Born in the troubled times
Republican Wars under the name Bartholomew DaLuna
(1699 b.S.), Asbavaer is perhaps the most famous of the Venlaken undead Lords,
the heretics also known as
Daedhirian Mages. A popular figure in his early years, his case became
symbolic for the true face of the Enclave's temptations. His life was always
discussed as two separate stories: the life of Bartholomew DaLuna, a defender of
the people, and the life of Asbavaer, a
heretic. Yet none of these stories has ever questioned
his love for the
people or for the values of the Republic. Actually
without the help of the
Daedhirian Asbavaer, the
Anis-Anpagan Dominion would have
never managed to contain the spreading undead infestation of what is known today
as Dark Plague. As the Enclave remained secured and relatively isolated after
the Dark Plague, there is little known today about the fate of Asbavaer. The
people living in the forested areas west of the city of Lun and close to the
Enclave's border still have many legends about this undead hero. Some of them
even claim that Asbavaer still "lives" and sightings of
unicorn riders bearing his symbol (two white wings
spreading on a dark gray background) are ever reported. But the mages of the
Ansaran Island claim that it is not likely that Asbavaer would have survived up
to this day, as even these
Daedhirian heretics - those who traded their souls for an earthly
immortality - are known to expire sometime.
Appearance. While he was still Bartholomew DaLuna, he was known to have a frail constitution. He had the pale skin and burning eyes of those ill with consumption. A quiet, meditative person, he was nevertheless strong willed, often unreasonably stubborn. He also shared the same pedantry as his grandfather, Armand DaRan, but he never copied his preoccupation for always keeping an athletic body in shape.
After his Daedhirian transformation, he was seen only when the Dominion has sent
its soldiers in the Enclave to identify the source of the Dark Plague. Having
his body always covered by a dark hooded cloak and his face veiled, the soldiers
could not see anything but his ever-staring eyes. Yet after their mission was
complete it is said that Asbavaer revealed himself in front of them, unveiling
all the horror that his body had become. Skinless, dry and rotting in the same
time. A sight that will be imprinted on the
Anpagan culture as a warning from
beyond death, that no one should ever interfere with the nature's very fabric.
Biography. The person we now know as Lord Asbavaer had two different faces and lifes if you so want. Therefore we have to distinguish between the person of his early years, Bartholomew DaLuna, Lord of Peasants, and the person he later became - Asbavaer, Lord of the Daedhirian Undead:
BARTHOLOMEW DALUNA, LORD OF PEASANTS. Early Years. It is said that when Armand DaRan and Cara DaLuna were fleeing from the Royal Guards in 1727 b.S., a child was conceived. Armand managed to escape but with the price of losing his beloved. She stayed behind to lure the guards while Armand was making his way to Anpagan City harbour. Cara was returned to her family and forced to marry to cover the shame of the fatherless child. She named the child Adelaide and she raised her as a part of the Benedictus family. Of course, even if no one ever spoke about this, the suspicion that she was actually the daughter of an exiled DaRan was always surrounding her. Eventually she was used as a trade coin in an allegiance treaty between the Benedictus family and the High Clerics of Zyloss (a small mountain province, now under Korweynite control). Up in the city of Zyloss, Adelaide lived a strange life as a wife of one of the "mad priests" (as these "High Clerics" were called in the southern Anpagan provinces). There, after Armand's great deed and death, she found out who her real father was, making her life even more miserable. There she gave birth to Bartholomew, a delicate child that never managed to adapt to the cold and windy Zyloss region. She raised this child with the stories of his grandfather's deeds, infusing him with a great desire to understand why Armand did what he did. Fortunately for Adelaide, the Republican movement became stronger and stronger in the eastern peninsula, extending its reach also in the secessionist provinces north of Delren River. Around the year 1682 b.S. the Republicans disbanded the High Clerics of Zyloss and in the following chaos Adelaide took her young son and fled to the southwestern city of Lun, where her mother's old family mansions were located. This change of air seemed to also have been beneficial for the young Bartholomew as his health was greatly improved.
Any mention of Adelaide ceases around the year 1670 b.S., and it is believed that she died at her Lun mansion. However, no funeral stone bears her name in the DaLuna cemetery and surely she should have been buried there if she died in the Lun mansion. But perhaps this problem wouldn't be so controversial today if her son had not become what he had become. Thus many voices among the Ansaran scholars claim that Adelaide actually followed the Daedhirian heretics who were claiming that Armand DaRan had been their forefather. It is true that towards 1675 b.S. she traveled to the Ansaran Island to retrieve her father's manuscripts, but is unknown whether she got into possession of the infamous "Daedhir - Book of All Fears", believed to be the very cause of the heresy. In 1670 b.S. Bartholomew was 29 years of age and he was already a popular figure for the Republican movement.
The Western Riots. Since his arrival at the Lun Mansion, Bartholomew spent most of his time traveling the province and engaging in contacts with the local peasantry. He was a member of the House DaLuna, nevertheless, yet he cared less for the affairs of the region or the intrigues revolving around the issue of which noble Houses should be supported for the Throne of Anis-Anpagan, being instead more preoccupied with the commoners' state of living. The various quarrels between the Anpagan noble Houses and the endless skirmishes with the Republican forces were ravaging the countryside. Each of the local Lords was heavily taxing the population to support these seemingly endless struggles for power, and House DaLuna made no exception to this. At first, Bartholomew struggled to reason with his new family, trying to open their eyes upon the people's grievances, but he was always pushed aside, being also regarded as an unwanted but tolerated intruder in DaLuna family. Eventually he started to hate nobility as well as he hated the priesthood (due to his unfortunate childhood spent among the High Clerics of Zyloss) and more and more, his walks around the Lun province became longer and longer. He started to share with the common folks what he knew about the Republican movement (after all, his liberators), how they were promising that no man in Anis-Anpagan will ever be regarded as higher than the others, how they were promising that every people's voice will be heard in the affairs of the nation, how the lands of the nobles will be parted so that everyone should work his own land and thus fully enjoy the fruits of his work, how there will be no more injustice and no more wars to fight for ideals that do not concern the nation. The people were listening with great interest to this strange noble and finally they started to voice their discontent as well. Small riots broke out in many villages of the Lun province and although they were quickly repelled a general rebellious feeling persisted in the region. Bartholomew was accused by his family of treason and was banned from the province. That's how he became the new republican leader of the western Anis-Anpagan. Refusing to comply with his punishment, Bartholomew walked from village to village, taking with him any willing man. Soon, he had formed quite a small army of peasants, all bound on driving away the local lords and taking control of their lands for the use of the people who actually worked them. It was the year 1673 b.S.
By 1671 b.S. Bartholomew and his peasant army managed to take over the DaLuna Mansion itself, though a great part of the Lun city was still controlled by the mercenaries employed by the House DaLuna. Yet the fact that the very own mansion of the ruling family fell to the peasant army proved to be a powerful symbol, stirring up the rebellion even further. On the countryside, groups of peasants armed just with forks and torches were driving away and killing the tenants setting their manors on fire. The peasants fought with the desperation of the one that has nothing more to lose, they bravely stared death into face, and stood with their bare chests, defying the arrows shot at them. The mercenaries employed by the nobles proved to be useless and soon panic started to spread among them. The remnants of the House DaLuna, stranded in the eastern part of the city called for the other noble Houses' help. An army was sent from Worthas to reconquer the city of Lun and bring the province back in the hands of its ruling family. At that moment, everything seemed to have been lost for Bartholomew and his peasant army, as no one could have expected that a bunch of untrained peasants would stand any chance facing an army of veterans such as the one sent from Worthas (a long lasting bastion of Anpagan royalist factions, the alternate seat of power when Anpagan City fell to the clerics of Aseya or to the Republicans).
Just as it was the least expected, a promise of help came from the Republican forces camped in Anpagan City. Clearly, the presence of a Worthas army in the province of Lun was not of their liking, and they have also heard about the deeds of this strange "Lord of Peasants". The royalist army was intercepted and defeated after a great battle on the banks of Delren River. Losing all hope, the DaLuna fled the besieged city quarters, leaving Lun entirely in the hands of Bartholomew's peasant army. Some of the family members stayed though, asking Bartholomew for mercy, which he granted. Yet even more than that, he allowed them to take residence at the Lun Mansion again, to accompany his mother, Adelaide.
The End of a Republican Hero. In the years to come the Republican Wars came to a stalemate in the southern Anpagan peninsula. The cities of Worthas and Kyloss were strongly defended by the royalists while republicans controlled the cities of Anpagan and Lun. Also the heretic Mages that were beginning to be known as Daedhirians were keeping a strong grip over the Venlaken region, always threatening to invade the province of Lun if the forces camped there were moving towards Worthas. Therefore the Wars moved to the southern islands and to the north, in the provinces held by the noble families claiming a Korweynite ancestry. But already in the small Anpagan republic the various republican leaders were involved in complicated intrigues, each of them seeking to gain a more influential position. The Ansaran historians are now recounting with shame the events of these pre-Dominion years as many heroes of the Republican Wars had found their bitter end in these quarrels of the First Republic.
Bartholomew DaLuna, known as "The Defender of the People" or "The Lord of Peasants", was no exception to this. It is said that after 1670 b.S. (when his mother is supposed to have died, or disappeared) his activity in the formation of the new government have increased considerably, and that despite the fact that his childhood illness seemed to have been resurfacing again. In 1667 b.S., as he was returning from a long session of discussions with the other republican leaders in Anpagan City, Bartholomew fell sick. At first, everyone believed that it was his old illness trying to bring him down for good, yet the Mage Guild had their best Healer Mages envoyed to Bartholomew's quarters (as a recognition of his grandfather's deeds). Soon they came to the most grim conclusion: it was not the childhood illness to blame but a subtle Krean poison, that could have been administrated only while he was in Anpagan City. Disenchanted and angry, it was said that throughout his torments, Bartholomew was continuously calling the name of his grandfather, Armand DaRan. Local legends also say that wraiths started to haunt the forests of Lun at night and many people were tormented by Dream Tempters. The same local legends tell that this was the first time when the Black Carriage appeared in the city of Lun, to take any unwary soul to the cursed lands of Venlaken. And to the shame of the Healer Mages tending Bartholomew's illness, he (or his body) disappeared one night. Their report to the Guild stated that Bartholomew DaLuna died from poisoning in his bed and the peasants terrified by the ghastly apparitions stole his body. It was assumed that the peasants have burned his body, believing that by doing this the apparitions would cease. However, now it is known that this report was false and the peasants were wrongfully accused of mistreating the body of their own hero. And that because many many years from that night, Bartholomew DaLuna appeared again in Anis-Anpagan's history, yet as Asbavaer, the undead hero of Venlaken.
ASBAVAER, THE DAEDHIRIAN. The idea that a Daedhirian lord could have actually been the carrier of a Republican hero's soul was never well regarded by the Ansaran mages. For them, Daedhir is the ultimate heresy, a pure evil embodied, and only the thought that one of these heretics would prove to be a former hero of the people is enough to send cold shivers down the spine of every Ansaran scholar. Therefore, the accounts telling of Asbavaer's deeds proved to be sparse and often unreliable. Yet what is definitely true is that nothing seems to be able to remove this idea from the minds of the common folk living in the Lun province. Bartholomew DaLuna was their most beloved hero and they seem to accept even such a foul thought only to find comfort in the supposed knowledge that their hero still lives.
The Dark Plague Campaign. At first, the Ansaran mages demanded a viable proof that Asbavaer was indeed Bartholomew DaLuna, but besides his own testimony to the soldiers that met him in the Enclave there was no such proof. More than a thousand years had passed since the recorded death of Bartholomew, when the grim Dark Plague appeared in Anis-Anpagan. Thousands of people were getting sick and died of an illness that was never seen before. Their very own flesh was rotting on them while they were still alive. Countless reports of dead people rising up from their graves and haunting the graveyards at night were heard every day. Howling wraiths were infesting the Anpagan forests and many young men and women were consumed by Dream Tempters. The Anpagans have named this infestation "The Dark Plague" and it was obvious to them that the cause of all this could have only been found among the exiled heretics of the Venlaken Enclave. The situation being indeed desperate the Republic decided to form an army and send it to Venlaken to identify and hopefully remove the source of this Dark Plague. Luckily enough, in this army there was also one special soldier, a career officer with intellectual tendencies, Julian D'Alba, who recorded all his thoughts of this campaign in a journal.
The whereabouts of this campaign are unimportant for this matter here. What is important though is that sometime early in their incursion on the cursed lands, they met a strange Daedhirian lord, named Asbavaer. While they were crawling through the thick misty swamps west of the Zylos River, they suddenly found themselves facing a Venlaken lord mounted on an imposing looking black unicorn. And although the Daedhirian was holding up a white flag, the mere sight of the black unicorn mounted by one of the undead heretics was enough to spread panic through the already demoralized troops (this was also the first time when the Anpagans had actually seen a black unicorn). Not small was their wonder when the Daedhirian spoke, telling them that his name was now Asbavaer although once, long ago, he had been one of their own, kown as Bartholomew DaLuna. When the soldiers finally settled down, Asbavaer told them that he knew about the Dark Plague, and he was there to help them put a stop to it. Far away from their leaders in the Anpagan capitol, and after weeks of struggling in those infernal swamps, the Anpagan commanders agreed to an unlikely alliance with the heretic. It is known that at this point Julian D'Alba wrote in his journal that there was no more turning back for them from then on - should they fail to remove entirely the source of infestation a certain penalty for treason was waiting for them back home, yet also the heretic lord seemed to have been in the same situation as them.
Julian D'Alba: "Trading your soul for immortality I can understand -
knowing the accounts on your family and knowing how you have died. Yet
what I cannot understand is why have you been silent for so many years,
no, for so many centuries, so that now you are suddenly claiming that you
do care for your former folks..."
-- Julian D'Alba - "Dialogues with Asbavaer - based on the Dark Plague Campaign journals"
The reasons for which
Asbavaer offered this temporary alliance were ever disputed. As one of the
he should have been content with the spreading of the Dark Plague beyond the
Enclave's borders. Yet clearly he was not. The main trend among the Ansaran
scholars is that regardless of what the Dark Plague would have meant for all
Asbavaer took advantage of the Anpagan
military expedition present in the Enclave to secure his own position of power
among the Venlaken Lords. But contrary to this stands the fact that during the
whole campaign he seemed to have done everything to prevent the
from gaining control over the Enclave's center of power, the Venlaken fortress.
And even after the fierce battles before the walls of
Tyr Faerath (the climax of this
campaign), he still did nothing that might have appeared as a claim for power
among the Daedhirian exiles. Furthermore, the journals of Julian D'Alba are
always pointing that every
lord that they had encountered seemed to act by their very own strange agenda.
There was no apparent structure of power among them, as Julian often observed.
Also, Asbavaer was always explaining that the Dark Plague was just a minor
detail of a more complicated matter.
Indeed, tracing back this campaign we can find that the uneasy alliance was actually formed to prevent a Daedhirian army from invading the northern dwarven city of Tyr Faerath. And once that Daedhirian army was defeated the Dark Plague had also ceased. The Ansaran scholars claim that it was the leader of that Daedhirian army (another undead heretic named Asdamon) that was actually causing the Dark Plague by some means of obscure magic. But there are voices among the same Ansaran scholars claiming that this connection is a bit rushed. There is no viable proof for that, they say, mostly when it is known that the end of the Dark Plague does not coincide with the destruction of Asdamon and his army at the walls of Tyr Faerath. And we must also mention another scholarly trend, quite popular among some of the lower Ansaran Mages: it is not impossible at all that the Dark Plague had been caused by Asbaver himself, to lure an Anpagan army into his devious scheme (yet is needless to say that this interpretation is not at all popular in the province of Lun).
Julian D'Alba: "Was it your choice to become what you have become?"
But still, if we are to accept that Asbavaer was Bartholomew DaLuna at some point of his existence, a new question rises. How could he have become what he had become? From Julian D'Alba's journals we learn that Asbavaer had always denied that his transformation happened against his will. That he had been somehow resurrected from the dead by the twisted magics of the heretics. He was always suggesting that his Daedhirian transformation had been his own act of will. But how could such a thing be coherent with his life as Bartholomew DaLuna? Bartholomew was a hero of the people, a republican leader animated by a vivid altruism expressed in the politics of that time. What possibly could have made him turn so sudden into the selfish individual, ready to bend the nature's very fabric to satisfy his death-related obsessions? It's because of such questions that the Ansaran mages have managed in time to accept the common identity of Asbavaer and Bartholomew DaLuna. The question should never be asked as "why did he become what he had become?" they say, but it should be asked as "how did he become what he had become?" His inner reasons are not important, but what is important is that he succumbed to the Daedhirian temptation. The Ansaran mages are also explaining through Asbavaer's example why they had the "Book of All Fears - Daedhir" banned. It is the most dangerous of all temptations, they say, as this book that stands at the foundation of the Daedhirian heresy, is able to claim one's soul merely by being read only once. It is a temptation that makes no difference among its victims, it is like death itself: the virtuous and the wicked stand equal before it.
Julian D'Alba: "You do realize that for us Bartholomew DaLuna might
be a traitor, now that we see you as you are now?"
Asbavaer acted as an honorable ally of the
Anpagan army sent in the Enclave. He
told them about the other
Daedhirian lord, Asdamon that was preparing to besiege the dwarven city of
Tyr Faerath. He helped them to pursue
Asdamon's army up to the walls of the great
dwarven city. He and his strange minions fought side-by-side with the
Anpagans at Trum Chaor and then
before the mighty walls of Tyr Faerath.
And when Asdamon was vanquished Asbavaer's banners (bearing the two white wings
on a dark gray background) stood beside the
Anpagan ones. He assured them that
in time the Dark Plague would disappear, which happened indeed in about a year
after the siege of Tyr Faerath. If
Bartholomew DaLuna was the hero of Lun, now it looked like Asbavaer should have
been the hero of Anis-Anpagan
itself. But we have exposed above some of the reasons for which he remained
still only the hero of Lun.
The Unveiling of Asbavaer. Nothing was to be ever heard of Asbavaer since the end of the Dark Plague. Yet the people of Lun are still reporting to this day sightings of a black unicorn rider bearing his markings. They are convinced that Bartholomew lives on as Asbavaer, watching over them, and even protecting them without their knowledge. As hard as the Ansaran mages have tried to remove this belief from them, their words and actions were always falling on deaf ears and blind eyes. As much as they tried to persuade their countrymen that is not possible that even Asbavaer could have persisted in this state of existence up to this day, they were never even close of succeeding. Therefore they are now keeping his story as a proof for how powerful the Daedhirian temptation could be. And almost as a testimony to their righteousness stands Asbavaer's last act, as Julian D'Alba told it.
East of the Venlaken fortress, right where the Zylos river turns southward,
there are some ancient ruins dating back to times long before the first Kingdom
of Anis-Anpagan was founded. Huge
colonnades stand up from the ground like a forest of stone and large blocks of
granite are spread among the swamplands. It was there that Asbavaer parted with
the Anpagan army, ending their
alliance. And there it happened what Julian D'Alba called "the unveiling of
Asbavaer". During the entire campaign, the
Daedhirian Lord kept
himself veiled at all times. Only his eyes were visible from underneath his
clothes and wrappings. Yet it was there, among the ruins, when he decided to
reveal himself letting his body and true image be seen by
humans. The sight was described by Julian
D'Alba as horrific, able to startle the most roughened of soldiers - and they
were all at the end of a campaign in which they have seen things far worse that
anyone can imagine. It was perhaps the thought that the wretched creature in
front of them was their trusted ally and fighting comrade that made them shiver
with horror. Or perhaps the sight in itself was indeed beyond anything that they
have seen until then. "Look upon me", said Asbavaer, "for you will be looking
upon yourselves. I was sleeping once when I was like you, but then I chose not
to sleep anymore. And when Death came to me, I handed her my dreams. You go back
and dream the dreams that I have left behind me. And I will watch upon you like
the carved stone watches upon the ages."
Importance. Many have tried to find the connections between Bartholomew DaLuna's story and Asbavaer's, and not few are the interpretations regarding this subject. Yet perhaps the Ansaran mages are right in their struggles to deny the identity of these two strange heroes. Perhaps indeed there is no meaning in Bartholomew's Daedhirian transformation and their stories should be regarded as two separate ones: Bartholomew's struggles to free the people of Lun and Asbavaer's struggles to put an end to the dreadful disease known as the Dark Plague. Beyond all these, there is also the testimony of Julian D'Alba, as his journals and then his writings based upon them have offered us a glimpse of what goes on in the Venlaken Enclave.
Information provided by Smith in Exile