With Witch Hunter: the dramatized audiobook in the making, we felt it would be a good idea to introduce the lore of the world with a weekly nugget of information that brings to life the universe inhabited by Ludlov and Samina, bit by bit. In this second installment, we discover the tale of Welhalm the White…
The day when Wolfen founded Ivennenborgh and became its king was the first day of the first year of the High-Thotic Calendar (1 HTC), which was used even in the time of Sevenpeaks. Wolfen saw Arcanic as the language of the chosen and the language of the Goddess and the Maiden. He taught his followers the history he had seen in the wolf’s eyes and the great power that he had unleashed in learning the Arcanic language. Thanks to the blessed abilities they came to know, the people of Ivennenborgh learned to grow the richest crops and catch the best fish – more than they could ever need for themselves, and so they bartered with the people of the east: the Parslavenians.
The Parslavenians were a cultured and refined people. Their king was Vrosnjec, a proud and cruel man who coveted the ever-growing success of Ivennenborgh and its people. He sent out his best spies and disguised them as citizens of king Wolfen’s people. So the spies discovered that the secret of Ivennenborgh’s success lay in Arcanic. Beyond that, they learned two more important facts. First, Vrosnjec’s spies found out that not all Ivennenborghians were capable of commanding the secret of Arcanic: many were perfectly able to learn the language, but not its magical strength. Then there were also those who were slow to learn the language, but were able to conjure masterful spells. Secondly (and more importantly, for their purposes) the spies learned that many believed there to be a dark magic as well. Since Wolfen had taught his people that the Maiden had been slain with Lucchus’s Black Sickle, itself a weapon of magic, there had to be an evil magic that commanded that weapon.
When Vrosnjec heard this, an evil plan began to foment in his mind. He sent his wisest and most talented spies to infiltrate into the very heart of Wolfen’s kingdom, where they would learn the Arcanic language. Then, he would tell those spies to commit great but horrible deeds using their magic. That way, he planned to discredit both the Arcanic language and the magic connected to it, so that all magicians would flee to Parslavena, where they would be safe and he would be able to use their gifts to his advantage. So, he would reach his ultimate goal, which was to make Parslavena greater and more powerful than Ivennenborgh.
The plan failed because no matter how hard they tried, the spies he sent were incapable of producing magic, even when they learned to speak Arcanic perfectly. Frustrated, Vrosnjec decided to leave the situation as it was. Trade with Ivennenborgh had made the Parslavenian tribe richer than it had ever been, but still it was not enough for Vrosnjec because Ivennenborgh had more.
During this time, king Wolfen I of Ivennenborgh had finished the process of building a temple to honour the Goddess and he had named it the Grand Cathedral. It was little more than a simple wooden hall, but it fulfilled an important function: it became the place where young people who excelled at Arcanic magic were to be trained to become priests and priestesses.
Now there was a young lad named Welhalm who had a control over the craft that had never been seen before. He possessed the ability to read anyone’s thoughts like an open book, but more than that, he was both more cunning and more charming than any other man in Ivennenborgh. Welhalm was lovingly raised and trained to be a priest of the Goddess, but even at a very young age, his fascination for Lucchus and his terrible deeds proved disturbing. Every night he dreamed about the Black Sickle slaying the Maiden.
A talented artist as well as a gifted magician, Welhalm was able to channel his dreams in a painting which he hung in the main hall of the Cathedral. The painting represented the precise moment of the Maiden’s death in exquisite and unnerving detail. The elder priests let young Wilhalm go about his business, impressed with his craft as they were. Nevertheless, in their hearts the presence of this dark moment – and in particular the horrid depiction of Lucchus that Welhalm had painted – frightened them. The painting showed Lucchus with eyes like glowing embers, looking directly at anyone who faced the artwork. Out of those eyes emanated a raw, unformed but unspeakably powerful will. An evil will.
One day, Welhalm was wandering through Ivennenborgh and he heard the thoughts of Vrosnjec’s spies, and so learned what their assignment had been.
Welhalm’s initial intent was to report the spies to Wolfen and his priests, but he was curious and intrigued and so he decided to follow them at a distance to find out more. That is how he learned that Vrosnjec’s spies were already working at unravelling the secrets of the dark forms of magic. Welhalm had never considered the dark arts, but when he heard about it, his inquisitive mind was eager to learn more. And so he kept spying on them and experimenting in secret. Vrosnjec’s spies remained stuck in theory, unable to actually perform any magic, but unwittingly they were training a far more powerful mage than themselves in Welhalm. He tried small things at first, like starting subtle fires in the field or asphyxiating small animals, fascinated by the awesome power he had never experienced before in the Arcanic language. And while he kept it to himself, his great will became fell and evil and his painting reflected it. Even though Welhalm left the painting untouched, it became even more disturbing than it already had been. Welhalm felt strangely drawn to his own creation and spent hours just looking at it every night. Whenever he did, he felt an exciting power rising up within him. Simultaneously, he experienced a gaping abyss opening up within his soul.
This was how Welhalm learned that he could use the painting for a terrible purpose. Sensing its power, he taught himself a spell that disrespected the very order of the world which the Goddess had established.
One day, Welhalm concluded that he had learned enough from the spies and he had no more need for them. He reported them and explained their plans in detail to the king. King Wolfen was startled to find out such betrayal but refused to have the spies killed. Instead, he sent them back to Parslavena to tell Vrosnjec that his evil plan had been foiled and that commerce between Ivennenborgh and Parslavena would be severely diminished.
Grateful for exposing the conspiracy, Wolfen made Welhalm his high priest and councillor. One month later a royal visitor arrived from Parslavena. It wasn’t Vrosnjec but his beautiful adopted daughter Ilena. She came to bring the message of Vrosnjec’s apology for what had happened, adding that Vrosnjec was personally innocent. She said it had in fact been his vizier who had concocted the foul scheme and sent the spies. Wolfen, who was aware of Welhalm’s telepathic abilities, ordered Welhalm to investigate the princess’s thoughts to find out the truth. Welhalm did as he was told and found no trace of a lie. In his heart, Welhalm knew that Ilena didn’t lie because she was innocent and she believed her foster father, but he also knew that Vrosnjec himself had been deceitful, and that he was using the princess to make amends with Wolfen. Still, Welhalm kept silent because he wanted relations between Ivennennborgh and Parslavena to remain strong so that he might marry the princess, as he had lost his heart to her.
Welhalm didn’t know that Ilena was much more than he thought she was. She was more than a human being and while she saw the evil in Welhalm’s heart, she kept quiet as well.
Everything seemed to play out just as Welhalm had desired. The enmity between Wolfen and Vrosnjec came to an end and once their nations were officially reconciled, trade was re-established. Welhalm felt the time was right to ask Wolfen and Vrosnjec for permission to ask Ilena’s hand in marriage and to his joy, he received permission from both kings.
Welhalm had a plan. He planned to use the new power he had acquired. Knowing the hypnotic strength in the eyes of Lucchus in the painting, Welhalm knew that he could express his own will through those eyes and force it upon others. He intended to ask Ilena’s hand in marriage within the Cathedral. He hoped and partly believed that she would accept, but still he wanted to propose while they were near to the painting, so that he could use the eyes of Lucchus he had painted to submit her to his will if she decided to refuse.
Ilena liked visiting Ivennenborgh and whenever she was there, Welhalm invited her to walk with him, which she enjoyed. As they walked, they would talk about life and the world, and it was during those pleasant strolls that Welhalm learned that Ilena was nothing like her adoptive father. She was a peaceful, gentle and sincere soul. He admired her in all of the ways a man can admire a woman. When evening fell, he brought her to the Cathedral and showed her the painting. When he saw that the representation of Lucchus had caught her eye, he used its power and let the gaze of the demon bore into her eyes. Then he asked her to marry him.
To his surprise, Ilena said:
“No, Welhalm, I cannot do this.”
Then he let the eyes of Lucchus strengthen their influence on her and he said:
“I am the one for you, Ilena. I am what you most desire”; but still she refused.
A third time he tried, using all his magical strength, and still he didn’t succeed in winning her over.
“Why do you keep refusing me?” he asked at last, desperate.
Then Ilena revealed who she was and said:
“I am the blood of the Maiden and I will be on this earth long past Vrosnjec, long past Wolfen, longer than the oldest mortal who will ever live. My will is the Maiden’s will and that will does not give in to evil forces. It is Love that I serve!”
When she had said these words, a bright light emanated from her. She touched Welhalm’s head and his hair turned white immediately. Welhalm now saw his own folly. Ilena left the Cathedral and Ivennenborgh and did not return.
Long did Welhalm remain there, sitting alone. Then he looked at the painting he had made and in those eyes he saw the evil that had lived within him and he renounced it.
Welhalm realised that he possessed the power to become the greatest evil on earth. He decided he didn’t want that, and so he gave up his position as priest and king Wolfen’s personal councillor. Instead, he would be a humble travelling monk. He let the painting of Lucchus be removed and hidden in the vaults of the Cathedral, since he lacked the will to have it completely destroyed. His last command to the priests of his order was that they would have to put on a blindfold whenever they were near the painting, so that they would never meet its evil gaze. With these words, Welhalm the White departed from Ivennenborgh.