It has been many years since I last looked upon his face, and our last words were neither cruel or kind. It was his will that he explore into the darker reaches of the Art, and it was mine to look back into its roots. We were alike in many ways, fellow explorers, writers, revolutionaries and members of the Cabal of Pure Magic. We parted ways, as I said, some years ago.
Now I find myself stunned to learn that Markus the Black is now cold and dead, laying in his crypt. In dismal fantasies I imagine him rising from the cold stone, eyes burning with forsaken lore long since buried beyond the grave. but I know better, and I know that he will not rise from that stony bed.
The Rogue Scholar
Markus the Black was the very image of the dark sorcerer with shoulder length black hair and a pale complexion. Hie brown eyes were eager and seemed to pop out of his pale face, the focal point of his feverish charisma. Of slightly less than average height, he was also thin, mostly from spending too little time at the dinner table and too much in the laboratory.
Markus was born to destitute parents who abandoned him on the doorstep of a local lord. The Lady of the manor was moved by the infant and chose to raise him as her own. This was a great boon to her, as her own womb was barren and she greatly desired a child. The Lord of the manor officially adopted the infant and gave him the position of heir-apparent. His childhood was of little incident as he was raised a sheltered life of the middle nobility. He learned to read, and to write, and devices of heraldry, but he only took a passing interest in martial goals.
Near puberty, Markus was afflicted with a disease, a dyscrasia of the blood. He was perpetually weak, and his color was very poor, often looking ashen or even faintly blue in complexion. The Lord’s physician was at a loss, as no herb or tincture he concocted could rouse Markus from his illness. It would not be until his 16th birthday that he found relief from his chronic illness. An alchemist of unknown origin presented Markus with a written spell to create a Tincture of Blood that would restore his health.
The young man quickly set to work and within a month had created the tincture. After three doses, it seemed that his dyscrasia was in remission, and he found a new passion, alchemy. It was not long before he branched out of the patient and precise art of alchemy into the more loose and fast realm of sorcery.
The House of Shadows
Once embarked on the sorcerous path, Markus removed himself from the family estate and the circles of noble society. He would seek out secrets among the vagabonds and the criminals, the questionable apothecaries and purveyors of false relics and pocket charms. He purchased a secluded country manor and set up a laboratory and was soon entertaining traveling sorcerers, and boarding charlatans and fakirs to squeeze their secrets from them.
It was here that I was initiated into the circles of sorcery and its maligned and often malignant history. Until then I was but a passing country acquaintance, but soon found myself drawn to his charisma
The House of Shadows was known to be a place of ill repute. Loose women, beggars and con-men, thieves and rogues of all strips could be found there at all hours. The laboratory became a dispensary of illicit tinctures and questionable potions. Yet there were also wise men who were not adverse to such moral lassitude, and some even wallowed in its excess. during this time, Markus made many advances in his studies, wandering from summoning, to conjuring, enchantment to necromancy, even dabbling in daemonology. Yet each time he stepped back from the brink, seemingly charmed himself.
Students and Prophecy
During this time Markus the Black took a number of students, Johan Rothe who would later be killed in a confrontation with city guards, Garrick of Vales who would prove to be a thorn, and myself, the Rogue Scholar as well. He also made a small prophecy, that despite his wealth and privilege and sorcerous knowledge, he would not see his 30th naming day. Markus was a best, a haphazard mentor, often leaving his students to their own devices. This was in part due to his often whimsical nature, and to the fact that when most sorcerers had a single apprentice, Markus had a dozen.
This was a short period of his life where Markus the Black took a wife, sired half a dozen children, and made a modest effort at returning to the circles of nobility. It was not long lasting as he was inexorably drawn back to the seedy side of the city, and back to the House of Shadows. Eventually the Lady would petition for a divorce, relocated to another duchy, and took for a husband a knight. This, coupled with the loss of his former students was the final push that ended the Calm.
The Downward Spiral
The Spiral figures prominently in many of Markus’ works, and in many aspects his life was nothing more than a spiral turning back on itself. THe end of the Calm was pointedly marked by the violent death of Johan Rothe, one of his first students. A band of city guards and local do-gooders raided Rothe’s manor and in an explosion of violence killed Rothe and several of his consors, or servants. Garrick of Vales returned as a rival, absconding with Lebier. Lebier was his last apprentice and as a fire headed princess, a suitable replacement for his less than tolerant first wife.
The magic became darker, and drew upon more primal and agonistic powers, feeding on the darkness and pain he held within. When he wasn’t conjuring succubi or placing hexes against his former apprentices, Markus drowned his wits in exotic herbs and drugs. He surrounded himself with like minded sybarites and hedonists until the House of Shadows more resembles a brothel and drug den rather than a debauched library and laboratory.
It was a tax collector who discovered Markus the Black dead in the library of the House of Shadows. He was contorted into a painful position, curled upon his back as an animal speared. The official funeral ceremony was a normal affair of solemn pomp coordinated by his still living adoptive parents. It was largely a quiet affair that was attended by the friends and family of his parents, though none of his students or sycophants was to be seen among the mourners.
Less official funerals were held in various closed covens, these more resembled boisterous affairs of drinking, drug use, and displays of power and sadism in his name.
The Half-Written Book
While teaching a dozen students across the kingdom, and fathering a large number of children, Markus endeavored to write his work down in a book. This book would never be completed, mostly due to his attention wandering every time he sat down to write, and by the nature of his old prophecy. The book is a rambling and disjointed work on the nature of Anarchic Sorcery with many entries into the realm of sensory altering and chaos magics. It takes a good deal of effort to read and even more to sort out his rather poor penmanship and use of cheap and fading inks.
The Hand of Arah
While not a martial person, Markus did make use of a combative magic item, a spider-web like glove of gold wire wrapped around a green gem cut in the likeness of an eye. With this ‘hand’ he could project streams of fire, or disintegrate inanimate objects at close range. It could also be used to counter fire spells and manipulate already existing flames.
The Corundum Chariot
This red chariot was carved in the likeness of a minotaur and was pulled by six oxen made entirely of red and gold flame. He used it as a personal conveyance, conjuring it by magic, to travel to and fro. It could accommodate six passengers in cramped confines and flew through the air at a good speed, though often faster than was considered safe.
The House of Shadows
A contemporary manor that was long and narrow, presenting a narrow face to the rising and setting sun, the House of Shadow would fall into disrepair following his demise. The sybarites and hedonists who had been with him in the last months would fall on the manor like locusts and in a matter of hours strip it bare to the stone walls and wooden floors.
Decadenti - Many a young nobleman and lady has spent a debauched evening in the House of Shadow, laying a groundwork for an upswing in the popularity of questionable magics. It is not such a large step from summoning incubi and succubi and indulging in drugs to summoning true demons and spreading the use of such substances. Markus the Black was the seed that could sprout into a kingdom wide shadow culture of violence, sadism, ritual drug use and questionable magics.
A Questionable Saint - often derisive and mocking of the Faith, his erstwhile followers raise Markus to the status of an Anti-Saint. They begin to invoke his name during sorcerous rituals, and to watch over them in daily tasks, creating a small but growing sorceror’s cult. The Decadenti move from leisure to zealotry in their use of questionable magics, deviant, anti-religious and anarchic practices.
A Measure of Redemption - Where could a man of such extreme belief’s find hope of salvation. Some would say he sped on straight to the bosom of the Devils, others would say that he found his peace. The truth is more nebulous as his ghost lingers in the House of Shadow, a hidden oracle that can trade intense knowledge, but only at high personal cost in terms of ethics and morality.
For Sam, as he would have wanted it