Character Notes: Daven

I alluded to someone called Daven in Chapter 3 of my epic. I’m using a variant of the character for Pathfinder Society games, now, so this seems like an appropriate time to talk about him. I will write about the version of him from the epic, not the Pathfinder version.

In my epic, “wizard” means “rebel magic-user,” and “mage” means “loyal to the Magnolium Order.” Wizards are more powerful because they don’t have self-imposed restrictions, but there are some things only those with mage training can do, like heal effectively. I may need to think of better names for these two, but that’s what I have right now.

Daven is a wizard, age 24. Like most with the gift of magic, he was found by the Magnolium Order at age 4, and was supposed to be taken in by them, as usual. Instead, his parents, who were wealthy commoners, fled into the forest with him. This was 20 years before Prince Romm ran away, and 10 years before King Thobis would slaughter Lucana. At this time, Lucana was under the care of the main body of wizard rebels. These rebels, also hiding in the woods, found Daven and his parents. His parents joined the group, though they knew no magic, and they entrusted their son to the rebels should anything befall them. Daven practiced his magic with the rebels as he grew.

Now the Magnolium Order was larger than any one nation, but it had in general done the bidding of the king, when he asked them to help maintain the laws and the peace. Quite apart from their own desire to recapture defectors, they had had standing orders for centuries, ever since the blood feud between the royal family and the House of Amicen, to hunt down the rebel mages. So the band Daven had joined moved on, through forests, swamps, caves, mountains, to keep away from the Magnolium Order.

The Order had many skilled hunters. Many skirmishes between mage and wizard were fought, and the rebels lost many members. Eventually they realized they could not run forever. They had not the strength, nor the numbers. After all, the only people joining the group were those who happened to run away from their fellow mages, or children like Daven whose parents would rather see their children fighting a guerilla war than be slaves to the Order. Sure, there were a few children being born to the wizards, but not many, for they were hard to take care of.

When Daven was 14, Lucana was 15, and Prince Romm was 7, the leaders of the wizard revolution (including Lucana) decided that they could not survive as things were going. They settled on a last-ditch assault on King Thobis, thinking that if he could be slaughtered, the blood feud with Lucana’s family might end. The wizards knew the attack would almost certainly kill them all, but they felt they had no other choice. Daven asked to go along. His parents said no. Only those who were Lucana’s age and older could go. Daven and the rest of the children, numbering about three dozen in all, hid in a little village where a sympathizer provided food and shelter. There they awaited news, or any survivors. For about a month.

After that, most of them had correctly guessed that everyone who went on the attack, all of their parents (including Daven’s), had died. The sympathizer could no longer support the wizard children, and he forced them back into the wilderness. There, they surely would have starved or been carried off or eaten by monsters, were it not for Daven’s leadership. He was the oldest, and he stepped up to be the new leader. And quite apart from helping the children to find food and shelter, he set an entire new direction for the 300-year-old rebellion.

“Our parents’ doomed assault,” said Daven, “was not a result of foolishness, nor even self-sacrifice. It was an admission. They revealed what they couldn’t bear to speak aloud: they had no hope. They used their last gasp to spit curses at the king, because they couldn’t see any brighter future than oblivion, and wanted to take their hated enemy with them. In fact, I’ll warrant they couldn’t even see why they hated him, apart from ancient wrongs long forgotten.

And I too must ask, why should they hate the king? It isn’t he who hates us. He doesn’t pursue us, doesn’t try out enslave us, doesn’t force us out of civilization into the dark corners of the world. The Magnolium Order does that. Remember, friends, it is the Magnolium Order who hates us.”

This was Daven’s slogan: “The Order hates us.” It was a shift from the days when all the wizards’ anger was directed at the royal family. And it was a move that made a lot of sense, politically. Daven didn’t think in these terms, but while common folk had no grudge against the king, they viewed the Order with more than a little resentment. Its “ethics” were questionable. It prohibited men from entering any trade other than their fathers’, and women from entering any trade at all. It had censorship powers over music and performance and art, which in practice meant that all such things were reserved for the nobles, who tithed well. And even those who loved the king most had cause to dislike the order, for it usurped more and more royal authority each year. There was talk of making tithing mandatory, a line that previous kings had always drawn. Many of the common people wished King Thobis would stand up to his clergy more often. But Cardinal Alabaster of the Order always had his ear.

Daven, of course, had none of this in mind when he chose to make the Magnolium Order his target. He made that choice because, he thought, this rebellion had been going on for 300 years, and wasn’t it time someone actually thought about how to win it? Rather than spend time seeking new curses to hurl at the king, Daven’s rebellion would seek ways to stir up dissent against the Order. Rather than raid cities they judged to be too friendly to the royal family, they would waylay Magnolium caravans and try to recruit any mages who wished to leave and become wizards. And rather than taking cover in the wilderness to flee from the Order, they would use the wilderness as a base of operations to assault the Order, until it was they who fleed!

Thanks to Daven’s shift in strategy, or rather, thanks to the fact that he had any strategy at all, concern about the rebels propagated up, through the Order’s ranks. First lone mages feared to stray too far off the king’s highway when traveling from one monastery to another. Then caravans of Order members moving from city to city started to set night watches. Then Daven, with what few people he could muster, ambushed a caravan that was taking a 4 year old who had magical ability to a monastery, and returned the child to its parents. The more daring Daven got, the more mages started to defect to his cause, especially the young ones who didn’t like having been forced into the monastic life.

More about the organization of the Magnolium Order later, but suffice it to say that the leader of the Order was named Pontifex Seram, and that Cardinal Alabaster was generally assumed to be next in line for the position. Seram didn’t think the gang of wizards was a huge threat, and thought that removing their ringleader would be enough. That’s why, when Prince Romm saw those mages interrogating that wizard, it was Daven they wanted to find.

A couple more notes on Daven’s personality:

Daven was, of course, a natural leader. Though a wizard, Daven’s magic was almost pathetically weak. If the Order ever did catch up with him, a single mage would be enough to take him down. This weakness wasn’t common knowledge amongst the wizards in the rebellion, though, even when there were only a few dozen of them. He spent almost all of his life in forests and caves, and looked it. His eloquence was similarly limited, although he managed to fake it well enough for other people who lived in the wilderness, and he had several little speeches about the evils of the Order that were well practiced.

In the 10 years the old wizards’ deaths and the beginning of our story, Daven’s command was unquestioned, even by himself. He was the smartest by far, and the only one who could set a course for how the wizards would actually win this rebellion; of course he was in charge. Daven never allowed himself extra privileges of any kind for his leadership, and was proud of it. He was not at all strict, and he never needed to be. He appreciated suggestions or feedback when it was offered, so long as all recognized that the final decision laid with him, which it always did by default. It wasn’t in Daven’s nature to delegate when he didn’t have to, though, and although defectors and escaped child recruits swelled his ranks to almost a thousand over the course of 10 years, he hated to split the group up unless it was necessary.

He welcomed the Magnolium defectors into his family with open arms, not least because they brought information and skills his group lacked. These newcomers, perhaps out of habit learned in the Order, insisted on treating Daven with a level of respect and deference to which he was unaccustomed, calling him “sir,” for instance. He didn’t object to this, and even came to expect it. He still ate the same rations as his men and went on raids with them, so he could still say he was just the same as them, just one of the wizard family, and he was only so honored because he was the best at planning. He told himself this. As there were no real challenges to his authority, nor any particular luxuries he could give himself anyway, how he would fare as a leader in other circumstances was up in the air; whether he would fall prey to a lust for power, or maintain his ideals, was yet to be seen.

At the time, only two of Daven’s policies were ever controversial within the group. The first was that they had to keep moving; he refused to set up a camp for more than a month at a time, no matter how secret and secure the location. There was a lot of grumbling about this, but it was generally agreed that this was the safest thing to do.

The other policy was that Daven had decided that their group needed not just a leader, but a figurehead as well, and that this figurehead should not be him. He chose someone else, someone who most of the recruits, with no older wizards to tell them about it, knew nothing about. And those who did know who he was felt that it was almost hypocritical to elevate him to a position of honor, even if it was an explicitly ceremonial one. They still defered willingly to Daven, and he insisted that, whatever he said about the old generations’ lack of hope and the pointlessness of their feud, it was worth protecting this one connection to the past: the son of the murdered Lucana, last heir of the House of Amicen.

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