Bad-el-Kazar has been declared the greatest mage on the surface of Teleria. The truth of this declaration is debatable, but he is, without a doubt, incredibly powerful, and incredibly influential. He once ruled the grand city-state of Ireth with an iron fist, and some even claim that he was the very one to drag that glorious city into the corruption and ruin it is known for today. Sightings of Kazar can be traced all across the continents of Teleria, his purposes inscrutable. Many claim that he is a necromancer, hunted by the Sacred Order, while others claim he is, himself, Undead, blessed and cursed with eternal life. The more curious dare to ask themselves where his power might have come from.
The answer to that question is known to precious few, but if one traces back through history to find Ireth as it once was – a centre of learning, culture, wisdom, and wealth – one would find a very sad young boy, standing at the window of his new prison-home, watching a ship sail away. The boy’s name was Valkanen, and he missed his mother.
Valkanen had not chosen to attend the Academy at Ireth. Back home in Kaerok, he had performed a powerful spell that had destroyed a man’s memory, reducing him to a blubbering beggar. The man had been Valkanen’s father. Valkanen’s protests – that he had cast the spell in self-defence – were little comfort to the paranoid townsfolk, and their attempts to get rid of him might have escalated to violence if not for the intercession of the local Duke’s house mage. The mage disrupted a fomenting riot, calming the angry crowd by taking the boy responsible away. ‘Away’ turned out to be half a world away – the mage took Valkanen across the sea, to the great continent of Peltas. There, nestled on the southern coastline of the Krokhan Desert, was Ireth.
Ireth was a glittering jewel at that point, and Valkanen had been suitably overwhelmed by its majesty when he had first arrived. But when he learned of his fate – that this was not a visit, but an exile – the city lost much of its lustre to him.
Valkanen never lost that faint sense of resentment, but he did, at least, come to adapt to his circumstances. He learned he was an extremely powerful magic user, becoming a rising star in the Mage Academy, and he found himself the subject of much adoration by both fellow students and full-blooded mages alike. The respect and camaraderie were at first soothing, then later, addicting. As Valkanen grew into manhood, he became wholly dependent on the affection of others – their dreams of him growing into the greatest mage in Ireth became not only his own, but they replaced all his hopes and ambitions.
But those ambitions made competition intolerable. And competition did come, in the form of Arion – the son of the very duke who had Valkanen banished. Arion had poise, tact, and talent, and was quick to wrap the Academy around his finger. Was he as powerful, as skilled, or as promising as Valkanen? Promising, maybe, and he certainly had a flair that Valkanen lacked. In the eyes of the Academy, though, it was enough that Arion at least presented himself as Valkanen’s superior – Ireth was hungry to have its star pupil tested. The teachers encouraged the rivalry, stoking the competition between them, hoping it would push them to improve. It worked… but it worked far too well. As his friends abandoned him at the urging of the senior mages, and as praise was heaped on the undeserving Arion, Valkanen was consumed with rage. The spotlight had been the only thing he had to hold on to, and he would not abide it being stolen.
What few limits Valkanen had left melted away. Caution. Ethics. Self-preservation. Most consequential of all, is incredulity. Valkanen sought power, from anywhere that he could find it, and he found it in a whisper in his dreams – a shadow at the corner of his eye, a fleeting figure in the mirror that was not a mere reflection. As Valkanen would learn – as all of Ireth would learn – there are sources of magic that are always waiting for those strong and foolish enough to reach for power without asking where it comes from… or what it might cost.