoring magic, but destroying the Moongates in the process. Then the Avatar traveled to the Isle of the Avatar, to destroy the Black Gate, with which the Guardian wanted to enter Britannia. Confronted at the Black Gate, the Avatar and the companions killed the most of the inner circle of the Fellowship.
The Guardian was stopped, and the Gate destroyed. But the Avatar was stranded in Britannia, and the Guardian was still very active, swearing to come back and end what he had begun. The Fellowship became outlawed, when it became known that they were tools of the Guardian.
Labyrinth of Worlds
- Main article: Ultima Underworld II
One year later, Britannia was still on its way of recovery. Many hardships had to be overcome. The Avatar was invited to a party in Lord British's castle on the first anniversary of the destruction of the Black Gate. But at the next morning, the Guardian struck, sealing off the castle and it's inhabitants in a blackrock sphere.
Finding a mysterious jewel in the sewers under the castle, the Avatar traveled to other worlds, worlds the Guardian had already conquered or destroyed. Many things and truths were revealed about the Guardian and his methods. There, in the other worlds, the Avatar found out the means to destroy the sphere and cut the power connections of the Guardian in these other worlds, which weakened the sphere significantly. After eight smaller Blackrock gems were absorbed into the big gem, it became instable. The Guardian by then tried to send his people from Killorn Keep, led by Mors Gotha, through the jewel, to invade the castle. In the last moment, the sphere was destroyed with the Horn of Praecor Loth, and the portal to the other worlds closed.
Britannia was once again safe from the Guardian.
- Main article: Ultima VII Part Two
Half a year later, the Avatar left together with Iolo, Shamino and Dupre for the Serpent Isle, where Batlin, former leader of the Fellowship was sent by the Guardian to further other plans to conquer Britannia. Shortly after that, the Imbalance Storms started in Britannia.
The crisis on the Serpent Isle affected Britannia as well (for more about the nature of the crisis, read under Serpent Isle). The teleport storms caused much destruction and damage. The Gargoyles all fell into a deep, unnatural sleep, and the Emps presumably even died because of the imbalance. (for their exact final fate is unknown to us.) The crisis threatened to destroy Britannia. Thankfully, in the end, the storms were stopped by the Avatar, who restored balance to the worlds, but Britannia would need a long time to recover from them.
The Reconstruction and the Great Cataclysm
The reconstruction efforts went on, but it would take a long time before the land would fully recover from the Imbalance Storms. But people were still very fearful of the Guardian. It had become public knowledge that the Avatar had vanished into the Ethereal Void, probably abducted by the Guardian. People also feared that the Guardian would now try to invade Britannia. A fear that didn’t seem so far fetched, knowing of the feats the Guardian had managed up to now....
Yet almost two hundred years passed in peace. The reconstruction went well: new forms of magic were discovered, Moongates began to function again and people had forgotten all of the misguided ways of the Fellowship and had turned back to the way of the Eight Virtues.
But unexpectedly, the Guardian finally attacked the land, by conjuring 8 giant columns and unleashing the Great Cataclysm which ripped the land apart, and brought death and despair over the people. Over the next twenty years, they poisoned the minds of the people, twisting their ways, while the Guardian prepared to destroy Britannia by letting the moons crash on the planet.
- Main article: Ultima IX
The Avatar returned for a final time, to prevent this disaster. He restored the eight shrines of Virtue while showing the people of Britannia their true meaning, and thus freed them from the evil influence of the Guardian.
Then upon learning of the true nature of the Guardian, the Avatar finally used the spell Armageddon while protected by the Barrier of Life, to fuse with the evil being, destroying him and his columns, and thus ending the Age of Armageddon.