by Grant Smuts
Every story has a villain. This one’s mine.
The Forgotten House of Callister
Born Sheoul of the house of Callister, Morvannon enjoyed an easy early life in the city of Fyrisia. A studious young man, he often butted heads with his elder brother, who was swiftly winning renown as a champion duellist, and his father, a war hero. Despite disagreeing with the other men in his household, he was close to his mother, who shared his quiet disposition.
Encouraged by her to follow his own path, regardless of his father’s will, he left House Callister – and his right to inherit any titles – to enter the Monastery of The Hidden, a quasi-religious order devoted to uncovering the mysteries of magic.
Time in the Monastery
Entering the esoteric school, Sheoul soon found that he had a natural aptitude for magic and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming one of its most powerful mages in a relatively short time. He studied under a man who at the time was known only as ‘Dawnmantle’. Taking on the Intention of Nature, he began wearing a shaman’s garb – a cloak of feathers and fur.
It was at this time when he first encountered the strange entities known as Aions.
He was invited into the inner circle of the Hidden, being the youngest monk in history to receive the honour, and there he found one of the sources of magic – a slumbering deity. Through it, they sensed the power of the World Soul, and each received a vision of the Aions. Troubled by what he saw, Sheoul spoke to Dawnmantle, eventually determining that they had both seen the same thing – a world of lies. Sheoul challenged the Abbot of the monastery to a duel, intentionally going against the rules of the Monastery, wishing to get thrown out. Despite thinking that merely suggesting the duel would be enough, the Abbot accepted his challenge.
To everyone’s amazement, however, Sheoul duelled the Abbot to a draw, revealing his potential to become a Mage of Four Paths. He left the Monastery and Fyrisia soon after, taking with him many scrolls detailing the visions of seven generations of Abbots. Following this, he took the name of Morvannon after the First Abbot, hoping to rewrite history as he felt the Monastery should have a long time ago.
Dawnmantle left the Monastery as well, hoping to find a ‘true world’ beyond the falsehood their visions seemed to suggest. They journeyed together across the Shining Sea, along with a band of refugees from wars that ravaged the lands surrounding Fyrisia. Dawnmantle became the de facto leader and guardian of the refugees, with Morvannon as his student.
The Austral Valley
After their ship reached the new continent, the refugees stayed with Morvannon and Dawnmantle for a few weeks before they parted ways to seek their fortune, leaving Morvannon and Dawnmantle in a new world to decide their fate. After questioning Morvannon’s path, Dawnmantle headed north to Valharrow, hoping to enter the Order of Saint Audren, feeling that they had the best chance of changing the outcome of their visions, but not before giving Morvannon his wolfshead pauldron.
Morvannon, believing that he needed to see the world with his own eyes, decided to head south to the Austral Valley, a largely unpopulated region, rich in magic. There he found the ruins of the old Kingdom of Auster, and lived there for five years, plumbing its abandoned archives for secrets. There he furthered his craft, and, upon receiving a vision of the Immured Being, became a wizard of four paths.
It is around this time when he accidentally traveled to the Dreaming Ash-realm of Dhyberia.
He realized, to his shock, that time and space had broken in the valley of Auster – the grief of its last king permeated the very walls of reality, weakening them.
Understanding that the wreck of Auster hid more secrets than he knew, he soon located the former royal palace, and there found the wraith of Auster’s king, who revealed that his kingdom was destroyed by the knights of Audren, nearly four centuries earlier.
Morvannon, pulled into the dream of the fallen king after this shocking revelation, witnessed the sack of Auster and the extermination of its people, all because they entertained a truth that the Order could not countenance. Curious as to what this truth was, Morvannon searched the personal library of the king, and found the answer lay in Audren himself. The King, hoping to save the world from its state of delusion, had offered to quietly draw the truth from the Hierophant, hoping that together, they might succeed in keeping the world safe. However, Morvannon saw the Hierophant acting out of fear that the Order’s secret might be discovered, and had marched his knights into Auster. The people were massacred, and the city destroyed, and the Kosmer Raith became known as its Dark Hierophant, defending himself with his charisma and the argument of the supposed necessity of the Order’s existence.
Renouncing all faith in the perceived divinities of the world, Morvannon uncovered the secret discovered by the Austral King, and became enraged that his former mentor Dawnmantle had gone to join Order. Deciding to know all he could, he joined the shadowy brotherhood who had stood opposed to the Order almost since the day of its inception: the Legion of Streggan.
The Legion of Streggan
Travelling north-east, Morvannon aided several villages plagued by monsters, and was constantly warned away from the forest of Streggan by the locals. Not dissuaded, he eventually came to the outskirts of Streggan’s demesne, and walked into its cursed forest. He was immediately assailed by terrible visions of a vast abyss, and of something lurking within it. He was saved from the visions by a child, who claimed that the forest was his home. Sensing a great deal of magic and darkness about the child, Morvannon nonetheless accepted his aid, befriending him. With the child, he passed through the forest safely, not knowing that he was the only mage in five centuries to do so. He entered the ruined fortress of Streggan, and, upon sharing his story, was admitted by the lonesome warriors within to study their secrets and their craft.
At the centre of their lost fortress, he found the Immured Being – a powerful magical entity, in the form of an eye, embedded in the central wall of their fortress.
Discovering that the Legion considered themselves exiles and were trying to end the curse of their surrounding forest, Morvannon offered them his magic to finally breach the forest and seek out the cause of the strange instinct that called them to the west.
The ‘Transfixion’ was their name for it, due to how in its final stages, the Legion’s elders fell into a trance and walked off heedlessly into the forest, where they met their doom more often than not. Curious, Morvannon requested to become a full member of the Legion and discovered their predilections towards demon-summoning. Determining that their methods were ultimately ruinous, Morvannon spent the next several years studying the lore of Streggan and of its enmity with the Order of Saint Audren. During this time, he communed with the child of the festering wood and discovered that he was, in fact, one of the fallen land of Gehara’s lost gods. Extending his study to encompass the lore of Gehara – and discovering the largely glossed-over history of its multiple destructions, he began to suspect a wider influence at play than merely Audren’s history. Suspecting something similar to the Austral Valley’s time-flux, he spoke to the child, who named himself Rue, who confirmed his suspicions.
Finding a survivor of Gehara amongst the warriors of Streggan – and discovering that he had a brother in the Order of Saint Audren, Morvannon began to understand that human agency was being unravelled by the contrivances of inhuman symmetries. Remembering what he saw in the Monastery of the Hidden, he now began to see that revealing the true history of the Order was only the first step to reclaiming humanity’s destiny for itself.
With the aid of Rue, he broke the ensorcelment of the festering wood, and travelled to Valharrow, accompanied by a small group of warriors who have begun to feel the effects of the Transfixion.
For them, the City of Valharrow was where they would find their destiny.
Discover Morvannon’s final plan in Grant Smuts’s upcoming debut novel, Where the Gods Lie Dreaming.
All Artwork by Ernest Peter De Wet
Austral Valley: Also known as the Valley of Auster, or the Goldenwood. A verdant valley nestled in the Ravine of Crows to the south of Valharrow. Four centuries before Morvannon’s arrival, the Kingdom of Auster was a rich, thriving citadel. But because of a terrible secret unearthed by its king, it was quarantined and eventually destroyed by the Order of Saint Audren. This event remains the most controversial in the Order’s history, and is largely the cause of its demilitarization and the strictures placed on its numbers.
Dark Hierophant: The name given to Kosmer Raith, the seventh Hierophant of the Order, for his merciless destruction of the City of Auster. His warlike tendencies revealed the true capacity of the Order’s might. While he was praised as a hero in his time, the succeeding generations have looked on his actions with less kindness.
Dawnmantle: The former mentor of Morvannon Callister. The title is a rank within the Monastery of the Hidden, chosen by those who master the Intention of Sunlight, though Dawnmantle also passed on his knowledge to Morvannon, who took on the Intention of Nature. It may be presumed, therefore, that whosoever possesses the greatest knowledge of the Intention of Sunlight may inherit the title of Dawnmantle. The master of the Intention of Nature is called ‘Earthmantle’, though Morvannon’s studies were incomplete by the time he left the Monastery.
Dreaming Ash-Realm: A curious dream-world that Morvannon entered while in the ruined palace of Auster’s King.
Festering Darkwood: A cursed forest that has consumed the land surrounding the Fortress of Streggan. A thick fog lies over the forest, and a tangible darkness clings to the twisted boughs. Those who wander into it are invariable lost and driven insane by the visions the curse bestows. The Festering Darkwood is thought to be the haunt of many monsters, turned loose by the failed experiments of the legion of Streggan.
Four Paths: A state of total mastery of the four conventional elements of magic. Very few mages have ever attained this level. It is thought that a Wizard who walks Four Paths has enough strength to destroy an entire city.
Gehara: A ruined land, curious for the multiple times it has been destroyed in recorded history.
Immured Being: A strange entity, thought to be the source of the Legion of Streggan’s power. There is little known of this creature, only that it possesses immense magical power, enough to keep the festering forest of Streggan at bay when it had overwhelmed everything else.
Hierophant: The holy leader of the Order and inheritor of Saint Audren’s will. It is rumoured that only the Hierophant becomes privy to secrets passed down by successors since the days of Audren and Yearne.
Legion of Streggan: A group of powerful, magic-using warriors, long considered the enemies of the Order of Saint Audren. Wielding unearthly skill with their massive blades, they are considered inhuman opponents. They are also thought to have been responsible for monstrous experiments on beasts and men, which they then turned loose on the countryside. However, their threat has dwindled in recent years, due to their base being overgrown by a cursed forest.
Monastery of the Hidden: A curious academy for the study of magic. Unlike other academies, the Monastery of the Hidden studies more esoteric forms of magic and its monks have devised spells never before seen by more conventional mages. Long ago, the Abbot discovered the existence of a holy medium, an intermediary between gods and men, which led to the foundation of the Dream Guild, the first school of magic. However, the Abbot, seeing the belligerent teachings of the school – geared towards the domination of those who did not possess magic – decided to find more peaceful uses of magic. Its non-violent philosophies have, ironically, allowed its students to create some of the most potent spells ever devised.
Streggan: The name given to both the forest and the surrounding region of the old fortress to the north-east of Auster and south-east of Valharrow. Thought to be a prison for the very worst criminals, the old fortress was in fact the holdfast given as a reward to a nameless hero, reputed to have walked alongside Audren himself in the days before his final battle.
Now it is the outpost of the fearful warriors of the Legion.
Transfixion: A trance-like illness that eventually overwhelms the warriors of Streggan’s Legion. They are all invariably drawn north-west, to Valharrow, for unknown reasons.
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