Originally published on Guild Wars Vault on 2007-12-13
No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.
- Hunter S. Thompson
Belzan was led to a table where several members of the Flaming Scepter convened in discussion. They adjourned as he and the group approached. “Greetings. I am Danan of the Order of the Flaming Scepter. We are the order of mages that run the academies of Nolani and her sister city Drascir. I see you have met Kendrick and Charmaine already. Please, have a seat.”
Belzan shook Danan’s hand and introduced himself. At Danan’s direction, he took a seat at the now empty table and awaited patiently the opportunity to begin his volley of questions. Kendrick quickly informed Danan of the movements of the Charr party and of the brief encounter. After the report, Danan turned his attention back to his guest.
“Tell me a bit about yourself, Belzan. Necromancers are a lonely lot, but it is rare to see one traveling alone north of the wall.”
A Necromancer? Belzan thought. The power welling inside of him was devoted to a specific field of study? The thoughts led to strange feelings. At once he felt less unique, but simultaneously frightened. Clearly, this man knew more about his power than he did. It appeared that this would be Belzan’s opportunity to learn.
“I am from Kryta, originally. I’ve grown up with this scar on my face and my mother, until her death, keeping its significance a secret from me. The elder of Beetletun informed me that it was a mark of Grenth, the god of death. I didn’t believe him at first until my family and I were attacked by ettins in our home. A great power burned inside of me and with it I slaughtered the ettins. I stole the life from their bodies and animated their corpses. I haven’t used this power since then. This was nearly a year ago. My mother told me as she died that I should seek out this academy to learn the truth about my scar.”
“Well,” Danan began, “you’ve come to the right place, Belzan. The Academy of the Arcane Arts is a school for those who seek to learn the magics bestowed upon us by the Five Gods. Students from as far away as Orr study here to hone their craft. Though many of us focus on the art of the elements, all schools of magic are studied here.”
“Specifically though,” Belzan interrupted, “I am interested in learning about my scar and how it pertains to my power. I don’t like having a power within me that is not of my control, and I don’t like that I am being hunted for reasons I do not know.”
“Hunted you say?” Danan replied. “Well, that is a matter that needs attending. Can you clarify the situation further?”
“All I know is that as a child, powerful spellcasters in the dark arts, what you are calling necromancy, assaulted my mother several times in attempts to separate the two of us and claim me. She never discussed this with me in more detail than that, other than eluding to the fact that it was due to my birthmark—this scar.”
Belzan pointed to the scar on his left cheek.
“You say that is a birthmark? It wasn’t due to some accident and no one disfigured you?”
“No, I was born with it, I am certain. Elder Hezron of Beetletun referred to it as ‘The Mark of Grenth’, and to me as a ‘child of Grenth.’ Does that have any meaning to you?”
Danan stood from the table and began to pace around the room in thought. Kendrick turned to Belzan and spoke. “Necromancers scar themselves to honor the god of death. They carve symbols and glyphs into their skin to show their devotion to him. Nearly every necromancer does this as a right of passage, though not all of them do it in places easily visible.”
“Charmaine,” Danan spoke finally. “You know your way through the catacombs to the Abbey, yes?” Charmaine nodded. “Escort Belzan to the Abbey and introduce him to Munne.” Danan turned his attention to Belzan. “Munne is the leader of the Necromantic order of Ascalon. She is friendly to the Academy and will have the best interests in mind. She has a great respect for the dead and does not carry the motives of Grenth with her with as much zeal as others do. You have great power within you. I can sense it. Do not be afraid to use it. It will certainly spell the difference between animating a corpse and becoming one.”
Belzan nodded, stood, and bid farewell to the Flaming Scepter Mages. He followed Charmaine down the hallway and into a small locked room. The room was used as storage for various magical items. She walked over to a cabinet and opened it. Reaching into the cabinet she pulled out two metal gauntlets and set them on a nearby table. She quickly drew Belzan’s sword and tossed it up into the air. He reacted, catching it with his right hand. She placed the right-handed gauntlet back in the cabinet and handed him the other one, which he equipped with his left hand. The two then made their way down several flights of stairs.
The catacombs were cold, dank and dreary. In addition, they were lit only by the blazing fire atop Charmaine’s staff. The little girl moved quickly through the windy cave paths. She clearly knew where she was going and moved with purpose. Her knowledge of the underground passage allowed them to pass unmolested to the abbey, where they were greeted by a young man dressed in the priestly robes of Dwayna.
“Greetings Charmaine. What news have you from Nolani?”
Charmaine handed the monk a scroll detailing the purpose of their visit. He read it, looked at Belzan, then back at the scroll. “I see. Come this way. I’ll see to it that he has an audience with Munne immediately.”
Charmaine bowed to the two men and retraced her steps through the catacombs. Belzan was led into the courtyard and shown a place to sit. The young man took his leave and entered the main building of the abbey. Looking around, Belzan noticed that the abbey was bustling with activity. He found a weird dichotomy in the people he saw roaming around the grounds. One group appeared to be dressed in simple robes, spoke openly to each other in calm voices and carried staves of light. The other group tended to be spread out more, dressed in leathers, had tattoos and piercings, and carried wands and staves of bone. The two groups were like night and day, yet both resided in the same place.
“Hello, Belzan,” A woman approached and introduced herself. She appeared to be of the latter group. “Welcome to Ashford Abbey. My name is Munne. I understand you are looking for the Order. Please, come inside, I have some people I would like you to meet.”
Belzan followed Munne into the abbey where he was led down a short hallway into a dark room. The ambiance was that of a funeral. Belzan felt uneasy at first, but strangely welcomed. Munne introduced him to the two men seated in the room around a cherrywood table. “This is Morgan and Verata, two members of the Order. Gentlemen, meet Belzan.” The three men exchanged their greetings and all sat down around the table.
“Belzan comes to us from Kryta.” Munne began, “He has questions he would like answered.” Morgan spoke up, “Indulge us.”
“Well, I’ve recently discovered this power deep inside of me. It is something I cannot control. Each time I use it, the birthmark on my face burns like fire. I’ve traveled quite a way to realize this power and understand the purpose of this birthmark.”
“A birthmark you say?” Verata spoke up. “And you have no control over the powers you exhibit?”
“Yes. What does it mean?”
“You are a child of Grenth. It is a rite of passage for a Necromancer to scar him- or herself to show faith and devotion to Grenth. One sacrifices a small bit of oneself to him and pledges one’s life in service of him. Only those who pledge their life, and death, to Grenth are granted power over life and death. Ritualistic scarring is seen as commitment, and only those who are serious about the dark arts, who fear not death, undertake this painful process.”
Belzan listened to Verata intently. He clearly knew more about the subject than the Scepter Mages.
“A child of Grenth is born committed to Grenth, and is thus born with greater power than many Necromancers will ever experience in life or in death. This power is raw, unfocused and very destructive. History says that there is only ever one child of Grenth at any given time. The child is beholden to the god of Death and acts as a general here in the mortal realm.
“It is Grenth’s will that you have come to the Necromantic Order here in Ascalon, Belzan. Your power is great, but unfocused. In time you will learn to control it and use it to serve Grenth.”
Belzan’s mind began to wander. He was raised to follow the teachings of Dwayna. His mother was a devout follower of the goddess and he himself prayed to her and called upon her light to heal and protect others. He had been taught to care for others and put himself last. How could his purpose be so sinister? How could he of all people be the Child of Grenth?
He blocked the thought from his mind. He would revisit it in time. As he came back to the conversation, he heard a request form Verata.
“Munne; with your permission, I would like to take Belzan as my apprentice. I was brash and chaotic in my youth and I have worked to rein in my power. He has great potential in the dark arts, but he needs to learn how to focus it. I feel I am up to the task.”
Munne looked over at Morgan, who nodded, and then turned to Belzan, whose affect was blank. Munne’s gaze met Verata’s, and then she spoke. “I leave the decision to Belzan. If he is indeed the Child of Grenth, then his will is that of Grenth’s and his decision will be the same.”
The three Necromancers fixed their gaze on Belzan. The room seemed to grow darker and darker as they waited for his response. Belzan knew not whether he was truly the Child of Grenth, but felt it important to hone the powers within. After a long pause, he finally spoke up, though his voice was heavily unconfident.
“Teach me the ways of a Necromancer.”
Munne looked at the others and then at Belzan. “Welcome to the Order.”