The adventurers were first introduced to this legendary town in Bard's Tale 11, when it was the center of an evil spell cast by the wizard Mangar the Dark, who surrounded it with a spell of eternal winter. The heroes then found themselves on a journey that would challenge them to save the town from his control.
Other adventurers had attempted to defeat Mangar and free Skara Brae, but failed -- Knights such as Lord Garrick, viscount of Skara Brae's sister city Hamelon, who reached Mangar's chamber with a dwindling party of warriors, but was woefully unprepared for the final challenge. Garrick had marvelled at the town of Skara Brae, and its dungeons and complexs, noting in his journal: "Was Skara Brae perchance built over the ruins of an ancient single complex, the like of which does not now exist, save in the minds of men?"2
After the latest heroes defeated Mangar, Skara Brae remained safe and peaceful, for a time. While the heroes were off on other quests, Mangar's master, the Mad God Tarjan, returned for vengeance - Skara Brae's destruction was just the beginning of his reign of terror. This is the setting for Bard's Tale 3, when the heroes return to the ruins of Skara Brae3 from the wilderness.
Sung by the bard gracing the introductory screen of BT1:
The song I sing will tell the tale of a cold and wintery day,
When evil fled and brave men bled the Dark One came to stay.
Of castle walls and torchlit halls and a price men had to pay.
Till men of old for blood and gold had rescued Skara Brae!
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The Legend of Skara Brae
Long ago, when magic still prevailed, the evil wizard Mangar the Dark threatened a small but harmonious country town called Skara Brae. Evil creatures oozed into Skara Brae and joined his shadow domain. Mangar froze the surrounding lands with a spell of Eternal Winter, totally isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Then, one night the town militiamen all disappeared.
The future of Skara Brae hung in the balance. And who was left to resist? Only a handful of unproven young Warriors, junior Magic Users, a couple of Bards barely old enough to drink, and some out of work Rogues.
You are there. You are the leader of this ragtag group of freedom fighters. Luckily you have a Bard with you to sing your glories, if you survive. For this is the stuff of legends.
And so the story begins...
The Tale of Skara Brae (part 2)
After a time of peace with the defeat of Mangar, a new and more ominous terror returned to exact his vengeance. Sung by the bard gracing the introductory screen of BT3:
Come hear the tale of Skara Brae: A god returned to have his way.
Creatures of darkness, spawn of night, the Mad One's kin destroyed the site.
Defenders fell, their bane come true, Garth, Roscoe, Kylearan, too!
As doom approached, the helpless fled. It did no good, the streets ran red.
Survivors few, they sit and mope, with but one final ray of hope:
'Cross time and space, the legends say, heroes at last! To steal the day!
"As I lay dying..."
This letter from an anonymous source was left for someone to discover4, calling for the aid and return of the heroes who had previously saved Skara Brae from the clutches of Mangar:
I pray my body does not fail me before I am able to complete this most important missive. I pray as well that, somehow, the heroes who once before saved Skara Brae will find this accounting and act upon it. I leave this record so those who come after will know what horrors that the Mad God Tarjan has perpetrated, and so that they will not be lulled into believing that Skara Brae was his sole target.
How can I describe that day. Nay, it did not begin like all others, for on that day we celebrated the victory over Mangar that had so recently liberated our city. Bards from the world over arrived in Skara Brae to play and herald the brave deeds of those heroes who saved us. The townspeople danced in the streets with happiness, and the great festival filled all with an overwhelming joy of life and renewed hope for the future.
Then Mangar's Master, The Mad God Tarjan, arrived to reduce our day of celebration into a day of mourning. His shadow sank the city into pitiless black oblivion. Foul creatures that had festered in his flesh like maggots burst forth to assault fair Skara Brae. People ran, but could not run swiftly enough to escape. Tarjan's minions left none untouched.
Forgive the shakiness of my script, for life ebbs painfully from my body as I write. Tarjan, mocking my death curse, told me Skara Brae was merely one in a series of conquests he had long contemplated to complete his revenge. He laughed when I said heroes would come to destroy his mad plan, yet I sensed fear in his voice when I promised that the legendary Hawkslayer, and those who defeated Mangar, would return again to triumph. As payment for my threat, he gave a swift twist of his jewelled sword into my belly.
Tarjan must be stopped. Whosoever reads this, you must get word to the heroes. This will be their greatest challenge, for upon their efforts rests the fate of more than Skara Brae, more than the Six Cities of the plains. Their failure will mean the extinction of all life - save for the wretched Tarjan and his servile parasites. Pray for success... and life renewed.
In reality, Skara Brae is an ancient village located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland in Orkney, Scotland. It bears very little resemblance to its representations in Bard's Tale, but holds significant historic value.
While in the initial stages of planning for Bard's Tale 4, Brian Fargo of inXile Entertainment visited Skara Brae to research in person much of its history, and Scottish culture and legends for inspiration (and incorporation) into Bard's Tale 4's lore and storyline.
Skara Brae is a city name also chared with sister RPG, Ultima. According to Brian Fargo, this is the reason Skara Brae became the town name in Bard's Tale:
"EA at the time asked us to work with a designer to help work on Bard’s Tale. He felt strongly about the name Skara Brae, turns out he was working with Garriott also, hence why Skara Brae also in Ultima."5
Position: (10,20) Content: "You stand in the antechamber of Mangar the Dark, evil Archmage of Skara Brae. Mangar glares at you with deep hatred. 'Die, mortals!' he screams. With a wave of his hand a few of his close friends drop by. They don't look like a fun group." ...Demon Lords, Vampire Lords, Mangar
Content: ...After killing Mangar: "Kylearan, the good Archmage, appears before you in a flash of light. 'Well done!' he cries, beaming. 'Your quest in Skara Brae is now finished! The evil one is now defeated, and his spell of winter will soon end. You will all, as a symbol of my gratitude, receive gold and experience bonus of 300,000 units. Fare well and live long!'" Teleport to Adventurer's Guild
Position: (3,4) Content: "A magic mouth on the wall speaks: 'Know this, that a man called Tarjan, thought to many to be insane, had through wizardly powers, proclaimed himself a god in Skara Brae a hundred years ago. His image is locked in stone until made whole again...'"
The Bard is a wandering minstrel. You'll see him with a tankard of ale in front of him in the less reputable taverns -- the rowdier the better. Bards were once warriors, and can still use most warrior weapons. But they turned to music instead and now play songs with an almost magical effect on other characters. Bards don't get the warrior's advantage of extra attacks in combat anymore -- but their magic is so unique, it is almost impossible to survive Skara Brae without one.
Any true Bard has six songs on his lips, though to play them he must have an instrument equipped. A song played as the party is exploring is long-lasting and continues even after the party returns from combat mode, even if other songs were played during combat. Any songs played during combat are abbreviated and so create different magical effects than the full non-combat versions. The shorter combat versions don't endure as long either, only one round of fighting.
Only one Bard tune can be played at a time. If a second one is played while the first is still playing (by the same or a different Bard), the first will end. A Bard can play as many tunes as experience levels before his throat gets dry. Then it's off to a tavern for a drink to rejuvenate his voice. Tough duty, but someone has to do it.
Bard songs vary according to the difficulty of the dungeon. When the going gets tough, the Bard goes drinking.
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