Sereph’s past is easily tracked back to his village of origin, Silverstream. Silverstream is a modest elven village near to the predominately human village of Helge’s Town, and the dwarven community of Stonebreak. During the Scourge all three communities cooperated in expanding Stonebreak to house them all and they remain on friendly terms to this day. Silverstream consists of several dozen families housed in structures built onto the branches of the great oaks lining the stream from which the community takes its name.
The inhabitants were friendly enough and while it was clear that Sereph was not their favorite subject, they were willing to talk about him. Elves live for centuries, but their childhoods are not much longer than humans. With centuries of responsibility ahead of them, elves generally indulge their children and let them run wild. Sereph didn’t. He was a quite child who was much more likely to read or listen to stories than play pranks. He was not so much well behaved as abnormal.
His parents and siblings were not eager to talk about him, but they did so with affection. They were clearly uncomfortable with his choice of Discipline, but loved him. His father, Lercanis, was unforthcoming and uncooperative. His mother, Silea, proudly showed me his childhood room, which was small and cozy. An overstuffed bookshelf dominated the room. Browsing the titles revealed some of the great legends of Barsaive and tales from far away lands as well as more serious histories. His brother, Kerneth, and sister, Valren, had cordial dealings with their brother, but they were never close. Sereph was an enigma to his family.
His teacher was much better informed. Between Silverstream and Hegle’s Town is a cenotaph called The Black Pillar, a ten feet tall slab of black stone at the top of a very modest hill. At the base of the hill is a small stone house and the remains of the hut that the Nethermancer Cardis had inhabited before that. Cardis is a female elf of indeterminate age with black tiger stripes tattooed over face and perhaps other parts of her body. Her eyes glisten silver in a manner that suggests that something greater than a Namegiver is looking at you. She enjoyed talking about her protege and she used that word.
She had come here to study the Black Pillar and commune with the ghosts of the heroes who died here so long ago, but she quickly discerned that Sereph was a candidate for initiation to her discipline. “Sometimes the boy could here the spirits whispering,” she said. “They’ve been alone a long time. As someone they could almost talk to, they kept an eye on him. The rest followed inevitably.”
That told me how he became a nethermancer, but not what he was like. In fact, nothing anyone had told me about Sereph illuminated any of his character. When I told Cardis this, she laughed. “It’s easy enough to figure out. Ask him.”
“Did you?” I asked.
“We discussed many things,” Cardis replied. “But in answer to your attention I will tell you. He could discern at an early age that power is the engine that moves the world. Poltical power, military power, economic power. Magical power. Power makes the weak victims or it delivers them. It redraws the boundaries of the world. It gathers wealth to itself and upends the rich and the poor alike. It makes Namegivers free or makes them slaves. It slays dragons and burns cities. It does not care what it does. That is left to the wielders. And who are they? The greatest are heroes, who may care. Dragons, who care about their own aims. Rulers, who might care about the people, but always care about their thrones. And Horrors. Most of all Horrors, who remade the world.”
“And who wields magic that can strike down Horrors? Who can turn their own powers against them, wield they very tool they use fell all who could stand against them? You know the answer. There is only one road open to a boy who knows the cold, hard truth of the world but still wishes to be a hero. You want to know why he does what he does? So this place is safe. And all the others like it. As far as his power will reach. Nothing more. Nothing less.”