Today I thought I'd give you guys a little glimpse at the backstory of the first major villain of my world, Emperor Castor Broodan. I hope you all enjoy it and feel free to leave a comment if you'd like.
As the trident stabbed out of his chest, gleaming with his own blood, Emperor Castor Broodan stared in shock and amazement. The last thought he had before the blackness of oblivion took him was a simple one. Words poured out of his mouth with a bubbling gush of blood, but in his mind the only thought was, 'I never thought it would come to this.' And in a bright flash, the eldritch and arcane energies that Broodan had so desperately tried to control imploded on himself, leaving only his clothing and naught else.
“Broodan! Up early again, I see.” the old wizard cackled as he crossed the room to the small table where his breakfast sat. The young man sitting opposite him nodded, his face buried in the tome that lay before him. The old man, a powerful wizard of some renown named Balthorus Vermick, setaed himself and ate his breakfast of porridge.
“You get to be my age, and you'll be less interested in those books and more in simple things...like a hot meal.” With a gesture from the wizard, the book flew off of the table and the boys breakfast took its place. “You need to eat, if you are going to continue as my apprentice, boy. You don't eat and you lose concentration when your stomach is grumbling at you to feed it.” Broodan glared up at Balthorus, and begrudgingly began eating his meal. After finishing the meal, Balthorus rose and said, “Today, we are going to take a walk, my lad. Come along.” With another arcane gesture, he summoned out of the aether a cloak, walking stick and hat. Broodan was forced to run to the closet and fetch his walking gear on foot.
Broodan, a young boy of only twelve years of age, had shown great aptitude for magical learning even as a child. As time went on, his parents had finally agreed to let him leave the farm they lived on and seek an apprenticeship with Balthorus. After months of seeking, he had finally found the old mage living alone in the wilderness in a small hut. At first, Balthorus was reluctant to take on a new apprentice. He cited that his age wouldn't permit him to keep up with the youth and that the last apprentice he had taken on was such a great disappointment that he had vowed to never do it again.
But Castor Broodan was not to be turned away lightly. He started by simply doing the chores around the house that Balthorus had been neglecting. He then started doing more complex chores that Balthorus simply didn't care to do. Finally, after a full year of this, Balthorus one day handed him a book filled with arcane runes and pictures detailing hand gestures. Thus began the apprenticeship of Broodan.
However, the young man found himself at an impasse. Today, for instance, was wasted out taking a walk. The old man would prattle on about nature and the balance of things when he really should have been inside teaching him about things in the book! Four years of studying under the old man and he was getting tired of listening to his cautionary warnings and constant habit of slowing him down. Broodan, at heart, had a fondness for Balthorus. Despite that, however, he did resent the wizard for not teaching him more powerful spells and incantations.
“Are you listening, Castor? This is important, you know.” Balthorus' voice broke in on Broodan's internal musings. “Of course, master. I was simply thinking about a theorem I read about...” The wizard cut the young man off with a sharp gesture and said, “Theorems and studies...bah! Nature can teach you everything you need to know about magic if you will simply pay attention.”
Balthorus gestured to the forest around them and said, “The trees can teach you everything there is you'll need to know about magic, boy. Just look at them. They are tall and mighty. More powerful then you or I are right now. They live for ages and ages unless someone destroys them.” He rested an old, gnarled hand upon the bark of the nearest oak and sighed. “They are immortal and yet do nothing with that power. They are content in simply being. That is the lesson for today.”
Balthorus pointed to a small stump next to the large oak and said, “You will seat yourself here on that stump. You will not move or even speak for the rest of the week.” As usual, the mages lessons were rarely explained. To some, they even seemed to be the whims of an elderly mind losing what little grip it had on reality. Castor was not one of those fools. Everything had a purpose, a hidden lesson if you had the intelligence to learn it. This, however, was not an ideal situation. “Master, I do not wish to go against your teaching. If I am to seat myself there for a full week, what will I eat or drink? What if a dangerous animal attacks me?”
Balthorus grinned. “Do trees worry about such things? For food and drink, rain falls and the sun shines. As for dangerous animals...well, what does a tree have to fear from them?” Broodan nodded. He knew that arguing with his master would simply cause the old man to leave and not continue his apprenticeship. So he seated himself down on the stump and Balthorus grinned. “Good lad. I shall return in a week. Remember...think as the trees!” And with that last comment, the wizard disappeared in a small flash of light.
Two days later, cold and wet from the rain, Broodan sat on his stump. It had taken two days, but he was finally starting to reach the end of his patience. 'This is stupid. I should be researching and studying. I'm a wizard, not a druid, damn it!' he thought as he grumbled under his breath. All he had done was sit and think to himself for the past two days. Nothing had happened, and certainly no enlightenment from the “trees” had arrived. No, it simply had started raining.
A rustling from the underbrush across the clearing from where he sat caught Broodan's interest. Bracing himself for some squirrel or other inoffensive woodland creature to appear, he was rather shocked to see a large wolf come stalking out towards him. Broodan felt a swift pang of panic and terror as the wolf locked eyes with him. All he could think was, 'Think like a tree...think like a tree...dear Mithrious, I'm going to die because my master went insane.'
However, the wolf simply walked over to him and sat down before him. The wolf stared at the boy for what seemed like an eternity before it let out a sound that almost sounded like a chuckle. Broodan raised an eyebrow and was about to question that when the wolf said, “So...the tree exercise. I remember that one. Pretty pointless, if you ask me. People rarely do.”. The wolf dipped his head down and in a swirl he transformed into a lean man dressed in muted greens and brown clothing. “So, Balthorus took on a new apprentice, I see. I seem to remember he told me he wouldn't bother after me.”
Broodan's shock finally wore off and he managed to stutter out, “You...you are the old apprentice?” The man nodded and said, “You know, you can get off the stump. It's not like he's going to know. I simply went over to the next town for a week and made sure to be back before he returned. You just need to be able to say something profound about sitting still and observing nature and the natural world, and he thinks you have learned your lesson. My name is Mentir Calshim, by the way.”
Broodan frowned and said, “He said that he saw through you and threw you out. You were too ambitious and greedy.” Mentir chuckled and said, “He likes to cloak his words in various feel-good and positive terms that paint him in a proper light. Suffice it to say that I simply had a hunger for knowledge that he was too old to keep up with. And I get the feeling, from the expression I saw on your face before I showed up, that you feel the same way.”
Mentir gestured and summoned up a horse. “If you ever get tired of his ponderous methods, why not come find me? I'd be more happy to show you a much faster and reliable path to power.” With that, he mounted the horse and rode away. Broodan's frown increased at the departure of the failed apprentice. His mastery of magic though could not be denied and he could not lie to himself that he did indeed chafe under the teaching methods of Balthorus. However, the honor and prestige of being trained by a well-known master of the arcane arts had great benefits that outweighed the annoyance.
But as he sat on the stump, he felt the resurgence of annoyance rising up after a few hours. The thought of staying here for another five days was enough to drive him mad. Looking about, he stood up slowly and took a step away from the stump. Nothing happened. He took another step, almost expecting Balthorus to burst out and catch him. But nothing happened...nothing at all. As he left the clearing and made his way towards town, he didn't notice Mentir standing behind a nearby tree quietly laughing to himself before disappearing.