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[Official Fiction] In the Shadow of Virtue: Prelude to War.

Discussion in 'UO Baja' started by WarderDragon, Dec 24, 2010.

  1. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
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    “Your majesty, may I get a moment of your time to approve the final design?”

    Dawn was sitting on a small bench outside of her private chambers adjusting her boot. She paused a moment without looking up as she tried to figure out what he meant. She remembered and answered in a weary voice, “I will be there in just a moment, Rankin. Has there been any news of my husband?”

    “No, your majesty. I’m sorry, but his location is still unknown.”

    Dawn stood and looked Rankin in the eye. Rankin was an older man, the gray hair on the top of his head slowly disappearing, but he seemed to be making up for it by growing out what remained. Though he was about Dawn’s height, he was noticeably heavier and the and the skin around his cheeks and eyes sagged like a hound. Dawn thought he looked like he belonged in his long robes, padding about a great castle. “Lead the way.”

    The worry was making her old too, Dawn thought grimly. She wasn’t sleeping well. She wondered if all leaders grew old before their time. Where could Ors be? Is he still alive? There were too many shadows of late, too many angles. Her gut told her that he had been kidnapped by the Bane Chosen, but they had set no ransom and those who had been questioned seemed to know nothing about it.

    Dawn fought to turn her mind to more positive thoughts. At least she had gotten her soldiers’ training program improved. She could see them getting better, looking sharper. That was some comfort, the difference she was making in those soldiers’ lives. The new ship she had commissioned was also nearing completion and it would be an important part of securing Britannia’s naval dominance in the inevitable siege of Magincia.

    She knew that the end game would be the destruction of the leadership of the Bane Chosen, but so far they had not yet revealed themselves. Attacking the troops of the Bane Chosen was easy enough but it seemed to be hacking at the leaves of the problem. Well, she thought, I may not yet be able to find the root but by the virtues I’m going to chop down their tree.

    Dawn followed Rankin down several halls to a receiving chamber. There, in the center of the room was a large object with a silk cloth thrown over it. Behind the object stood two greasy gentlemen who smiled more than she felt they ought. One was tall and thin and the other was short and fat but both were dressed in expensive and very similar clothing.

    The tall, thin one spoke, “Good morning, your majesty! You are as radiant as always. We are honored to be in your presence.”

    Dawn looked at Rankin. “I thought we already agreed to buy these things.”

    “We did, your majesty.” Rankin scowled at the two gentlemen and gestured for them to get on with it.

    “So, let’s see it.” said Dawn flatly.

    The tall gentleman bowed at her. “As you wish, your majesty. My partner and I would not wish to keep you from your other duties. Remove the cloth, Mortimer.”

    The short, fat gentleman bowed low, then walked over to the silk cloth and pulled it away.

    A large bell was revealed, suspended above a pedestal.

    Mortimer bowed low again. “It is an exact replica of the Bell of Courage, your majesty.”

    Dawn was not looking at Rankin, but she knew he was looking at her expectantly. He was obviously excited. He was the one that had talked her into this project. She assumed that these gentlemen had talked him into it first, but it did seem like a good idea. Rankin had repeated it over and over like it was a slogan, ‘Put the bell of courage where the people can receive courage from it.’

    Dawn had to admit to herself that she was impressed. She hadn’t held the bell of courage since the Dragon War but it was the kind of thing that made an impression. Looking at the replica in front of her, she could not tell the difference and she prided herself in her attention to detail. They had even duplicated the faint line of the patched crack. As Dawn stared at the line she thought, I know how it feels. I feel like I just got here and I’m already cracked.

    “With your approval, your majesty, our workers are ready to install these in all of Britannia’s major cities,” said the thin man, bowing.

    “How about Magincia?” quipped Dawn, grimly.

    “Ho-ho, indeed your Majesty, we won’t be installing one in Magincia. Did you hear that, Mortimer? Magincia, Mortimer, isn’t her Majesty a cut up?” He snorted a patronizing laugh.

    “You are a wit, your majesty!” Mortimer said bowing again.

    Dawn had never felt so… humorless.

    Dawn looked at Rankin, then back at the two gentlemen. “You have done well, artificers. These bells will be used by the towns to call its people to arms if more invasions come. They will also serve another purpose, a greater one. They will remind the people of Britannia of our sacred virtues. The people will look upon your work and draw courage from it in these troubled times.”

    “Virtuebane has corrupted my people by corrupting their ability to perceive Truth. He may have defeated Truth but we will defeat him with what we have left, with our Courage and our Love for each other.”

    Thoughts of Ors flooded Dawn’s mind when she spoke of Love. She could feel herself about to be overwhelmed with tears and she couldn’t do that here. Dawn nodded to Rankin and to the gentlemen. “Now if you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend.”

    She quickly left the room.

    *** That night, on the Isle of Magincia ***

    Under the cover of the night sky, the black altar seethed with power and the ground trembled. In a circle around it, Bane Chosen mages held hands chanting, their bodies crackling with dark power. Behind each of them stood a great demon with a massive sword, chanting in unison with the mages. The chanting grew until the mages’ bodies began to shake violently. Suddenly, a great bolt of lightning burst from the night sky and struck the altar. On that signal, the demon blades swung forward and released the dark energy from the headless necks of the writhing mages. The energy left their bodies and circled inward, forming a black gate above the altar.

    There was a great crack of thunder, as if the world was about to split in two, and an ancient hellhound leapt through the gate and landed on one of the freshly fallen bodies near the altar. One after another, ancient beasts came through until the altar was surrounded. Despite the smell of fresh meat all around them, the hellhounds were vigilant, remaining in their places as they waited for their master.

    Two great horns pierced the gate followed by a great cloven hoof that stepped through and found its footing on top of the altar. Thunder pealed and rain began to fall as if the sky wept in sorrow. In this way, his eminence Virtuebane entered the world of Sosaria.

    He stood atop the altar in the rain and looked out into the darkness. Past his ancient hellhounds. Past the ring of demons with bloody swords. He looked at the army that stood behind them in attention, his most loyal followers. He looked into their souls and grinned.

    He raised his massive arms in triumph and roared. “Behold, the time of Virtuebane is at hand! Go forth and receive your destiny!”

    There was a great cheer from the soldiers and they raised their torches in defiance of the rain.

    Virtuebane clenched his rain soaked fist, and lowered his brow, “The soldier who brings me the Crystal of Duplicity will be assured a place at my right hand in the new Sosaria!”
     
  2. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
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    There is one known Rankin referenced to in Ultima Canon.

    Interesting to see who the Queen might be surrounding herself with and where that path might lead.

    The Codex of Editable Wisdom - Rankin.

    Rankin was the branch leader for the Fellowship in Moonglow in Ultima VII. He is quite an egotistical man and his actions are rather suspicious. He's revealed to be quite a dangerous and unscrupulous man, resorting to murdering one of the members of his branch in order to keep the truth about him from getting out.

    By Ultima VII, Rankin had not been in his job for a significant amount of time, since the branch in Moonglow was relatively new, and had only a few members. Rankin, however, was a very self-serving man, as Balayna, the treasurer of the branch, pointed out. Money frequently disappeared, and she suspected Rankin was behind it. After the Avatar told Balayna's suspicions to Rankin, he asked the Avatar to deliver a bottle to her. When the Avatar delivered this bottle, Balayna was killed shortly thereafter, when she took a whiff of the toxic contents. When confronted by the Avatar on the matter, Rankin played innocent, "wondering" what could possibly have happened to her.

    When the Avatar retrieved the inner cube from the Cube Generator, Rankin was compelled to tell the truth by it: He had actually murdered Balayna to erase his tracks, so that no one could find his dirty dealings and theft. It wasn't revealed, however, if he was also involved in the Fellowship's true purpose for the Guardian.