Vinclav, the Master of Keys
Vinclav (a.k.a. The White Death, the Master of Keys, the Corsic Shyster, and the Dark Gatekeeper)
The idea that gates are fundamentally connected to enlightenment, power, the Great Clockwork, and rebirth is so old that it is thought to date back even past the Reshaping of the World within the lore of the Nine Realms. In fact, gates are such a fundamental truth that they have been a common theme on many past worlds. When one asks an enlightened or religious man, no matter where, they will usually, with little deviation, utter these words:
A dark, empty space; and in that space there is only the great gate...
It is this core concept that has made the idea of Vinclav so terrifying to the people. He is the sly, the charming, the evil trickster; shyster, grifter, con man, master of magic and minds, the holder of the heaviest keys: keys that can lock or unlock any gate in the world and beyond. He goes from place to place and carries a smile on his face: with a round of Midas Creek poker or a friendly wager to offer. But beware, for he'll take you for more than your worth. He'll take his key and lock your gate, and you'll be reborn here nevermore.
A Legend Begins
The Historic Vinclav
A real man named Vinclav once lived on the islands of the Corsic Ocean around the 4th Century AID. He was a monster worthy of the legend his life would one day spawn. Vinclav Van Dastraat was what is known in educated circles as an animancer and in the common vernacular as a necromancer (a less than accurate description of the art). But even though animancers have arisen every now and then throughout history, it is believed that none ever matched Vinclav's skill, magical power, and evil character. Animancers deal in the manipulation of souls to extend life, to empower themselves, and, in rare cases, reanimate the dead, though this does not usually work in the way one would imagine.
Vinclav himself became infamous for a powerful magical item he had created: a strange, golden key that felt cold to the touch and drew a strange longing from those who gazed upon it. With this key, he claimed that he could unlock people's potential, and indeed he was able to garner some with impressive magical power by using this item. But more terrifyingly, he could use it to sequester parts of a person's soul, and he did so by gaining that person's consent, usually through tricking them into wagers and games.
When he died at the age of around 300 in the seventh century AID, he had traveled all over the Ocean Belt many times over, forcing the terrible spellblight on countless people by sequestering their soul power. He became known as "The White Death" (referring to the white hair that signified spellblight), "The Master of Keys", "The Corsic Shyster", and "The Dark Gatekeeper", and his legend never followed him to his watery grave as a ship he traveled on sank during a storm. In the end he was felled by nature, or so it seemed. Most people believe it was the hand of the Great Clockwork that pulled his ship into the depths despite his magical powers.
The Mythic Vinclav
During over two-hundred years of soul sequestering, Vinclav built a legacy of terror in his wake that would echo through the ages until this very day, over two thousand years later. Some among the great pirate houses of the Corsic Ocean began to worship the wanderer in fear, erecting little bone shrines in the pirate coves of Porasta and the lawless ports of the Ocean Belt, taking to sacrificing old rusty keys to crude drawings of Vinclav painted by those who claimed to have seen him. Throwing keys in the ocean became a custom to ward off evil and misfortune among pirates, a custom that eventually spread all over the Corsic Ocean.
As the legend spread, more and more fantastic tales of Vinclav's exploits were spun by eager story-tellers, and his magical powers became more and more exaggerated, going even so far that he was seen as an antipathy to the Great Clockwork; a shyster that could, on occasion, outwit even the powers that be. News of his eventual death were not well spread at the time and rarely believed.
At night, old pirates would spin yarn about the kindly old man with the long grey hair, the full white beard, the gleaming yellow eyes, and the weather-worn hat, who would wander the world from island to island, making wagers with the unwitting, looking to steal their souls.
Heinrich T. Borgerat's Glint
In 132 AA, the famous poet and author Heinrich Thadeus Borgerat wrote his most influential work: Glint. Glint follows the exploits of Dr. Glint, a brilliant but overambitious polymath professor at the Van Maxwell School of Logic and Sciences with a focus on mathematics. She is based on the real-life person Dr. Tasmia Glint, who lived between 390 AID and 540 AID and did indeed have a tenure at the university. It is believed that her recordings of experimentation with soul-based machinery, which was still a very new and barely explored field at the time, were the main inspiration for Borgerat's story, though the cautionary tale of 'making deals with the Vinclav' is likely strongly influenced by the terror of Estverde that Hestia Bygate had brought onto the world around three decades prior, the consequences of which were still widely felt as no one felt save from magic anymore.
In Borgerat's Glint, the Dr. Glint uses the souls of lesser creatures to forge a real golden gate meant to open the path to the clockwork for her, highlighting the dichotomy of attaining knowledge of the metaphysical by looking within oneself and by tearing into it through the physical. While the Clockwork itself seems to look fondly upon her exploits, Vinclav, the evil shyster of yore, sees his opportunity to make a quality soul his own, denying the Great Clockwork said soul, which seems to ever be his game. In Borgerat's writing, Vinclav and Sanatana, the avatar of the Great Clockwork, take on opposed roles, with Sanatana being far superior in power and wisdom but Vinclav believing he can still outwit him, making a sport of the deception. Vinclav teases Sanatana into striking a deal with him regarding Glint, and off Vinclav goes to seek the good Doctor and convince her to hand over her soul in exchange for his services.
The Vinclav Divergence
After the publication of Glint, the popular beliefs and stories surrounding Vinclav began to change and more closely fit Borgerat's vision. The kindly old man Vinclav with the dark motives and the great white beard slowly faded from the collective minds of the world, only remaining alive in the traditions and shanties of the Great Pirate Houses that had fallen derelict after the systematic pirate hunts of the Maritime Stratocracy of Guantil-ya, only resurfacing in the advent of the current age. Still, by then the image of Vinclav had taken on the prim and proper gestalt of Borgerat's evil but well-groomed gentleman. No more long, gray hair and white beard, no more weather-worn hat. Instead Vinclav now wore a suit, a well-trimmed and groomed coal-black beard, and short, barbered hair to match. He was no longer the aimless wanderer, going from place to place, coming to town like a plague that reaped its souls, but a cold, calculating demon that wrote his master plans like operas, forging sinister alliances, just to stab his allies in the back at the last moment, though never losing his Vinclavish charm.
The Church of Pure Souls
In the wake of Glint, a wave of belief in the Great Clockwork and fear of Vinclav spread throughout the Corsic Oceans, gaining additional footholds in the Saltplains, Aquaris, and Arda. In this almost religious new climate that arose in the second century of the Age of Awakening, a new church was founded on the island of Rastrowel. A community leader and scribe named Gustav Nacravler was inspired by Borgerat's work, the scriptures of Yilik, and several monastic and philosophical writings from the Yamato Kingdom to spread a new word among his peers, which was later popularized as the Gospel of Nacravler.
This work already heavily featured Vinclav and Sanatana as opposing forces of the universe but at the same time different facets of human desire, Vinclav representing the worldly and Sanatana the spiritual. Even after Nacravler's death in 314 AA, the Gospel of Nacravler was circulating on Rastrowel and parts of the Corsic Ocean, and a church was erected out of Nacravler's old home. This concluded the founding of the Church of Pure Souls, which urged its followers to spread the Gospel of Nacravler and moderate, or ideally give up on, their worldly desires to give Vinclav no chance of tarnishing and sequestering their souls. The faith spread like a wildfire in the 4th century AA, and churches were built on many of the Seventeen Yonder Islands and some even in the Saltplains, Aquaris, and Arda.
The faith, though teaching charity and kindness in most things, had a zero-tolerance regarding spellblight, seeing blighters as fools who squandered their souls right into the arms of Vinclav, calling them his servants. This view, at least mentioned in the Gospel of Nacravler, was likely inspired by the Yamato fear of yasha (their word for blighters), which was reflected in many contemporary writings during Nacravler's time. The church's view of magic also worsened over time, and it was more and more seen as a reckless use of the gift of the soul and one of the temptations of Vinclav. To better understand the image of Vinclav perpetuated by the church, taking a closer look at a few scenes of Glint will serve the task best.
- Divine Classification
- Mythic Devil/Mythic Manifestation of Worldly Desire
- Deep yellow (or just yellow when the light hits right in Borgerat's Glint)
- Grey and shoulder long (from pirate lore), or short and black (from Borgerat's Glint).
Divine DomainsSouls, Gambling, Deals, Trickery, Animancy, Spellblight, Pirates, Thieves, Beggars
Holy Books and Codes
- The Gospel of Nacravler of the Church of Pure Souls
- The Gospel of St. Cerbal of the Church of Pure Souls
- Glint by Heinrich T. Borgerat
- Three by Five Shanties
Divine Symbols, Wards, and Talismans
- A human skull with a key in its mouth as his symbol (for pirate age Vinclav)
- A working pocket watch (also since the pirate age)
- A golden key as his symbol (the Church of Pure Souls)
- A fifteen-toothed gear talisman (the Church of Pure Souls)
Tenants of Faith
Now games and wagers are the life
Of sailors, pirates, fisher's wives;
But do beware the yellow eyes,
Don't bet to serve, your soul, your life
Always beware the yellow eyes.
Of all these things you should abstain:
the hollow pleasures and desire,
the promises of evil games,
of wagers, and the mages' mire.
Customs and Sayings
From the old pirate days these sayings and customs have prevailed or were adopted by the Church of Pure Souls.
When evil times come rear their head,
when dark things creep into your bed,
when thunder roars toss in the sea
for Vinclav a forgotten key
Go make a wager!
There is a key for every lock.
To Vinclav's locker with you!
Once a gambler, twice a blighter.
Vinclav ever aims to corrupt the hearts and souls of man, bending them to his will. In the end, he seeks to collect the souls for himself, one at a time, to one time surpass even the Great Clockwork. And if he has a little fun along the way? Well, what harm could there be in that...
Religious DaysThe Day of Wishing-Keys
On this day, the 4th day of the sixth month, the inhabitants of Rastrowel go to lake Tarrenvel and toss a key into it, speaking out loud the deepest wish they hold in their hearts. Then they literally turn their backs on the lake, saying "Vinclav! I reject your temptation. Take thy key and then begone!", signifying that their faith is stronger than their worldly desires and signaling that Vinclav will find no fertile ground for his schemes on Rastrowel.
There are many thousands of keys at the bottom of lake Tarrenvel, and sometimes, when it is perfectly still and the sun hits it just right, they sparkle like stars.