Written in the voice of Fæcce.
Belzan, that is, the first Belzan, was born in Istan in the year 636 DR (436 AE). I was assigned to watch over him and was present during his birth in the village of Kamadan. His life would be a troubled one and he was destined to do great things. It was my job to provide him with guidance, but in the end, he is human and humans are fallible.
Belzan was born to a stoneworker and his wife. He was gifted as a medium, which meant he could see spirits and speak with the dead. He could see me. I hadn’t prepared for that. Like I said: trouble from day one.
At age 6 he began to manifest magical talents and accidentally animated Shelly, his pet turtle who died. His parents took this surprisingly well and found a shaman to tutor him: Shaman Mehahn, who had been employed by the kings and queens of Fahranaur until queens Nahlah and Dahlah came to power and relieved him of this office. Mehahn was admittedly angry about this, but that wouldn’t come to a head for several years.
Mehahn taught Belzan about the four schools of magic, to which Belzan was best suited to Aggression. The training was rigorous, but not malicious. In fact, Mehahn was a surprisingly empathetic master to Belzan. This is where rumor and fact diverge. There are several stories about Belzan’s original master being malicious and harmful to him, but that’s just not true. Some of his masters were, but not Mehahn, a fact that made Mehahn’s eventual betrayal all the more heartbreaking.
About one week after Belzan’s 15th birthday Mehahn abruptly cut their lesson short. He looked distressed and distracted. He warned Belzan that there would be a great plague within the year and that he should convince his parents to charter a ship to the Krytan colony and get away from Istan. Belzan did as he was told and pleaded with his parents to leave Kamadan, but they refused. His father had been working with several other stoneworkers constructing monuments to the queens and refused to leave until they were finished.
Belzan did not see Mehahn again after the warning. On his 16th birthday he brokered passage to Kryta and pleaded one last time with his parents to come with him. When they once again refused, he set sail himself on the great ship to Kryta. The year was 652 DR (452 AE). The plague hit months later and the mass exodus of Istan began.
Belzan settled in the farming community of Beetletun and took a job on a farm working in the fields. News of the Scarab Plague spread to Kryta, including rumors that it was magical in origin and that the queens were to blame. Weeks, months, and years passed and he did not receive word from his parents or his master. Belzan became increasingly worried and angry. He was angry at his parents for refusing to leave and angry at his master for deserting him.
After a couple years Belzan earned enough money to strike out on his own and began to work as a local shaman contacting spirits and facilitating communication between the living and the dead. He joined up with a group of necromancers and continued to train in aggression magic and became a Master Necromancer in his late twenties. In 464 AE (664 DE) Belzan was visited by the spirit of his former master who told him of the heroic fate of his parents who helped as many people as they could to board ships off the island before eventually succumbing to the plague themselves. Their conversation turned foul when Mehahn admitted partial responsibility for the plague itself. He told Belzan how he was blinded by greed, hate, and revenge against the two queens who dismissed him from power. He had formed an alliance with a man who would serve as the new leader in Elona and end the dynasty. The plague would purge the lands of those loyal to the queens.
To his credit, Mehahn later killed his ally before the coup was complete and before he could take the throne, but the plague was already spreading and killing thousands. Belzan never forgave Mehahn and blamed him for the deaths of everyone he’d ever known. With his newfound power, Belzan destroyed his old master’s spirit and consumed his soul, gaining the power of the shaman as he did. Enraged by his master’s betrayal, Belzan set out into the countryside to find something to destroy and someone to hurt to lessen the burden of his guilt and shame and loneliness.
Like I said, humans are fallible creatures.
Thus began Belzan’s withdrawal from society. I followed him of course, but watched from a distance as his anger continued to swell. I’d talk with him occasionally, but he generally dismissed me and chose to be alone in his study of necromancy and worship of Grenth.
In the early years of his self-exile, he would frequently pick fights and destroy anyone who fought him. He earned the nickname “The Vagabond” and parents told stories to their children of a wandering evil spirit who would gobble them up if they were out of their beds at night.
It got worse.
He mastered necromancy far beyond any other person in Kryta at the time and began to experiment with the minds, bodies, and souls of “volunteers” who were usually vagabonds themselves or murderers and rapists offered up to him by the community. He also began taking apprentices-promising power to spellcasters who were brave enough to seek him out and capable enough to survive.
In 499 AE, now in his 60s, Belzan completed his research. His masterpiece was a spell that would forever change his life. By this time he had trained nearly a dozen apprentices, all of whom had gone on to do remarkable things in Kryta and beyond. On the eve of the quincentennial of the exodus of the gods, two young men, twins, aged 17, appeared at the mouth of his cave and demanded he teach them necromancy. Belzan smiled, obliged, and said to the boys,
“Understand that what you demand is both extremely dangerous and rewarding. My apprenticeship begins and ends with sacrifice. You must turn your back on your old life and give yourself over to death. In 5 years time, one of you will be dead and the other will live forever. I will teach both of you or neither of you. Return tomorrow morning and we will begin.”
The boys had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. Looking back, I wish I had intervened here, but I truly couldn’t predict where this was headed. Belzan had learned how to shield his mind from me. I was nothing more than an observer to the horrors that awaited those boys.
Belzan pushed the twins—Fisk and Sisk—harder than any of his other apprentices. He gave them impossible missions, deprived them of food and sleep, attacked them at random, and invaded their minds. He pit them against each other to breed competition, anger, and deceit, but the twins worked together to survive all of the challenges. Through the adversity and punishing lessons of their master, the twins grew more reliant and trusting of each other.
Which made the betrayal all the more heartbreaking.
At the end of their training, nearly 5 years later to the day, Belzan brought them to a spell circle he had created in the woods and told them to both step inside. Once both of them were inside, he enchanted the circle.
“Today one of you will die and the other will live forever. The circle is enchanted to trap the air around you inside. The more you breathe, the more air you use. There is approximately twenty minutes of air within the circle, if you breathe normally. After that, you will suffocate. The circle can only be broken with a life sacrifice. If you do not make a choice, you both will die, or one of you can live by killing the other. One of you will die and the other will live forever.”
Belzan turned his back on his apprentices and walked into the woods leaving them alone in the circle slowly suffocating. Five minutes passed; then ten; then there was a rustling in the woods as two figures approached Belzan from the direction of the circle. Before him stood Fisk who was badly injured, limping, and had a gash across his face that would surely scar. Behind Fisk was Sisk, or rather, Sisk’s corpse animated as a zombie minion. Belzan led Fisk to the cave and tended to his wounds. “When you are healed, we will continue.”
A week passed and Fisk was awakened one morning by Belzan. “It’s time.” Fisk followed Belzan without question to a ritual circle deep within the cave that was surrounded by all matter of magical and alchemical agents—clearly preparation for a spell.
“I am a legend in Kryta,” Belzan began. “There are many who want me dead. People fear my name and tell stories of my actions. You, however, are nobody. You may gain notoriety claiming to be my apprentice like all the rest have, but you will ultimately live in my shadow. You will never be as feared or respected as I am.” Fisk listened intently, with no sign of emotion on his face.
“Today begins your legend and my legacy. You may leave here and call yourself my apprentice. You may make a life for yourself in my shadow, or you can make one final sacrifice to live on forever. You will be respected. You will be feared.”
Belzan handed Fisk an impossibly sharp, ornate ritual knife. “You, Fisk, are going to kill me. In doing so my power will flow into you through this ritual. Take my name and my power and start your own legend. As my apprentice you will carry on my legacy.”
Fisk stared at Belzan, still emotionless, and appeared to think for a moment, after which he agreed to the proposal. They began the ritual. Candles flickered and ancient words echoed off the smooth walls of the cave. As the spell came to a crescendo, Fisk plunged the knife into Belzan’s chest and he immediately felt power surging into his body through the knife. A presence appeared in his mind—it was Belzan. The presence grew and Fisk began to grow weak. He felt his mind slipping out of his own body and into the dying body of his master. A searing, fiery pain erupted from his chest as Fisk realized suddenly he was bleeding to death. He choked on blood trying to breathe, stunned by what he saw: He now lay on the ground staring up at his body holding a bloody knife, it’s scarred face smiling cruelly.
“Congratulations Fisk” he heard his body say, speaking in his own voice. “You’ve killed Belzan the Vagabond. The student has become the master and people will cheer you for what you’ve done today. People will know it was Fisk who killed Belzan and took his place. Your name will live on forever and my legacy will continue.” Belzan, now in Fisk’s body, picked up the dying Fisk and carried him to the nearest town—Beetletun. He announced himself upon arriving, holding his now dead body:
“My name is Belzan Fisk. I have killed my master, Belzan the Vagabond, and bring his body as proof. Now I am the master. Remember the name Belzan, for my legend has just begun.”
And that’s it. That’s how he’s lived all these years. He seeks out those who are magically talented and consumes their power, adding it to his own. If you’ve ever met him through the years, you may have noticed that he’s not nearly as cruel now as he was then. Time heals all wounds as they say.
I will continue to tell the truth of his story and discredit the rumors and lies. All the stories I tell are as they happened, with a bit of embellishment of course. Look forward to more stories of Belzan’s life over the next few months. I plan on jumping around a bit, but the next story I’ll tell will be that of Belzan Arrakk–the current Belzan.