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SEVRIN LORE: Avidan

SPOILER WARNING:

If you haven’t read Honor Among Thieves yet, you may wish to do so before reading this post. It gives background information about one of the characters, and as such, contains minor spoilers.

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About four years ago, the band of thieves who live in the tunnels below Rhendish Manor found a man lying in front of the Feyglass.  The mystery was compounded by his appearance, for he was clearly no northman. His strong features, dark hair, and olive skin suggested origins is some distant, sun-warmed land.

Days passed before he regained consciousness.  Dazed and disoriented, he could give no explanation as to how he found his way into the hidden den. In fact, months passed before he spoke a single word.

Fox, the young leader of the thieves, found a book filled with arcane symbols in the man’s pockets and concluded that he was an alchemist. It seemed likely that the man stumbled into the tunnels while fleeing Rhendish. This was reason enough for him to offer a haven.

As Avidan began to speak, it become clear that his mind, although damaged, possessed a rare brilliance.  He was indeed an alchemist, capable of creating solutions to the myriad challenges facing a young thief in a city full of alchemists.

In truth, Avidan is far more than Fox realizes. He was born in Veldoon, the birthplace of alchemy, over 130 years ago.  The name Avidan Insa’amid is still remembered in Veldoon, and not just by his descendants.  From his youth, Avidan was noted for mastery of the art of alchemy, and his work with alkahest in particular.  Some predicted that his name would be listed among the nation’s great Philosophers.

But a little more than 100 years ago, Avidan became fascinated with a branch of alchemy that summons creatures of great power. His first attempt proved far too successful:  His attempts to summon a benign and helpful being brought to him Mabh, the Queen of the Fairies.

But Mabh was feeling neither benign nor helpful. Incensed–and a little frightened–by this summons, she lured Avidan into Faerie, the fey realm. For several terrible years, he paid for his effronterie.

In time, however, he caught the eye of a lady of the Faerie Court.  She became fascinated first with the man, then with his knowledge.  Only much later, years after his expulsion from the fey realm, did Avidan wonder what use the fairies might make of this information.

Few mortals survive their time in the fey realms. None come away unscathed.  An intense desire to return drives most men mad.  When the longing becomes too much to bear, Avidan finds himself standing before the Feyglass, hoping for a glimpse of Faerie in its ever-shifting landscape.

SEVRIN LORE: The Fox Den

The underground world of Fox Winterborn and his companions is a complex system that combines the mundane structures of Sevrin–cisterns, basements, root cellars, storm drains, and sewers–with the warren of ancient dwarf-built tunnels and chambers.

The Fox Den is a collection of underground chambers, the top “floor” of what was once a dwarf outpost. The most notable feature of the Den is the Feyglass, a large mirror with an ornately carved stone frame. This appears to be a window intp other times and places, for an ever-shifting vista of mountains, waterfalls, turquoise seas, and exotic cities emerge from the mists.  Fox, who yearns for travel and adventure far from the islands of Sevrin, finds both torment and solace in the Feyglass.

Fox suspects that the mirror might also be a portal into other realms. He found Avidan lying on the floor in front of the mirror, with no memory of how he came to be in the tunnel.  He tried to persuade his companions to move the den, but both Delgar and Vishni were adamant that they remain where they were.  Fox suspects that both the dwarf and the fairy know more about the Feyglass than they’re willing or able to share.

Thanks to Delgar’s skill at stoneshifting, the path to the Den is an ever-shifting maze.  Rhendish has tried for years to discover the secret of Fox’s ability to move through the city unseen and to disappear at will.  The adept wishes to do more than apprehend the thief, more than recover the trove of weapons and magical items Fox has been stockpiling for nearly a decade.  It is obvious to him that Fox has access to powerful allies, and he wants to know who they are and what their purposes might be.

SEVRIN LORE: The Alkahest Conundrum

One of the most ancient alchemical quests involves the search for alkahest, a universal solvent.

The definition of alkahest varies from from one alchemist to another.  To some, alkahest is a solvent that will reduce composed material into its component parts.

This type of alkahest would be particularly useful to alchemists  who wish to redefine magic on their terms.  In theory, they could break magical potions down into components, measure the proportions, and mix identical potions that would have the same effect.  Early attempts have been disappointing, but they have raised intriguing new questions as to why the reconstructed potions do not have the same effect as the original.  Some alchemists postulate that the potion’s elements can be broken into into even more basic substances–substances not yet discovered or defined.  Others believe there is an unidentified component, something common to all such potions, that, if isolated, could become a source of enormous power.  Still others believe the fault lies with the alkahest and continue to refine the solvents used.

Most alchemists consider these studies fanciful, if not downright heretical.  Accepted wisdom states that a universal solvent is impossible. The alkahest conundrum points out that before a universal solvent can be compounded, one must first find a container that it will not dissolve.

The alkahest conundrum is generally regarded as one of those questions alchemists regard as an exercise of reason and everyone else considers pure nonsense.  This is not to say that alchemists don’t research solvents:  They do, and some of these compounds have powerful applications in medicine, art, and warefare.

There are, however, a few on the fringes of alchemy who still seek the theoretical ideal.

One such alchemist, a man who is known only as Avidan and only to a very few people, has made great strides toward true alkahest.  His success is based largely on his choice of container:  a dragon’s tooth.  Avidan argues that alkahest is specific to the realm in which it is compounded. Dragons, being creatures from another realm, are not affected.

Flasks made from ancient dragon teeth are not difficult to find in Sevrin, when antiquities and curiosities are a cultural passion.  Thanks to his friendship with Fox Winterborn, a skilled thief, Avidan possesses the finest collection of dragon teeth in the city.

Avidan believes he could do better still if he could find a living dragon.  Since no dragons have been seen for many human generations, Avidan’s friends view this goal as yet more evidence that the alchemist is as crazy as three caged squirrels.

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Scribe’s note:

The dragon tooth flask pendant depicted is the work of the artists at Remnants of Olde. For more information, including how to purchase such an artifact for your own nefarious purposes, please follow this link.

SEVRIN LORE: The Greening

No elves have ever lived on the multi-island city of Sevrin, and few of Sevrin’s inhabitants venture into the mainland forests. So if you were to ask a citizen of Sevrin about the Greening, you’d likely get a puzzled look and perhaps an inquiry as to whether this was some type of apple.

The forest elves are not humans with pointed ears.  There are no half-elves, for the fey are too different from humans to permit offspring.  One of the most conspicuous differences is the elven ability to change coloring with the seasons.

The Greening is exactly what it sounds like:  A gradual shift from winter hues of white, silvery and brown to spring green.  The shift typically starts with eye color, which changes from pale silvery grey to woodland shades of green and brown.  Hair and skin darken, taking on tints of green and brown and gold.

A few human alchemists are aware of this phenomenon but so far no one has come up with a satisfying explanation.  The alchemist Avidan believes that elves and plants share certain complex chemicals that are sensitive to sunlight and temperature, and he suspects that elves can use sunlight as a source of sustenance and energy.

Though most people who meet Avidan consider him to be as crazy as three caged squirrels, they might reconsider this opinion if they saw elves before and after a summertime battle or spellcasting.  The green in their skin and hair lightens considerably, suggesting that energy gathered from sunlight can be stored and spent. 

Since a sudden, overall change in color can make elves conspicuous, some elves have devised ways to gather sunstrength in small, concentrated areas of their skin, resulting in dappled patterns or stylized tattoos.  Humans who have a superficial knowledge of elves believe they paint themselves with plant dyes. A few whispered tales suggest that elves wear spells that can be unleashed with a word or thought.  This story, though superstitious and simplistic, is actually a fairly good description of the sudden bursts of strength or speed of which elves are capable.