Profiles in Magic, Volume 12 (book)

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Profiles in Magic, Volume Twelve

Erzebet Crowther : With Every Dusky Moonbeam

PREFACE:

Heritage Monographs, the official press of the Moonmage Guild, is proud to present the twelth volume in the ongoing Profiles in Magic series. The information within has been painstakingly researched through both personal interviews and magical scrying, compiled by a dedicated staff of scholars and Guild representatives.

While most of the Profiles to date have centered around the lives of mages long dead, we are honored to now present the biography of a truly monumental and still living figure, one who has changed the face of the Moonmage Guild through history. We give you Erzebet Crowther, Stateswoman, patron of the High Council, and magical pioneer.

"With every dusky moonbeam and with e'ry revolution, Magick is our signpost, our method Evolution."

It is with these words that Erzebet Crowther took her oath of initiation into the Moonmage High Council, the same words that her great-great-great-grandmother Alicia Crowther had spoken when signing the Lunar Accord and helping to form the same guild, over a century ago. It was the pinnacle of a long, notable and sometimes arduous career in the magical arts, a career which began with great expectations indeed.

Erzebet had been born over seventy years prior, in the Illithi mansion of her mother, Jacqueline Crowther. A councilwoman herself, Jacqueline and her husband Roberto were proud to carry on the long and distinguished lineage of the Crowther family. Carrying the family name down maternal lines, every generation of the family gave birth to a single daughter; and, without fail, those daughters were raised to become superior magicians and scholars without peer.

The Moonmage ruling council has only once been without a Crowther daughter in its ranks, that one time being the catastrophic and humiliating Timbleton Incident that nearly destroyed the fledgling guild-- during which, Erzebet will not hesitate to point out, Ona Crowther was the only accused conspirator to be acquitted of all charges.

Despite the social handicap of being a human in the Elothean- centered world of Shard academia, the privilege of her birth overcame most early hurdles until she was able to shine on her own. A quick study, Erzebet was provided with a classical education many only dream of: following an early session at the Imperial Academy (which survived long after the fall of the nation that built it) and graduating with top honors, she entered the Moonmage Guild as a journeywoman, apprenticed directly to her own mother.

It was then that Erzebet came into her own, quickly surpassing all of the other mages at her local guildhouse; her early researches perfected the now-classic Shadows spell, which had been oft-maligned by earlier scholars due to its tendency to swallow the caster and propel them into another dimension. Her fascination with the interplay of shadow and light, a signature trait, led to the creation of many high-end spells such as the hallmark Shadow Servant dweomer. Despite receiving universal acclaim for her works, however, the young magess encountered resistance from unexpected corners.

Cornoran the Mauve, a skilled scholar in his own right and pioneer of many now-lost battle magicks, had his eye upon a council seat for himself. Knowing that Erzebet's mother was due to retire in short order, and that she would undoubtedly be asked to take her place, he set out to discredit her and set himself in position to sieze the chair. He began by spreading a campaign of whispers across the Moonmage elite, calling into question the magess' loyalty. She was a Tezirite, was she not? And were not all the followers of that cult given to sinister, dark rituals and things best left unknown?

We should not be surprised that the accusation fell upon deaf ears. The Crowther family's connection to-- and some rumor, leadership of-- the Progeny of Tezirah was never a secret. Their leadership abilities and loyalty to the guild were also not in question, having been proven time and again throughout the decades. Moreover, the educated of the guild were aware that the Progeny itself had suffered a schism not long into their own history, when a cabal of Celestial Compact mages using fledgling, experimental magics battled the mad sorcerer Kalestraum and his minions to the death. The survivors of Kalestraum's 'family' went underground, forming a splinter sect of the Progeny that reveled in obscene and blasphemous rites; the Crowthers represented the 'mainline' of the cult, certainly dark but nonetheless sociable and accountable to their surroundings. As long as they kept their less-acceptable activities in the shadows, the Guild had no problem with them.

So, Cornoran stepped up his attack: during the repulsion of an invasion at the gates of Shard, he claimed to have witnessed Erzebet employing banned and repulsive magics of pre-Empire sorcery upon the invaders, bones snapping like twigs and bodies imploding at a glare. He hired three militiamen (refugees from the local thieves' guild, as was later revealed) to swear that they, too, had seen this. While most of the guild elders urged Erzebet to ignore the slur, and write it off as the ranting of a brash youth, she instead issued an unusal missive to her accuser:

"It appears that you have mastered the art of time travel, dear sir, for your accusation dates from the days of the Empire, when magicians were hounded and butchered for not practicing 'acceptable' spells and for reading the 'wrong' tomes. No law against sorcery remains on the books, which is just as well, for no spell of sorcery remains in the grimoires of any living mage. Would that I could harness those powers, but they are lost even to me.

"But, you have made a formal charge, and as an honest and respectible citizen of Illithi Province I must rise to answer it. Because you accuse me of violating an Imperial crime, let the justice and the trial be that which the Empire practiced; I will submit to such judgement, so certain am I of my innocence."

Cornoran the Mauve could not believe his luck! Under late Imperial law, the punishment for sorcery was death by burning-- until eradication. With his 'eyewitnesses' for support, he could not only humilate the Crowther family and secure his place upon the council, his rival would be permanantly removed. Recklessly, he wrote a reply of acceptance, and a date was set.

Held in the atrium of the Great Tower of Shard, Erzebet's trial was attended by the guild's luminaries and powerbrokers, curious and impressed with the young magess' courage. Under the supervision of three neutral councilmen to insure no trickery was involved, Erzebet wove the spell she had been researching for five years, and never thought she would have occasion to use upon herself: the magic of the Shadow Court.

The atrium was transformed into a dusky chamber before the attendees' very eyes, a spectral magistrate in rotting robes surmounting an ancient podium, his gavel of bone ringing the court to order. The jury box was filled by five cadavers, their eyes glowing pinpoints of green light. "I have summoned the spirits of past justices," Erzebet pronounced, "The essence, if you will, of Imperial law. It is before them that I will be judged, for they do not falter or hesitate."

"That will be fine," Cornoran snapped, "For even the dead know a witch when they scent one."

The court brought to order, living and dead alike sitting in tense silence, Cornoran brought his witnesses. Each one-- drilled to perfection-- recited his story to the tiniest detail. It appeared that Erzebet had already lost-- one person's word against four was no case at all.

"Your honor," she said, "I would like to introduce evidence gained by magical means, if the court wills it. I will use an instrument of divination to ascertain the truth of these stories, one which you will be able to verify as untampered and true."

"I object!" Cornoran cried, "I know of your foul 'mirrors' of sorcery-- they were outlawed as such under the Empire! And you think you'll be allowed to use such a device here?"

"Not at all," Erzebet answered, producing a tiny red-lacquered box from her cloak. "This is the Sunweed Box, a relic of the Empire. It was devised, truth be told, by the Guild of War Mages long before our own guild existed. It was employed for interrogations on the battlefield-- you see, one party places his right hand upon the box, and answers the questions put to him. If he lies, the magic of the artifact senses it... And slays the liar, without hesitation."

A gasp rippled through the room as she handed the box to the spectral judge. "Do you affirm that the magic in this device is untampered-with, and that the box is perfectly safe to those who speak the truth?"

"It is, and it is," a sonorous voice echoed, "It is allowed."

Walking to the table of witnesses, Erzebet stopped, gave each a long, slow glance, and finally pointed at the last man on the row. "You," she said, "I choose to question you. Place your hand upon the box, and repeat your story."

The guardsman stammered and began to sweat, vigorously shaking his head. "I can't," he said, "I mean, you can't make me do that!"

"What do you fear?" Erzebet said, "The judge verified that it is safe... If you tell the truth. If you refuse, it may be taken as a sign of your guilt, and that would be a dangerous thing."

"I... I..." the guardsman looked at her, at Cornoran, and at the assembled court, finally crying out, "It's a lie! This man, this mage, he paid us to tell the story! We weren't even AT the battle!"

The other guardsmen chimed in with their confessions, and the court's uproar was silenced by the banging of the bone-gavel. Erzebet chuckled, took a step back, and held up the box. "Gentlemen," she said, "I'm afraid you've been the victims of a slight hoax. Cornoran, if you'd been half the scholar you claim to be, you would know that the device I refer to was called the SANHEED box, not 'sunweed', after the mage who built it. And that no working devices have ever been found."

"Then," Cornoran stammered, "That box--"

Smiling, Erzebet opened it, the scent of rich pipe-tobacco filling the air. "This box is for sunweed. A good blend, too, very rich. It holds no magic at all, which is why the judge said the 'magic' had not been tampered with-- and as such, of course, it can do no harm at all to those who speak the truth, or otherwise.

"But now, I fear, you've also run afoul of a point of Imperial law, one which you neglected to study in your zealous glee. Should an accuser be convicted of purgery, he himself suffers the fate that would have afflicted his victim."

Cornoran barely had time to scream before the flames roared up, he and the three militiamen blanketed in blazing flames. Some of the elder mages moved forward, prepared to disrupt the spell, but the Moonmage Grandmaster raised his hand to stop them. "If Erzebet had lost," he said, "She would have suffered this fate, and none would have interfered. It would be a mockery to save her persecutors."

And so, drained of the gods' favor, the Mauve Mage and his henchmen were annhilated by their own foolishness. It is rumored that Erzebet filled her pipe with sunweed and lit it from the very bonfires that consumed her enemy, but this may be an apocryphal tale-- when asked about it, the great mage simply smiles and turns away. What is known, is that the incident placed her in the high esteem of many moonmages who had been reluctant to sponsor her beforehand, and virtually assured her posting to the high council-- a post which she was offered, and accepted, just three months later.

Erzebet still serves on the council at the time of this writing, personally supervising the direction of Moonmage guildhouses in the eastern provinces and seeing to the education and training of her own young daughter, Annisean. An aged and wise veteran of the Moonmage Guild, creator of legendary spells and artifacts and shaper of history, Erzebet will doubtless be immortalized as one of the great spellworkers of our time.