The Dark Moon is unique to Baja. Not much has been written about it, but there have been allusions made in the form of the Covenant of the Dark Moon, and RP surrounding the Tower of the Crescent / the New Mage Tower.
It is presumed to be important to the religion of Easterners, who see it with the same reverence that Shinto practitioners see Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess.
But where it's main function lies, is in the tides and tectonic movements of Ultima. All continents, with the sole exception of Malas and Ter Mur, are part of the same world. Game mechanics, however, limit sea travel to a short distance around these landmasses.
The nature of the third moon solves this dilemma. It's nature renders it all but invisible to most Sosarians. In turn, the tides are all but unpredictable, and the movement of three independent, celestial bodies prompts a rampant volcanism that leaves intercontinental travel almost impossible.
On the other hand, the moons and their influence on the world are a source of magic all it's own: Tidal Mana. It has forced humans to learn the ancient science of the First Men, Goetia, to transport themselves from one continent to another. And last, it leaves the door open for several lost and unknown continents, both canonical (the Land of Dark Unknown) and fictional (Thule).
For the historian, the writer, the archaeologist, an understanding of time, its important dates and auspices, is central to understanding the unfolding narrative of history. For the discerning fan of Ultima, it can also be one of the most frustrating elements to decode. Time in the fiction is inconsistent, replete with errors, and what is considered canon in one era is often replaced or forgotten during another, only to be rediscovered, reapplied and retconned yet again.
Below is a brief explanation of the various conflicting, all canonical versions of times forward march, and a proposed solution.
The canonical version of times passage, observable in the game world through the passage of day to night, is a conversion chart that goes something like this: One hour equals a day. One day is equal to a month. One month is equal to a year. And each year, we progress through twelve.
That means a character who started in September 1997 would have lived a minimum of 172 Sosarian years. ((12 * 14) + 4 = 172.)
According to Shattered Worlds, a compendium of lore prepared for use in the Seer program, Zog (the Man) cast Armageddon about seven thousand years ago. Despite all life being obliterated from the face of the earth in what amounts to a nuclear holocaust, humans, and the Empire of Esidin, manage to evolve and reappear within a thousand years.
That, of course, conflicts with other lore that suggests Zog (the Inhuman) wiped out an advanced, alien society at least one hundred thousand years before the ascent of Mondain. (This civilization, labeled the Overlords on Baja and based in the fiction of UO2, will be discussed later.) Civilization emerges first in the form of the Logos, the Juka, and later the Meer (Kilrathi), before humans from Terra (Earth) arrive to colonize the world and erect their own Earth-based societies.
The First Age of Darkness
In Ultima canon, Mondain of Sosaria murders his father and flees with the Sun Gem, a great alchemical jewel that grants its user untold power and wisdom. Consorting with Daemons, and an ancient civilization from the Stars, Mondain creates his super soldiers (the Orc) and makes war upon Sosaria, hoping to trap the soul of each living person in the Sun Gem and use their essences to attain the powers of God.
In that canon, he is said to have ruled for a thousand years, and in that time made war upon the Empires of Man, reducing them to burning cinders and turning Sosaria into a post-Apocalyptic wasteland. It was during this period that Lord Cantabrigian British, a Terran, arrives on the scene to go Mad Max and carve out an empire of his own. But this is where things become a bit conflicted.
Some lore states, or suggests, that Lord British arrived late in the millenial epoch that was Mondain. (-100.) In other words, Mondain was little more than an abstract, immortal being who bided his time until mere decades before the ascent of Cantabrigian. Other lore suggests that he arrives during the reign of Wolfgang, Mondains father, (-1000) and carved out his own empire as the world collapsed around him, becoming the sole buttress of civilization and enlightenment in the vast holocaust that was Mondain's reign of blood.
The Stranger, in Ultima 1, is said to have used a Time Machine to arrive at the beginning of Mondain's misrule, shattering the Gem before falling into a deep sleep. (Sleeping Beauty rises centuries later, to the bromantic embrace of Cantabrigian.) Yet was Mondain's evil wiped wiped from the subsequent centuries? It doesn't appear so. Mondain's millennial rule does not cease for one thousand years, in spite of being defeated centuries before. Time loop?
Shattered Worlds attempts solve this discrepency with the suggestion that Mondain lived three hundred years ago, and upon mudering his father he traveled a thousand years into the past to cement his rule.
All canon. But not all can be true.
The Britannian Epoch
Shattered Worlds, also canon, places the launch of Ultima Online three hundred years after the conclusion of Ultima I. (We will assume this to be the end of the thousand year reign. And that the thousand years did pass between the Murder of Wolfgang and the final defeat of the Dark One.)
300 A.B. This date isn't a point of contention. It establishes enough time for the world, brought from the edge of Apocalypse, to begin anew, building cities, societies and empires. Where the contention lies, is just how long is 300 years in Britannia?
We will use Magdalena as an example. Her character is about to turn 30. She was 29 in 2011. 28 in 2010. She ages at the same pace as humans on Earth. As do most characters on Baja. As do almost all lore characters I am aware of. That means she was 15 when Ultima Online launched.
If, however, we adhere to the canon I describe above, she should be at least 187. (15 + 172.) Ouch.
No character on Baja, or UO, suggests their character has aged that much in such a short period of time. (Though some do suggest that their child characters age at just such a pace, such as "Addie" on Atlantic. This rapid aging seems to cease upon reaching adulthood.) If Magdalena's case is consistent with Baja lore, and the truth that is our characters, then Mondain's defeat occured 25 years before the launch of Ultima Online, (300 / 12 = 25) or ten years before she was born.
That is not enough time for the rise of Trinsic and Magincia.
If we prescribe current canon, then 472 years have passed in total since the defeat of Mondain. If, however, we assume that 300 is a base, and that our years from that base are based in the winter cycle we see each December, then it is fair to conclude we are living in 315.
Time, Relative to Earth
Lord Cantabrigian British and the Stranger are both presumed to have come from modern Earth.
Wing Commander, another Origin Franchise, is set during the distant future, and Ultima lore suggests that we, our characters and Britannia itself, is set at a time consistent with, or after, the genocidal war between the Terran Federation and it's enemies, which means Cantabrigian and the Avatar were transported to a future period.
If we assume this to be canon, and note the presence of the Meer, who are said to descend from the Kilrathi of the Wing Commander franchise, and that the Meer disappeared as the first human empires were rising in Sosaria (Esidin, Ilshenar, Thule), then I will should assume that at least ten thousand years have passed since the end of that war and modern Britannia.
I prefer a linear, concise approach, and wish to avoid some of the major abstractions other shards use to explain these discrepancies. (i.e. That time itself moves at an inconsistent pace.)
The rapid pace of time itself stems from a slight misunderstanding of Ultima fiction. The Stranger would leave Britannia for a month and return to discover decades had past. Depending on the era, the lore suggests this is either the inconsistant movement of time in different parts of the cosmos, or the act of Time Travel.
What wasn't the case were Britannians being a species of **** sapiens who each possessed the lifespan of a large rodent. The world was changing. Vast tectonic shifts and changes in the world occured during the Avatars departure. The world progressed from the Dark Ages of Science to the Renaissance to a Guardian-corrupted over centuries, not decades.
Therefore I suggest a timeline that uses this logic. Six thousand years are said to have passed between the rise of the Esidin Empire. Mondain's Empire lasted a thousand and saw the near annihilation of all mankind. Three centuries of Britannian Imperial Rule have coalesced into the world we now know as Ultima Online, with fifteen years (or Winters) having passed since that date.
In most fiction, the use of God and religion tends to come in two distinct categories. In the first, it is used as a backwards concept, the domain of the weak and ignorant, something for our enlightened protagonists to mock and ignore. Or, as is the case on some generic shards such as Atlantic, it is used by those who wish to grant their characters power beyond that of any mere mortal, by proclaiming themselves the Chosen of Generic Fantasy God (i.e. Lloth), whom is written as existing without a doubt in Generic Fantasy World.
We are neither.
On Baja, God and superstition have a much loftier place in the fiction and lore of our characters, along with it's counterpart, reason and science. Yet, despite this increased emphasis, the divinities themselves are silent, and their existence is based on faith. This allows for a flourishing of various religions, from the Abrahamic-inspired to the Pagan, without one dictated as “the truth” and superseding another.
There are, however, several agreed upon points that are established in the lore and cannot be disputed: the Virtues are a religion, and those who adhere to them can and do attain distinct spiritual powers. The Virtues are real, though whether this was all along, or is the result of the faith of untold millions impacting the Universe, is unclear. It is faith in these Virtues that upholds the barrier of Trammel, and if faith in the Virtues were to fail, so too would the barrier fail. (Thus the reason villains and antagonists, time and time again, spend their energies on desecrating the Shrines and corrupting the sacramental relics.) The religion that populated Sosaria before the advent of the Virtues, Truth, was monotheistic, and proclaimed a “One.”
The Virtues did not originate with Lord British, but were an ancient rite associated with the ancient Semetic empire known as Ilshenar.
The Time Lord is a cosmic being who inspired the Virtues, but is not God. (Though to some, he might be a God.) Devils, created beings such as the Slasher of Veils, are distinct from Daemons, who are formed from the collective hatreds and desires of sentient beings, such as Pride, which formed Virtue Bane.
Magic, the Void, and Religion are inexplicably tied together.
In a world that has just pulled itself from the edge of Oblivion, and whose people are under the constant threat of doom from all sides, have become pessimistic, cynical and morbid, thus the positive aspects of religion (redemption and love) can become corrupted (superstition and fanaticism).
Religions are able to coexist, despite their different views, due to the Void. The Void, which contains all the cosmic, emotional energies of all sentient beings, reacts to the wills and desires of the living, as well as their fears and nightmares. The strong faith of a man, whether he is Virtuous or a Pagan, seems to impact the Universe in unexplainable ways.