"How about Two Snakes coming together over a Black Sun? A magnificent standard." "The only Snakes I know of are those of Set and his accursed towers. Their evil has spread to every city. Two or three years ago it was just another Snake Cult. Now? They're everywhere. It is said that they are Deceivers. They murder people in the night. I know nothing." Subotai and the Black Lotus Peddler, Conan the Barbarian (1982) The Oracle said this could never happen. She said that the Great Old Ones were chained beneath the Pillars of the Earth. But I see the evil that haunts mens dreams. The evil that stirs them to madness and murder. The Worms of the Earth - ancient and evil abominations of some prehistoric epoch - have arisen from their millennial slumber to ravage the world and drown it in blood and fire. These eldritch horrors - Old Gods worshipped by the insidious snake cults of savages and evoked in the cannibalistic rites of the Ophidians - are stirring. They haunt mens dreams and send our strong into fits of gibbering madness. They have gathered their Chosen to them. Your doom is at hand, Warrior. Pray for strength. Or pray for the mercy of a quick death. Your worst nightmare is about to come true. What the hell are you talking about this time? We've entered the Age of Armageddon. We've entered the Saga of Ultima VII. (See Ultima VII: The Black Gate. Ultima VII: The Forge of Virtue. Ultima VII (Part 2): Serpents Isle. Ultima VII (Part 2): The Silver Seed.) As described at TVTropes.org: "Ultima VII Part II is a PC game released in 1993 by Origin Systems. It is considered one of the best games in the Ultima series besides its predecessor: Ultima VII...Eighteen months after the events of Ultima VII, Lord British finds out that the Guardian has sent Batlin to a place called the Serpent Isle. Fearing the worst, he sends the Avatar, Iolo, Shamino, and Dupre after Batlin to find out what they are up to. As the Avatar and his/her companions search for Batlin, they quickly become involved in the Cosmic Horror Story going on behind the scenes." Ultima VII is widely considered to be the darkest title of the series. What would make you think this is Ultima VII? The Bane Chosen and their connection to the Banes of Chaos in Ultima VII: Serpents Isle. Bane Chosen. Banes of Chaos. One is a group feared to be associated with Chaos. The other is the manifestation of the Great Chaos Serpent. Coincidence? I think not. If that is true then we can infer that the Story of the Bane Chosen is true. The loss of ones family would weaken even the hardest of men; making them ripe for the corrupting influence of a Greater Evil. The Serpent may very well be reaching out and touching their dreams. Corrupting them and twisting them to his will. So who is the Serpent? Serpents, rather. The Serpents are the Great Earth Serpent and its two counterparts; the Serpent of Order and the Serpent of Chaos. The Three form a triad that resembles the closest things to Gods in the Ultima Series. Shortly following the defeat of Mondain; Exodus abducts and binds the Great Earth Serpent. With the Prime Serpent captured, the Serpent of Order and the Serpent of Chaos throw their followers into a conflict later known as the War of Imbalance. The Ophidians of Order would introduce Automatons into the War to defeat the Serpent of Chaos. (And we already have those.) The Chaos Serpent is not necessarily Evil; but fits the archetype of the Eldritch Abomination. Then what is this War? The Bane Chosen vs. the Ophidians. I suspect the Second Ophidian War is the beginning of the War of Imbalance in Ultima Online; which I mention above. So who are the Ophidians? The Ophidians were actually humans in Ultima VII: Serpents Isle. Their religion was centered around the notions of Chaos, Order, and Balance. The Ophidians might be the followers of the Serpent of Order. The Bane Chosen are almost certainly the followers of the Serpent of Chaos. The Bane Chosen? I suspect the inspiration from the Bane Chosen is a combination of the Fellowship and the Banes of Chaos; both from Ultima VII. Cultists who appear Good and Righteous on the exterior; vile demon worshippers with insidious motives on the interior. Why are the Bane Chosen fighting the Ophidians? Intolerance. Hatred. Those were the major themes behind the War of Imbalance. Those are the major themes behind the Bane Chosen. But don't forget that Ricardo had once stolen a sacred artifact from the Ophidians. The Artificed Scion. It is what started the First Ophidian War. Compare that to the Eye of the Serpent; a sacred relic needed to summon the Chaos Hierophant. If the Bane Chosen are followers of the Chaos Serpent; than could it be that they're attempting to summon his High Priest? So if this is Ultima VII; where is Serpents Isle? We cannot be sure. The Ophidians can be found in the Lost Lands (which are accessed via the Serpent Pillars; like Serpents Isle.). But I'm not convinced. Has anyone noticed if you rotate the map of Ilshenar to the left it begins to look alot like Serpents Isle? Also keep in mind that after being defeated; Lord Blackthorne could be found attempting to redeem himself as a monk on Serpents Isle. In Ultima Online lore he flees to Ilshenar. And if that is not enough? The Shrine of Balance in Ultima VII is located on Serpents Isle. In Ultima Online; the Shrine of Balance is located north of Ver Lor Reg in Ilshenar. Monitor is the City of Courage in Serpents Isle. Montor is the broken ruins surrounding the Chaos Shrine in Ilshenar. And where can the Automatons (War of Imbalance) be found in Ultima Online? Ilshenar. What about Exodus? Exodus has a presence in Ultima VII. The Forge of Virtue. "Forge of Virtue was an expansion pack that adds a quest to Ultima VII in which the Avatar must pass a series of tests to revalidate himself in the three principles of Truth, Love, and Courage, and destroy the last remnants of Exodus." We don't really know what kind of state Exodus is in. Could he be a weakened remnant of his former self; having expended his energies during the Third War of Darkness only to face Defeat? Or in our parallel universe could he be behind what is to become the War of Imbalance? Minax? I'm lost on this one. We know she is still around. (She was the one who sent Lt. Crag to investigate the Gem of Duplicity.) But aside from that we know nothing of what she is doing or why she has been silent for so long. The Guardian? If we follow the logic of Ultima IX; the Guardian cannot exist in our world because no one has become the Avatar. If we follow the storyline prior to Ultima IX; the Guardian is the manifestation of the Three Shadowlords who become one unified being. Where is he in the story? At some point I suspect the Shadowlords will recover and begin influencing events. The Banished Shadowlords haunt the Dreams of the Avatar in Ultima Underworld. And the Guardian is more than capable of making Minax and Exodus his pawns in this cosmic scheme. So what does this have to do with the Stygian Abyss and Tel Mur? I believe Tel Mur - like Killorn Keep from Ultima: The Labyrinth of Worlds - is a distant world that we can access through the Abyss. Killorn Keep had been conquered by the Guardian. Tel Mur is slowly being conquered by some Evil. Coincidence? So where are we going? I speculate that we're entering the darkest age of Ultima Online. This is no longer the bright and cheerful Age of Enlightenment; where the citizens are blessed with their virtuous protector(s). This is an age of Eldritch Abominations. Cults and Assassination. War and Bloodshed. This is the Age of Armageddon.