Armand Da'Ran is perhaps the most famous of the Nybelmarian Anis-Anpagan mages. Although he was not very appreciated in his own time (he lived between 1750 b.S. and 1702 b.S.) and with a controversial legacy, he is still to be considered the father of the Anpagan's magic system as it presents itself nowadays. Apart from that, he is also known to be the first that perfected a method for taming the dreaded seawyrms of the Zyloth Sea, a deed that would eventually bring Anis-Anpagan to the total domination of the southern Nybelmarian waters.
Armand Da'Ran was known as a man of high stature with an athletic body (quite an
uncommon thing for a mage), very preoccupied with his looks. He kept his
brown-reddish hair long and, when he was not traveling, he was wearing a pointed
moustache and a beak-like beard. Very courteous, he was known to be of an
undisturbable calm, never raising his voice even at times when he probably
should have. Also, although he was by many considered to be a very pleasant
presence in society, he was quite an introverted man and had very few friends
throughout his entire life.
Biography. Foolish Youthfulness. Armand Da'Ran was born in the noble House that controlled the Ansaran Island before the republic. As a child he was entrusted to the local Mage Guild for education - something considered to be of "good taste" among the Anpagan nobles. At the end of his studies he was marked as "average", managing to pass almost unobserved through all the classes he took. Thus, having a hard time finding a suitable activity as a fresh mageling, his family arranged for him a healer position at the office of the Southern Fleet-Patrol. But soon he proved to be quite unfit for this activity preferring to engage himself in dubious entertainments rather than trying to improve his skills as he should have.
In 1728 b.S. the Southern Fleet-Patrol managed to intercept and sink an important transport sent by one of the Murmillion Legates from east of Raneshar to supply the besieged city of Kylos. Loyal to the Korweynite dynasty founded by Narve the Wise (the dynasty which held the Anpagan throne at that time) the Southern Fleet-Patrol thus managed to cause the fall of Kylos - a stronghold of the Benedictus family, the Korweynites' rivals for the Anpagan throne. Armand Da'Ran didn't have anything to do with this battle though, except for the fact that he hid himself under the deck of the command ship. Nevertheless, he was welcomed as a hero and given all the honors along with the other captains of the Southern Fleet-Patrol, in the capitol city of Anpagan. The huge reception following the honours though would prove to be a turning point in his life. There he met Cara, the young daughter of the House Da'Luna and, as it happened to many other suitors, he fell in love with her.
Before meeting Cara Da'Luna, Armand was spending his time as a healer of the Southern Fleet-Patrol, more roaming the brothels in the Anpagan ports, after that he started to spend his time in the city of Lun, trying to win Cara's heart and her family's mind. Being away from his duty though caused a lot of complaints from the Fleet captains both to his family and to the royal court. Threatened to be disinherited - which would have meant to lose any chances to marry his beloved - Armand remembered that he was a mageling after all and came up with the craziest plan to win Cara's heart and to show both her family and his that he was the most suitable pretender. In order to accomplish that he planned to do something that was never done before, a deed that would be remembered long after his death: to kill one of the dreaded seawyrms of the Zyloth Sea...
A Serpent's Egg. Armand Da'Ran prepared for this deed for several months, returning to his duty post and trying to persuade as many captains as possible that such an attempt would be possible and also necessary. It is worth mentioning that no one until then ever managed to win an engagement with these gigantic sea serpents. They were also the reason why no ship had ever managed to safely venture on the Zyloth Sea. Thus it is needless to say that if a method of disposing these fierce beasts could be found, the routes to the distant Zhunite colonies would suddenly shorten considerably, boosting the economy of the Kingdom to unprecedented heights.
Thus, in the next year, in the Month of the Singing Bird, while the Kingdom was luxuriating in the celebration of its founding, Armand Da'Ran took five of the Southern Fleet-Patrol's ships and left the Worthas harbor heading for the open sea. Without having a very clear plan in mind about what he was about to do, he wanted to use the magic of the five elements (as in the Korweynite Doctrine of Essences) to pacify the seawyrm while the sailors should attempt to kill it.
Yet this courageous deed was not meant to happen on that day. Their trip ended with a major disaster, three of their ships being sunk while they were fighting the serpent and one sank on its way back back to Worthas. Upon arrival Armand managed to flee into the city and to escape the royal guards who were already holding him responsible for the loss of the four ships.
The Mage Guild claimed that the disaster was caused by an irresponsible act, since Armand had clearly shown that he didn't have mastered the magic of the elements (otherwise he would have known that it was impossible to "pacify" such a monster) asking for the capital punishment. The Fleet Admiral and the King though decided to accuse him only of "misuse of given resources". A ban was then enacted upon Armand and thus he had no other option than to flee the Kingdom or risk being captured and exiled on one of the small and remote southern islands.
Prior to leaving the Kingdom Armand Da'Ran secretly visited his beloved once more, persuading her to join him. Yet after a week of traveling the lands as fugitives she fell sick. With the royal guards on their trails they sadly agreed to separate their paths: Cara stayed behind, bait for their hunters, while he was making his way to the Anpagan-city harbor to board the first ship to sail away from these shores. That was to be towards the eastern islands of Kaleman.
For the rest of his life Armand should never set foot on Anpagan lands again, yet the tragedy that he had caused and with the fact in mind that his beloved Cara would probably be lost to him forever, always made him to assiduously search for a way to return to his homeland and obtain redemption. That seawyrm, the Great Serpent, or Bala'urul, as Armand often referred to it, haunted his dreams night after night until he partly identified himself with it: "The Great Serpent laid its eggs in my womb that day," he would say towards the end of his life, "and with those eggs my life had become one with the Serpent's... From that day I had my own Bala'ur, just like Narve, the Wisest of our Kings had his, when he showed us the way to freedom for the first time."
A Serpent's Tongue. Armand Da'Ran spent his years of exile again as a healer, "serving" on a pirate ship stalking the Kaleman trade routes to the Korweynite provinces controlled by Murmillion Lords. His mind was always pondering the seawyrm disaster though, trying to find a way to undo the damage that he had caused. Thus his interests were slowly drawn to the history of the last years of the first Korweyn Empire. And this, because the stories he picked up from various Korweynites that he met, were always mentioning a strange kind of magic used by Murmillions in their bloody campaign, a magic that seemingly made people do things against their will. He especially gathered the stories about Theodunn Pheronn and his battles, a Murmillions general that became a feared and hated tyrant after the end of that campaign. He even spent one year in the Korweynite city of Kosth trying to gather as much information as possible about the ancient battle of the Eypesh Delta when it is said that the brave Korweynite fleet managed to prevent Theodunn from gaining a foothold beyond the great river. Although the outcome of this battle was eventually proven to be unimportant (even if it slowed down the Murmillion advancement), the accounts telling of Korweynites fighting against their brothers were quite confusing for Armand.
He knew that finding a way to explain and reproduce this magical effect, by which one could influence another mind, could be the key in fighting Bala'urul. Yet even if he was to stumble upon an explanation he also knew that he would still be far away from the actual solution (not knowing if the Murmillion method would work on beasts as well). However, it was after his time spent on the Korweynite coast, when he started to talk more and more often about a "wise shadow" following him, "walking through his dreams". Because of that he also lost his position among the pirates, who abandoned him for this madness.
Armand Da'Ran's exile was just coming to an end though, as back in his homeland a group of Aseyan clerics, supported by some of the noble families and as well a small part of the Mage Guild, managed to succeed in a coup and were trying to set the Kingdom on the path of their religion. Armand heard about this and he also heard that they had lifted the ban placed upon him, forgiving his actions by considering that they were made upon the trust in Aseya's precepts.
In 1717 b.S. Armand returned to his homeland just to see the lands thrown into anarchy. Especially on the mainland, the peasants were rioting everywhere, gathering in bands of outlaws, and the nobility was divided in two factions both claiming the throne - thus they were constantly plundering each other's lands and besieging each other's castles. The theocratic regime that had brought him back lasted only a couple of years, falling after a huge riot in the Anpagan-city. In all this chaos he searched for his beloved Cara, only to find her married into the Benedictus family (Armand's family, Da'Ran, was loyal to the Korweynite dynasty, which made them enemies of the Benedictus who were claiming the throne for themselves). She also had a young daughter with rumors telling that she was Armand's bastard, but he would never find out about this. Disappointed and not wanting to take part at his nation's newfound self-destructive appetite he retreated to the Ansaran Island.
In the years to come Armand Da'Ran wrote enormously and worth mentioning would be a complete history dealing with the fall of the first Korweyn Empire and the extended analysis on the Korweynite religion. Yet the most important of his works is the series of tomes dedicated to the magic system as used in Anis-Anpagan. The fundamental change that he operated on this system though, would only be fully adopted by the Mage Guild after his death. Basically he criticized the way in which magic was perceived by the Guild, as just an extension of the Doctrine of Essences, which was a reflection of the Korweynite religious system. The Anpagan mages thus were revolving around the five Korweynite essences (or elements) separately, and only the oldest of them were considered able to combine their forces. The first critique brought by Armand Da'Ran was that this system must be stripped of its religious content in order to work - only by ceasing to see godly beings behind the essences one can access their truth so that their power could be used. The second critique that he brought was that the essences should never be considered alone but only together as being the true reflection of the world.
"I am standing here now,
walking my eyes over horizons. Silently, watching the struggle. Marveling
at its complexity. Who made all these be? Or what made them be? And truly
- can there be just one thing from which everything had spawned?
Finally, the most important change was that in the study of magic one should never start from these essences, but from the effects that are to be pursued. Needless to say, why these theories were not easily accepted among the Anpagan mages. Therefore Armand needed a viable proof to show that he was right. That was when Bala'ur, the Great Serpent of the Zyloth Sea was reported again on the southern Anpagan shores.
|Image description. Armand Da'Ran in the process of creating clay golems. Picture from the game Magical Empire™, used with friendly permission. Illustration drawn by Faugar.|
A Serpent's Skin. Already
since 1707 b.S. Armand Da'Ran was experimenting on a
golem creation spell. He believed that
transferring one’s spiritual essence into it could animate a lifeless object.
However all his experiments resulted only in brief periods of time when the
object was animated while he was in a state of unconsciousness. He thought that
this effect was caused by a certain "degradation" of the essence while the
foreign body hosted it. Yet he found no reasonable explanation for this apparent
"degradation". His only guess was that his spiritual essence was somehow
incompatible with that of the lifeless object (which was already a theory way
out of the main line of the Mage Guild - who at that
time considered the fifth essence as being just the same with the others and not
having that special place accorded by Armand in his writings). There are many
reasons to believe that by 1702 b.S. Armand Da'Ran was already heading towards a
viable theoretical solution to this problem (reasons like the Mage Guild's later
perfected method of golem
creation and as well as the emergence of the
Daedhirian undead mages,
claiming their descendence from Armand's apocryphal writing
"Daedhir"), but he never got to
finish his research.
When Bala'urul, the fearsome beast of the Zyloth Sea was spotted once again close to the Anpagan shores, Armand knew that this was his last chance to face that which ruined his life 25 years earlier. He took with him a young and rather naive "apprentice" (with Armand's reputation he didn't actually have any apprentices, but he was paying a few fishermen from his Family's lands to help him in the experiments) and, leaving everything behind, he set off on a small rowing boat to meet his doom. The apprentice said later that Armand was always assuring him that no seawyrm would attack such a small vessel - well, it seems this information wasn't precisely true. With the sea being almost unnaturally calm in that day we can say reasonably enough that this was the only way by which Armand could have tried a possible approach of the monster.
Calling it by the name ("You are my Bala'ur! Bala'ur! Show yourself to me, for I carry your precious offspring within! Bala'ur!" - as the later accounts of the apprentice's story tell) and agitating a rope by throwing it in and out of the water, Armand probably looked like he was somehow fishing for the seawyrm. Clouds were starting to darken the sky and the more and more frightened apprentice was about to leave his master to his madness and swim back to the shores, when the sea suddenly grew beneath them and the dreaded jaws of the Great Serpent sprung from the furious waves. The apprentice later described the monster as being so long that his body seemed like a never-ending spiral leading to the deepest pits of the Netherworlds themselves. The rope was caught in one of the seawyrm's fangs and it is unknown to this very day if that was just an accident or indeed Armand had a precise use for it. However, the seawyrm was about to throw them both out of the boat when the apprentice swore that he saw Armand releasing a mad roar while a blinding light was swirling around his body. The Great Serpent made a deep plunge and Armand collapsed into the boat rigid like a stone. Inhuman sounds were coming out of his throat and when the apprentice leaned into him to see what happened he crushed his left hand into his bared fist. Screaming in pain the young apprentice fainted and thus he couldn't tell exactly how much time passed until he woke up. Armand Da'Ran was already dead, however, and to the greatest surprise of the young apprentice the huge body of the dreaded Bala'ur was floating lifeless around their boat.
Armand Da'Ran's diaries, the at first mysterious death of the Great Serpent and the apprentice's story to explain what had transpired meant the beginning of a new era for the Anpagan Mage Guild, and with it for Anis-Anpagan itself. Using Armand's research the mages finally perfected a method for taming these huge beasts roaming the southern Nybelmarian waters. They also understood what Armand did exactly in that day: a "transgression" - he managed to transfer his soul essence into the serpent and take the serpent's into himself. This is also the base of the taming method still applied by the Anpagan mages to this day. However it takes a very skilled and strong mageling to be able to take on such an endeavor (as the method means a continuous string of such brief transgressions). But Armand's deed was driven by his hate of that particular monster. He wanted to kill it and not to tame it. And the only way in which he could have done that was to kill himself in the process too. He knew very well that the last encounter with "his Bala'ur" would be the last day of his life as well. Yet he didn't care anymore, as that was his choice.
Importance. Armand Da'Ran is a central character for the history of Anis-Anpagan. His extended research shaped their magic system, as it is known today, while his brave deed opened the Zyloth Sea for the Anpagan galleys, which meant their beginnings as a major sea power in Caelereth. For this reason the Anpagan banners are still bearing the symbol of the great seawyrms. Armand Da'Ran was also the first golem builder in Anpagan, a craft that was in time developed almost close to perfection. But as with his controversial personality, his legacy also bears a dark side as well. The Venlaken Enclave, the cursed lands of undead horrors finds its origins in Armand's writings. "Daedhir - The Forbidden Book of All Fears" stands at the foundation of the undead mages' organization and they all claim that it was written by the great mage. The Anpagan Mage Guild moved its main quarters on Armand's island, Ansaran, trying to impose a ban on any kind of experimentations that would involve the soul transgressions on other than lifeless objects. The Venlaken Daedhirians claim just the opposite, believing that Armand's legacy is ultimately a means for achieving immortality through such transgressions. All in all, everyone agrees that if the exiled Korweynite Lord, Narve the Wise, founded the Anpagan Kingdom, Armand Da'Ran was his historical equivalent, being the one man which allowed the later Anis-Anpagan Dominion to thrive as a newborn nation. They both had their own "Bala'ur" to fight and defeat and, by doing this, they had cleared a path for the later generations to walk upon.
Information provided by Smith in Exile