Twenty years prior to the events of Ultima IX, the runes were stolen from the Royal Museum in Britain. The Guardian twisted and corrupted these symbols of the Eight Virtues until they became a force of evil. These corrupted glyphs were then placed within the base of the Guardian's columns which erupted throughout the land, serving to drive the people of Britannia away from the Virtues.
The Avatar was forced to delve into each of the eight dungeons and retrieve the glyphs. Then, with the appropriate sigil and mantra, the Avatar could cleanse the Shrines, thus restoring the glyphs to their appropriate rune, and helping return the people to the Virtues.