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[EM Fiction] Professor Ad-Din's Lecture on the Lore of the Virtugreel

Discussion in 'UO Atlantic' started by EMTiberies, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. EMTiberies

    EMTiberies Journeyman

    Nov 14, 2011
    Likes Received:
    [[Aren't you glad I didn't copy/paste the whole thing and instead decided to paraphrase and summarize large chunks of it? There's 2 spellings of "Virtugreel" in this, that's on purpose. IC, there's no consistent spelling in the lore. OOC, I couldn't decide. Many thanks to everyone who came out tonight. Apologies for any weird line breaks; there's a technical issue with the copy/paste.]]

    The Lore of the Virtuegreel

    We live in a land of many enchantments and wonders. To us, things are commonplace that,
    in other worlds we know of, are considered marvelous and amazing. The world known as “Urth” from whence Lord British once came, is one such world.

    In such a world as ours, therefore, sorting out what is real and what is fantasy is no easy task. The mind wants to see many things as fantasy that the eyes confirm as real. And, sometimes, those powers can be used to make what is fantasy seem real, and the other way around.

    The Virtuegreel is an excellent case in point. Also known as the Cup of Virtue, the Virtuegreel first began to appear in myths and legends in the dark years of Mondain's domination, before the arrival of the stranger. It is perhaps no coincidence that the first known legends of the Virtuegreel go back to the Lands of Danger and Despair, where the people would have been in special need of such tales.

    Stories similar to the Virtuegreel legends, however, go back VERY, very far. Back to hallowed antiquity, when magic was primitive and the first stirrings of the Virtue system were secondary in the imagination of humanity. When eating was more important than anything. Magic was too primitive to even incorporate the “create food” spell that we all take for granted today, and modern agriculture was largely unknown.

    It was thus natural that humanity would attribute magical powers to cauldrons, cups, and other things that fed people. Often, those fed would be the warriors before a battle, thus beginning an association between these magical artifacts and warriors, especially Knights and other elite warriors, which continues to this very day.

    Some of these stories might be true, some might not, but either way the point is that the magic cup
    or magic cauldron became the object of veneration and, as humanity advanced, as day to day life was less of a concern, as Mondain's domination over the world stirred humanity to recognize that lack of Virtue could be just as much as an enemy as starvation, and as the stirrings of the Virtues emerged,
    it was natural that the magic cup would not just fill a man physically, but fill his soul as well.

    And from here, quite mysteriously, during Mondain's domination, and within the Lands of Danger and Despair, the first legends of the Cup of Virtue, the Virtugreel, recognizable as such, emerged.

    Unlike most artifacts in myth and legend, the Cup of Virtue does not appear to have ever had an owner, and, interestingly, it had no past, no creator, no origin story.

    It would appear of its own accord when it was needed, when a great King and his court, or oftentimes also an individual Knight or warrior, were either starving and in need of nourishment, or in danger of forgetting Virtue and right and goodness, or, most commonly both. The cup was especially fond of appearing when desperate times caused a leader or a Knight, and by extension those under him for whom he was responsible, to forget Virtue.

    The legends state that the cup would float, or “hove,” into view. Men would kneel before it, instinctively, and would either be fed or would feel fed, depending on the legend or, presumably, the circumstances. NONE were allowed to touch it. Trying too hard to touch it would results in its going away, and the benefits it brought going away along with it.

    Though the Virtuegreel, even after it was known by that name continued to sate people physically,
    the most famous stories about it concern not hunger, but lack of Virtue, or despair as to its lack.
    The stories, for example, usually concern instances when a Knight or King or Lord or some such
    needed inspiration to carry on through a difficult period, while maintaining his Virtue.

    The Virtugreel became an object to venerate and quest for. It would appear and its appearance marked a new stage in the lives of those it revealed itself to. Suddenly their lives, which may have been comparatively empty before, were filled with a sense of purpose and meaning. Those exposed to the cup would become questers. They would ride out and seek the Virtugreel, entirely lacking any knowledge of where it might be or, even, what specifically to look for. They would just leave the castle or the village or the guild hall or the Round Table or where-ever they were, and go forth and seek.
    Looking for signs, based in faith, not reason, replaced looking for, or following, clues in a more conventional sort of quest.

    The quest for the Cup of Virtue, in short, was not a quest that began in the library. It began in one's heart.

    The journey was almost always more-important than the destination.

    The most one of these questers could hope for was finding it, seeing it alone, but never touching it, never acquiring it, with one exception, which I will mention in a bit.

    The stories have the air of plausibility, despite their fantastical nature. Most of what the heroes of the Virtugreel did is physically possible, and certain things, such as solo-fighting dragons or balrons,
    seem commonplace now, though in olden times they were much more impressive.

    Also some of the locations they described locations we now know exist, and described creatures we now know exist.

    For example, in one of the legends a great battle is said to have taken place, wherein a group of Knights
    fought against a demon lord with particularly prominent horns, a red cape, and green skin, in a monster-filled castle that existed in the center of a barren, monster-ridden land with very few people save those who dwell in the desert, such as my people, and those who wander.
    The castle was described oddly as “between Valor and Compassion.”

    Britannian scholars for a long time considered this story mere myth.They could not imagine how the mists of time would transform the Lands of Danger and Despair into Serpent Isle, and
    then, eventually, into Ilshenar. (Though there is not universal agreement thatthe Lands of Danger and Despair actually became Ilshenar in this way, we will not debate the point for now.)

    The battle described may actually be a myth. But, of course, the place, we now know DOES exist.
    What the legend describes is my land: Ilshenar. A place known as the “Pass of Karnaugh.”

    Further, thanks to recent events, we now know that theDemon Lord the Knights fought also exists, as
    the description is plainly that of Virtuebane.

    Thus, we can see that, while the battle described may well be a myth, it is indeed quite plausible as the demon lord fought exists, and the location described also exists.

    For another example of how a story of the Virtugreel that may well be mere myth might seem plausible, note that several of the stories have the Knights who sought the Virtugreel fighting against the spirits of the Anti-Virtue Dungeons, those are the ghosts and other entities you saw, and in some cases fought,
    when you looked for the Virtugreel on my behalf.

    Those monsters, we know, exist, and the Dungeons of Sin we also know exist, though of course
    they looked radically different then than now, and thus sometimes the parallels between the old stories
    and the present are hard to make. But the places are there, and the parallels can be made,
    though sometimes it is difficult.

    And, for a final example, of how a myth of the Virtugreel may seem perfectly plausible, note that
    many of the leaders described as Kings in the legends, while they were not Kings exactly, did in fact exist. Many, it is known, correspond roughly to tribal leaders of hallowed antiquity, before the time of Mondain. Arturus, Doged the Weak, Cilydd the Husband of the Unnamed Queen, Olwen the Giant's Daughter, and so forth, all have played roles in both the stories of magic cups and cauldrons that preceded the Virtugreel myths, and in the Virtuegreel myths themselves.

    And thus we can see that, though the stories may be myths, they incorporate places and beings that are in fact known to exist, thus lending to them an air of plausibility.

    My first mistake, thus, was in mistaking a plausible myth for actual history. My second mistake, as I will describe shortly, was simple Pride.

    The classical stories of the Virtugreel generally followed the following pattern.

    A Knight or King or Lord, or a group thereof, would be faced with physical hardship,
    or with moral decay, or with loss of sense of purpose, or with a loss of a shared sense of unity,
    or some combination of all of these.

    The Virtugreel would float, or “hove,” into some meeting hall or chamber where those who needed it ere. They would be filled with the desire, the need, to acquire this object. They would also be physically sated, fed, if that was their need. Sometimes the Virtugreel's presence would be heralded
    by a mysterious, ghostly form of a beautiful woman, but more often the cup itself was what would appear.

    Second, and yet more importantly, they would be filled with a sense of purpose. If it was a group at issue, they would be filled with a sense of unity, a sense of belonging and trust in one another.

    And, most importantly of all, they would be filled with a Holy Virtue in a way that the story tellers found difficult to describe. Even if the effect did not last long, and in some cases it unfortunately did not, those effected would find themselves judging themselves and their entire lives, all their deeds,
    by how they felt in the moments they saw the cup.

    This had the unfortunate side effect in some cases of making some of the evilest of them even MORE evil, either because they always saw their evil deeds in contrast to the ideal of Virtue, thus making them
    despair with the hopelessness of the damned. Or because seeing the Virtugreel would make them
    think that all they did was Virtuous, simply by virtue of their having seen the cup.

    But, by far the most common effects of seeing the Virtuegreel were the positive ones.

    The Knight or group of Knights would leave home to seek the Virtugreel, hoping that they would be deemed worthy of actually possessing it, which of course hitherto none had.

    They would encounter monsters, strange locations, mysterious castles within their own lands that they
    had somehow hitherto not noticed. These obstacles would be overcome. Monsters slain, puzzles solved, and so forth. Save for the very few who would essentially turn true evil and become the villains in the next story, most would be inspired to try to do right and perform Virtuous tasks.

    Those who made mistakes along the way would, if sincere, usually be afforded chances to make up for any wrongs they had accidentally committed.

    Those who were not sincere, however, would find their mistakes having terrible consequences.

    An example of the latter is perhaps instructive, especially since it indirectly leads to the only Knight
    ever allowed to actually touch, or possess, the cup.

    Lancelot, a great Knight in most respects, was riding forth looking for the Virtugreel, full of Prideful confidence. He stumbled onto two groups of warriors fighting. He watched for awhile then jumped into the fray to fight on behalf of the side that seemed to be losing. His efforts turned the tide, but after the battle when the beings Lancelot had helped removed their helmets, he could see that they were in fact orcs. He had helped orcs to defeat a group of human warriors. Emboldened, the orcs overran many human villages, and Lancelot could not undo what he had done.

    Many humans died needlessly as a result of his reckless action.

    Lancelot was, thus, never granted the ability to see the Virtuegreel. His pride had blinded him. He could not imagine that, lacking knowledge, he would pick the wrong side. He could not imagine knowledge besides his own instincts.

    In some stories the Virtugreel would never actually be seen. In some it would, glimpsed at varying distances, but never touched. The questers would return home filled, still, with a sense of purpose and the greatest sense of Virtue they had ever felt, filled with a sense of having participated
    in something much greater than themselves. They would then carry those feelings into the rest of their lives.

    I have mentioned how a few times now, how there was one exception to the pattern.

    There was one Knight who was allowed to touch, and actually even possess in some sense, the Virtuegreel. He was Galahad, and his story is notable not only because of his uniqueness in being allowed to touch and possess the Cup of Virtue, but because we know that he, as a person existed, though many of the deeds attributed to him are plainly myths.

    Galahad the historical figure, we know, was a great Paladin who hailed originally from the Land of the Feudal Lords, which of course is present-day Tokuno, the ******* son of Lancelot and an unnamed Tokunoese woman. (Lancelot having found his way by accident into Tokuno after accidentally helping the orcs.)

    At some point after the Shattering, after the defeat of Mondain, and interestingly enough the legends of Galahad and his too-Prideful father Lancelot are among the very few legends of the Virtugreel that take place after the Shattering, he found his way into what is now known as Britannia, and fought on its behalf for some time. He eventually just vanishes from the historical record, and nothing is known of what became of him.

    The stories have him being the only Knight ever to actually touch the Virtugreel, as opposed to merely being allowed to see it or be in its presence. Very little of his quest is actually described in the legends.
    It takes primarily off-stage, as it were. We are told he had adventures, but learn nothing about them. We are told how the story ends, however. Galahad finds the Virtuegreel, is allowed to touch it, to hold it, and is appointed its guardian by unknown, supernatural forces.

    The very real vanishing of the very real Galahad from the very real historical record lends some credence to this story, such as it is, but this of course begs the question of if the Virtugreel exists at all.

    And it is to that critical question that we now turn.

    There is, at this point, very little to indicate that it does exist save for the fact that the villains who took myself and Theresa captive do not wish for us to find it. And even then, during captivity, they plainly said that they did not think it exists, merely wanted to not take the chance that, if it existed at all, I could find it.

    The stories, ultimately, are simply too fantastical, and too contradictory to be true. Events in one story
    do not reflect back on events in the other, even when there is a logical reason to expect such.
    The stories, though widely known basically from the first time they were told, are strangely never known by the characters in the stories.

    Further, there is always too much chance at play in the stories. What little guidance there is comes, somehow, either from the Virtuegreel itself or, even more bizarrely, somehow FROM Virtue. And Virtue, of course, by definition cannot guide or have agency the same way a person can, or a god can.

    The stories, as most scholars think and which I denied for some time, are plainly allegories for the quest to better one's self and to overcome obstacles.

    Like Lancelot himself, I allowed Pride to blind me. Not only did I think I knew better than the many scholars who had determined the Virtuegreel did not exist, but I thought that I could lead the effort to find it.

    In so doing I earned the attention of the evil Knights who oppose everything that the Virtuegreel stands for.

    And endangered myself, my career, and, most importantly, my Theresa.