Apr 20

World of Witch Hunter Weekly #4: The Semicircle

WOWHWWith 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 fourth installment, we learn about the rise of magic and its tragic consequences in the world…

The pillaging had cut a deep wound in the faith of the proud people of Ivennenborgh. Ulric’s rule was heavily criticised in favour of the Church, which offered comfort in this dark time of slow resurgence.

As by divine providence, it was now that the Arcanic language began to flourish as never before. Priests and priestesses performed feats of magic that would have been beyond their capabilities before.

Ulric’s successors were equally distrusted by the people. Hoping to strengthen his popularity, mayor Edlaf commanded the construction of the First Magic Academy of Ivennenborgh in 345 HTC. The Academy became better known as the Semicircle, after the building’s strange shape. The academy was a wonder of architecture, made more glorious by the many beautiful statues and paintings that adorned it. Officially, it was to be a place to learn magic in a more liberated way, away from the restrictions and religious limitations of priesthood. In reality, it was an effort on the mayor’s part to draw away power from the Church and towards the secular government. Talented young people flocked to the Semicircle, which launched many an impressive career in all branches of society. The talent of the mages was employed in seafaring, the military, art and architecture. Official mages were highly esteemed and treated with reverence by all. Only the gypsy mages, who had nothing to do with the Semicircle, focusing instead on curing simple ailments and predicting the weather, were mocked as amateurs by the sophisticated adepts of the Academy.

And so Ivennenborgh grew into a more powerful city than it had ever been before. Far to the south, Urba Classica had fallen into ruin, which now made Ivennenborgh the dominant power in the known world.

The Academy’s head was called a dean. The sixth dean of the Semicircle was named Gunther Orff, a man whose exceptional life story was an inspiration to young people: he had started out as little more than a fisher on the river, slowly discovering his own magic potential and rapidly growing into the most potent mage the world had ever known.

Cardinal Ehrhart noticed that Orff’s arts were reaching unusual heights and became concerned when he learned that magic could not only be used for healing and light but also for perverted intentions. Gunther Orff enjoyed exploring the limits of the knowable and the moral by creating bizarre mutations in harmless animals. There were also rumours that the brilliant mage took part in nightly orgies where unspeakable things happened. Cardinal Ehrhart knew that the dean was exceptionally popular and that it would be foolish and even dangerous to try to remove him from his office.

Hoping to expose Orff in another way, Cardinal Ehrhart put forth his own candidate to take over the position of dean: Gwendala Remnav, a young woman with exceptional skills in the magic of earth and fire. So strong was Ehrhart’s trust in her that he offered her a newly established position as secret agent of the Church: she would be the first and foremost member of the Inquisition, an order that would play a decisive role in the city’s history.

On the last night of autumn in the year 661, Gwendala managed to follow Orff into the cellar of an abandoned house in the northern part of the city.
There he was the star of a truly perverted feast. It was a masked ball, which allowed Gwendala to mingle unnoticed among the revellers. She witnessed how Gunther Orff used live babies to entertain his audience, unleashing horrible spells on them. He turned their limbs into squid-like tentacles, he gave them monstrous voices and let them recite blasphemous texts and even submitted one to a fire that burned with searing pain but left no wounds. Gwendala, who was herself a mother, was so shocked by what she had seen that she could no longer suppress her feelings and allowed her fury to drive her. What followed was a duel of magic such as the world had never seen.
The cellar where the confrontation began was quickly destroyed by Gwendala’s fire spells. It then continued into the streets of Ivennenborgh itself. Orff, whose powers were focused on conjuration and mutation, brought forth ever more frightful foes, while Gwendala had the very earth shake on its foundations. The entire city watched in astonishment as the titanic clash continued. When Gunther had cornered his enemy at last, it was revealed that he was possessed by the spirit of Lucchus. At this point, Gwendala sacrificed her own life to remove this evil from the world. Orff countered her with a terrible spell of his own. Their magic clashed and in that final conflict, so much raw magical force was released that the earth itself split and an enormous chasm came to be, dividing the northern half of the city in two. Gunther Orff had been defeated, albeit at a terrible cost.

The consequences of the magic explosion were disastrous. Whole streets had disappeared into the chasm and even in the surrounding area the damage was enormous. In the months that followed, children with strange qualities were born near the chasm. They seemed to be allergic to bright light. Their skin had a pale grey hue and their deep eyes were entirely white, though they could see well, especially in the dark. These children spoke little and never laughed. Sometimes they would tell their parents about their horrible dreams and whenever they did, bad things happened soon after. The children so unnerved the people that they were eventually banished to live at the bottom of the chasm. Those parents who refused to leave their children were forced to join them into that gloomy place to live out their lives far from the light of the sun. The depths of the chasm were never visited and eventually everyone called them the Ghost Streets, where the lost children lived, scarred forever by a magic they had never invited into their lives.

Now all of Ivennenborgh had seen what terrible things magic could do and how only the Cardinal’s insight had stopped its horror. Even though many voices said that it had really been Gwendala who had defeated Orff, the overall mood in the city was clear. The people were ready to put their faith in the Church, but not in the magic from which it had been built.
This shift away from magic and towards greater esteem for the Church planted the seed out of which Sevenpeaks could grow.