In the Inner Sanctum of the High Temple of the Guardian, B.B. (Britannian Branch), three cloaked figures, two men and a woman, waited impatiently. The three obviously were uncomfortable in each other’s company. They each knew very well that the other two would like nothing more than to be the sole High Priest(ess). And the only path to promotion in the New Fellowship was the permanent retirement of one’s rivals.
“Well Danag,” the woman snarled. “Thou said we wert summoned. Why is he not here?”
She pointed to a large mirror, around which the three were gathered.
“Patience, Elynor,” Danag replied, trying to sound calm. “We await the Guardian’s convenience, not thine own.”
“Wherefore?” the other man, a double-chinned, balding figure asked.
“I know not, Klog. He did say only that he had an announcement to make.”
“I...” Elynor was interrupted by a chill wind, before the mirror turned blue. Blue, that is, except for a red bulge that was growing out of it. The bulge receded then another grew from a different spot on the mirror. This one also receded, but the third, more general bulge extended into a face that featured often in the dreams and nightmares of all present.
“KLOG. ELYNOR. DANAG. MY HIGH PRIESTS. HOW GOES THE CONQUEST OF BRITANNIA?”
“Those otherworlders thou hast supplied us, Lord,” said Danag. “Hath succeeded. Mine fleets hath completely isolated the mainland from the islands.”
“Boats, hah!” said Elynor. “The mainland was isolated when mine own people secured the eight moonstones. And with the Minoc and Vesper mines in our sole possession, I do predict a scarcity of iron soon.”
“Witch, this is Ultima, not Baldur’s Gate!” growled Danag.
“What tiresome bickering,” said Klog. “What both of thee fail to realize is that it is the hearts of the people that shall win us this war. British was a fool to try to disband the Fellowship so abruptly. Even now there are riots in the streets of Britain, and cries of ’Tyrant!’ The Triad of Inner Strength was a foundation for the lives of many. Men will fight for their beliefs.”
“The suspicious death of Patterson didst not help the king’s case,” Danag agreed reluctantly.
“YOU HAVE ALL DONE WELL. THIS PLEASES ME GREATLY, AS I HAVE COME TO A MOMENTOUS DECISION.”
The three waited expectantly, hands wringing and knees shaking.
“I HAVE DEVISED A MOST CUNNING METHOD TO DISPOSE OF THE AVATAR WHEN HE ESCAPES FROM PAGAN.”
“Share thy wisdom with us, oh cunning one,” said Klog.
“Yes, tell us, oh master,” Danag spoke quickly, giving Klog a dirty look.
“THE PLAN IS...”
“Yes?” asked the three leaders of the New Fellowship.
“OH, THIS IS TOO GOOD.”
“THE PLAN IS...”
“WE’LL MAKE THE AVATAR THINK THAT I AM HIS EVIL TWIN.”
There was a shocked silence.
Then Elynor burst out laughing. The shock broken, Klog, and then even Danag, began to chuckle.
I THOUGHT YOU WOULD LIKE IT. BUT WE MUST MAKE PREPARATIONS. FIRST WE MUST CLEAR OUT THE ISLANDS OF SPEKTRAN TO SERVE AS OUR BRITANNIA.“
”But lord,“ said Klog. ”Will he not notice the land is a bit small?“
”NAH. INTELLIGENCE ISN’T ONE OF THE EIGHT VIRTUES. THEN I NEED ELYNOR TO GET ME SOME PEOPLE TO PLAY THE PARTS OF LORD BRITISH AND THE COMPANIONS.“
”That could be difficult,“ said Elynor. ”I can handle the others, more or less, but I have nobody that could impersonate the part of Gwenno, alas.“
”NO MATTER. JUST USE ANY OLD CHIT. HE WON’T NOTICE, HE’LL BE TOO BUSY TRYING TO SAVE THE WORLD. OH, AND WE’LL NEED A REALLY DEFORMED GARGOYLE WITH LIP SYNCING SKILLS TO PLAY ME, OF COURSE. THEN WE’LL NEED A SPY, SOMEONE TO KEEP US INFORMED OF THE AVATAR’S PROGRESS. DANAG?“
”COULD YOU FIND US SOMEONE WITH A BIT OF WIT AND NO TASTE FROM ONE OF YOUR BROTHELS IN BUCCANEER’S DEN? THE TYPE OF WOMAN I HAVE NEED OF WILL DO ANYTHING OR ANYBODY FOR THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF GOLD.“
”I know exactly the lady you need, Master,“ Danag smiled. ”In fact, may I humbly request the honor of some small part to play in thy brilliant scheme?“
”WHAT? OH SURE. GET A DISGUISE, MAYBE AN EYEPATCH OR SOMETHING. WE’LL TELL THE AVATAR THAT YOU’RE BLACKTHORN.“
”NO, NO, NO. I HAVEN’T TOLD YOU THE BEST PART YET. WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO IS SET UP A TRAIL OF CLUES THAT LEADS THE AVATAR TO BELIEVE THAT HE MUST SACRIFICE HIMSELF TO SAVE BRITANNIA. IN THE FINAL SHOWDOWN BETWEEN HIM AND ME (OR SO HE THINKS) HE’LL CHANT SOME GIBBERISH THAT HE THINKS WILL ERECT A SHIELD, ISOLATING THE TWO OF US FROM THE REST OF BRITANNIA. THEN HE’LL CONFIDENTLY CAST THE ARMAGEDDON SPELL, THINKING IT THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT ME. THE IRONY BEING THE SHIELDING RITUAL IS A FARCE, AND THE AVATAR WILL END UP DESTROYING BRITANNIA. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA... HEY, WHY AREN’T YOU LAUGHING?“
”Forgive us, master,“ said Klog. ”But wouldn’t that kill us too?“
”DO YOU BELIEVE I WOULD ABANDON MY MOST LOYAL SERVANTS?“
”Of course not,“ Klog replied quickly. The other two nodded forcefully.
”THEN START LAUGHING!“
The hilarity continued for quite some time, before it was interrupted by one of the Guardian’s wizards.
”Lord Guardian. High Priests.“ The wizard made a deep obeiscance, then three curt bows (closer to nods, actually). ”I bring news from Pagan.“
”NEWS OF THE AVATAR?“
”Yes, master. It would seem that the Avatar misjudged a jump to one of thy cunning sinking platforms, and, well, ended up feeding the Lurker.“
”THE AVATAR IS DEAD?“
”THEN ALL MY PLANS FOR REVENGE ARE RUINED! BUGGER! DAMN YOU AVATAR, DAMNNNNNNN YOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUU!“