Origins of Evil, Part 3

Editor's Note: This entry was submitted by contributing writer Mauricio Wan. It is the third in a series exploring the origins of A Knight Adrift's antagonist, Archwizard Ixiel. To read previous entries, visit The Archive. Enjoy!

Ixiel the Wanderer. Ixiel the Lost. What songs do they sing of thee? What ballads are recalled in the eerie shriek of every owl, what rumbles in the lightning-split heavens? What reveries echo in the hushed gloom?


Kerlan was waiting for him. At the end of a morning fog at a wend in the road, a hooded figure sat thoughtfully on a rock. Ixiel recognized his fellow traveller, browless and bald as he was, and called out to him.

"I am Ixiel, learned of Xiomendes," he said proudly.

"And what does that mean?" the Walker replied, "We're all someone trained of some dusty old man or woman. You won't impress any Walker addressing yourself like that. Not unless you're an archwizard. No, none of us is impressed unless you're sleeping in velvet sheets and cavorting with royalty."

The stranger looked at the crimson-cheeked, proud young man who drew himself up before him. "The name's Kerlan. I also once had my head shaved by some old fart." The man drew back his hood and smoothed a palm over his bald skull, grinning inscrutably. And so the traditional formalism of his magical education ended for Ixiel.

Kerlan was a man of middle age and bearing. Medium height, earthy complexion, and slightly childish features. It was not entirely clear he needed a razor to tend his hairlessness. Beneath his gaunt frame, however, was a man of wit and learning and a daring countenance that encouraged Ixiel to explore.

Where Xiomendes had been strict, Kerlan was relaxed. Where his former master was solemn, his new companion was flippant. Yet side-by-side the two were equal in their knowledge of the old ways. Kerlan may have explored a different path from Xiomendes, but he arrived at the same places.

Whether he and Kerlan had met by chance or design was unclear to Ixiel. Though he had meandered since his late master's death, Ixiel was not entirely unguided. Here and there a helpful whisper came, a feeling of great intuition, a sense of direction in an otherwise senseless world. Fated or coincidental, he and Kerlan strode the wilderness for some years. No other Walkers crossed their path.

Despite his relative youth, his companion had traveled wide across Valerius. He regaled Ixiel with tales of long lost cities and deep caverns in which the Sages of old hid their knowledge away for safe keeping. Like Ixiel, Kerlan was a prolific collector of old artifacts.

"See these?" he said, holding up a set of rune-inscribed beads. "Focus stones. Old magic. Casters used to wear them to augment their bonds to veil and void. Lost a lot of their charge, been well used. Take 'em. They'll come in handy." Over the campfire, Kerlan tossed the beads to his companion.

Ixiel marveled at the first gift he had ever received. Fatherless Isidore had been taken from everything he had known. The memories of that boy, his mother's face, the shape of her smile, the penetrating sadness of her weary eyes, were more residue than memory, details from disparate instances rearranged by his mind to give it substance. His surrogate Xiomendes had returned from the dust he had come from. Delia... had left, quiet as a ghost, barely even haunting his dreams. The necklace he held in his hands felt to him like an anchor, its old runes tying him to a long lineage and great purpose that was bigger than the loneliness of self.

He tried to thank Kerlan profusely, but the man turned in to sleep without so much as a goodnight.

"These here are words of binding," he showed Ixiel months later, running his hands reverently along the stiff parchment. "Powerful magics. Used to echant items--weapons, armor, beads like your own--and also to make marks to bind people. They say that lovers used to mark themselves so they always knew where the other was, so they could die at just the same instant. Far away, but together. Or some such nonsense." Kerlan chuckled.

Ixiel dreamed of Delia that night, thoughts turning to her despite any distraction he might forcefully imagine. The dark was cold and wet. Wrapped in his dirty robes, he found himself wishing from the foundation of his being to return to those chaste moments of adolescence when he and she would huddle together for warmth in the night. How cruel he thought it then, to be so close yet far. But still Ixiel knew he preferred that binding torture to the rain-soaked freedom of the night.

You can have her. I can give her to you. The whisper came.

Ixiel’s eyes jolted awake. He put the thought out of his head. Delia was Isidore's dream. That boy was gone. Ixiel was a seeker – a keeper of lost things. Surely, he was that and that alone. Never could he be more… Could he?


Supplementary - Historia Glossarium, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This entry is part of a series exploring the history and lore of A Knight Adrift in greater detail.

Born from the shadows of humans, demons watched their oblivious counterparts from the gloom with envy. Empty, alone, and bound by the veil that separates void from earth, the shades whiled away their immeasurable time coveting the spark of humanity’s souls. And as humanity tamed the wilderness and built its cities, the demons’ resentment grew. Why should humans alone be allowed to enjoy land and sea and air? What cruel gods had doomed their kind to nothingness while humans basked in unearned freedom?

The shades longed to inhabit the darkness within each human’s soul, believing it their means of escaping imprisonment. But such a task was nearly impossible, for even the weakest human’s will selfishly repelled entrance to the soul. Frustrated by one failed attempt after another, demons resorted to the vulgar possession of beasts and wild things to wreak havoc on their enemy. Their souls twisted in shadow by demonic corruption, simple creatures became monstrous abominations, mindlessly fixated on the torment of errant humans.

At the dawn of the age of men, the first shadow cast into the void was consumed like any other by insatiable jealousy. But its ambition, greatest among the veil-bound, fueled a terrible purpose. Appalled by the pathetic desperation of its companions and unwilling to debase itself in such a manner, the First waited, observing humanity for centuries.

Moments of joy. Moments of sorrow. Moments of contempt and disgrace. The demon drank in the spectrum of human experience. With its knowledge grew its power. It tested the limits of the void and veil, and was convinced there was a way – a way to bend the humans’ will to its own. After thousands of years, the demon need only a suitable target for its experiment.

In the uncharted mountain forest of southern Valerius, a pious monk lived a life wholly devoid of human contact. Having judged his church lazy and profane, he abandoned it to worship the ancient deities in the method he saw most fit. For years, the bitter monk stubbornly eked out a meager existence. He forsook all bonds of fellowship in service of his faith. Huddled alone in his patchwork hut, his mind addled and body deprived, the monk sacrificed what game he need not eat to the fire, hoping to receive a sign of recognition from the gods he so revered.

One dark and suffocating night, a voice came from within the fire’s shadows. The demon whispered to the monk. Bird and beast would no longer suffice. To prove himself truly devoted and worthy of their favor, the gods demanded more satisfying sacrifices. It was the voice for which he had waited. The monk abandoned his mountain hovel and ranged far and wide, all the while foul murmurings in his ear. His knobby feet, weary with travel and toil, carried him from hamlet to hamlet on his gruesome quest.

As broken and sad as the old monk was, he was not without humanity. With each murder, his will was slowly devoured piece by piece, like a sun-spoiled corpse beset by vultures. Tears streaked down his dirty face, reflected in the sharp blade of his bloodied knife. And as the monk’s soul eroded, the demon filled the void within him. In nights as black as tar, the quiet whispers ever eased him softly to sleep with promises and hope. But each day hope evaporated as he awoke from ominous nightmares, twitching and screaming in terror.

Years passed and the exhausted ascetic turned away from the gods. Unwittingly bent to the demon’s will, his mind was clouded with turmoil. Murder after murder took its toll. His own reflection mocked him. Shadows beckoned him to blasphemy. There seemed to be no end to the gods’ appetite. With so much innocent blood spilt by his hand, the monk longed to be stopped. How had he not? Was his immunity the sick favor of which the voice had so often assured him?

Far from the mountain home and simple life he once loved, the monk sat alone in some dark alley. He realized in a fleeting moment of clarity that no amount of blood would ever be enough. Long suppressed by the demon’s will, guilt bubbled up and froze his heart. He looked at the knife in his hand, still red and slick from his latest victim. A dry sob shook his body. The monk said no prayer as he turned the knife and with both hands thrust it toward his own throat.

Suddenly rigid, his hands stopped the knife’s point a hair’s breadth from his skin. With eyes that smoldered like embers, the monk laughed with lips and tongue that were no longer his own. The demon assumed control of its victim. For in their lowest moments of broken will, humans are most susceptible to the dark influence of shadows.

The monk that was not himself laughed again and again. The hollow sound echoed off city walls. Rats scurried away into dank sewers, eager to flee the evil presence. The monk stood and assessed his own body. The damp air filled his lungs as he greedily sucked in ragged breath. The monk was no more.

Convinced of its supremacy, the demon reached out to the void and proclaimed victory. Eager to taste the freedom of Valerius, shadows throughout the void pledged themselves to the First and combined within the mortal host. Thus Tyrannus, the primordial demon, was willed from many into one and unleashed upon the world. 


Supplementary - Historia Glossarium, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This entry is part of a series exploring the history and lore of A Knight Adrift in greater detail. 

The land of legend. The crucible of man. The island continent of Valerius, isolated among a vast, seemingly infinite ocean, is home to all humanity. It is said that the ancient gods created the first humans and gave them this land to test their worthiness. In Valerius, a myriad of dangers lurk at every turn and as such, resilience is the most respected quality among the people, regardless of age, sex, or heritage.

The weather and environment vary drastically from one domain to the next, sometimes beautiful and oftentimes cruel. The brightest, clear sky can in a moment transform into a harbinger of nightmarish squalls. Enormous beasts stalk their prey in boundless forests, filled to bursting with giant, thousand-year-old trees that block out the sun with their tangled canopies. Cunning creatures prowl the unforgiving wastes and endless deserts in the sea of fire. Below the brilliant, blue waves, leviathans wait with mouths agape for unfortunate sailors foolish enough to think themselves lucky.

Many of the people, harried by relentless suffering and loss, whiled away their lives in constant fear of death. Some of the most cowardly forsook familiar shores in search of other lands, never to be heard from again. But a brave few refused such fates and took up arms to stand defiantly against the encroaching darkness.

Devoting their lives to the cause, strong warriors from every tribe united to establish the Kingdom of Valerius: a protected sanctuary in which all citizens cooperated according to the law of strength and honor. Weapons were sharpened and walls were built high. Anyone willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good was welcomed to the warriors’ ranks. The noble houses were established by those most venerable heroes of legend who daily risked everything to pit steel and courage against claw and shadow, all to defend the Kingdom’s walls and people. Even the most unseasoned pikemen were praised for their bravery.

Common folk and nobles alike held fast to the singular, guiding maxim: Survive together or die alone. In this age of innocence and discovery, threats against their haven arose daily. Those who lived through the great building learned well that a sword is only as effective as the person that wields it, and that person only as effective as fellowship enables him to be. Thus humanity was bound in common cause and the wheel of fate turned by their strength of unity.

Having carved out its place with blood and extricated itself for a time from ceaseless predation, the little Kingdom of Valerius thrived and prospered. For several centuries, peace reigned.

And as youthful humanity grew more confident, the most bold among its number ventured forth into uncharted country to establish new outposts to the east and west. These evolved over time into magnificent fortress cities, surrounded by thick walls and guarded by vigilant protectors. Commerce expanded, culture flourished. Names became banners and footpaths became roads. Humanity, convinced of its supremacy, turned its attention from the dark places, the dangerous places and reveled in its hard-won victory.

But alas, the peace could not last. For a new enemy stirred in the abyss beyond the veil...